Most people have had an encounter with the police that has shaped their opinion of officers in general. For me, it was as a cub scout when “Officer Friendly” visited our pack meeting. Imagine my excitement as an 8 year old getting to work the lights and siren on that old beat up LTD in the parking lot of the police station. That officer helped form a positive image in my mind that ultimately led to me embarking on a career in law enforcement. For many others, their first experience with police was not a positive one.
When I was about 19 years old, I was driving home with a foreign exchange student from Scotland who was staying with my family during the summer. I exited the highway and as I approached the next intersection, the light turned yellow. Like any red blooded American teen boy, I cruised on through that yellow and kept driving. The next thing I noticed was those blue lights behind me. What happened next nearly changed my opinion of officers forever.
The officer, who’s agency will remain nameless, immediately began yelling at me. “What is your expletive redacted problem?” “Are you expletive redacted stupid?” “Do you think traffic laws don’t apply to you, you expletive redacted?” After being berated on the side of the road for 10 minutes, the officer let me go with a warning. Needless to say, I was terrified. I didn’t think I had run that red light, but even if I had, was that officer’s reaction appropriate? Making matters worse was that the foreign exchange student witnessed all of that and asked if all cops in America were like that. Although all negative experiences with law enforcement might not be this extreme, how can we help shape the opinions of those that we serve?
How many of us have encountered cops like this? As cops, have you ever encountered a person terrified at our mere presence? Have we ever stopped to consider why, or do we just dismiss their feelings as ridiculous?
Police officers respond to thousands of calls in their careers. Whether it’s that thousandth wreck or car burglary, it may be the citizen’s first experience with the police. What type of opinion will that citizen have when you leave the scene? What can we do to help make that encounter a positive one?
One thing I believe we can do is learn about, and work to improve, our emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence can be summarized as the ability to manage your own emotions and the emotions of others, to communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges, and defuse conflict. The police are constantly tasked with managing other peoples’ emotions, particularly those emotions at the far end of the spectrum. Improving your emotional intelligence will help you survive a career in law enforcement, better serve the public, and improve supervisory skills for current, and future police leaders.
At Juliet Lima Solutions we work with law enforcement to introduce the concept of emotional intelligence, help improve emotional intelligence, and give officers the tools necessary to survive a career. Contact us to schedule training or visit julietlimasolutions.com to register to attend already scheduled training.