What's the best piece of advice you've received on how to stay professional?
Every contact you make – whether on- or off-duty – leaves an impression; here are 10 ways to leave a positive, professional impression
By Police1 Staff
If you've studied forensics or crime scene investigation, you may remember Locard's principle: "Every contact leaves a trace."
The same is true for police officers. "Every contact you make – whether on- or off-duty – leaves an impression," said Gordan Graham, risk management expert and Lexipol co-founder, in this police training video, in which he breaks down why officers should treat people with dignity and respect. Graham also offers some advice for cops on how treating people right not only speaks volumes about your level of professionalism, but it may also save your life.
"Every person carries with them the memory of their last police contact," he says. "This will certainly influence their demeanor the next time around."
Dan Cooley, a Police1 reader, shared an example of professionalism by a colleague that made a lasting impact on his career: "A special forces veteran captured an escaped prisoner many years ago. He told me to escort the individual back to prison. As I took custody of the prisoner, he tells me to be sure that I get the individual a drink of water. He set an example for me as to how a law enforcement officer should stay professional – even when dealing with escaped prisoners."
His story inspired us to ask Police1 readers about advice they've received on how to stay professional. Here's a snapshot of their responses. If we missed yours or you didn't get the chance to share your opinion, complete the box at the end of the article.
- "When you put someone in jail, realize that you are changing their life. Make sure it's the right thing instead of just a tally mark. It really brought home the humanity of the person in the back seat and made me think about why I do what I do. And, always remember: the most powerful weapon you have is your pen – not your gun." – Jordan Riley
- "I was advised that when going hands on with a subject that if it feels good, you should stop. It has served me well." – Brendan Patrick
- "Remember when someone is talking, being mean, rude or hateful to you that they are talking to the badge, not to you personally. The more professional you are and polite towards them will show how you represent your profession." – Brian Charles Guthrie
- "My partner and I started to arrest a suspect who wanted to fight both of us. My partner told the suspect he would buy him a hamburger on the way to jail if he came along peacefully. On the way to jail, my partner drove through a drive-thru and got him a hamburger." – Andy Tkach
- "Best advice I've received: Your voice is your most important weapon. Know how to use it. My favorite trick when someone was all upset and trying to goad me was to simply respond to them in a whisper. In order to hear me, they needed to quiet down." – PJ Thompson
- "Prior to entering the academy, I asked a seasoned officer what could help me on my journey. He said two things: don't write someone a ticket just because you can. And, no matter what they've done, they're still human. Treat them with respect until they deserve otherwise." – Jeff Reid
- "We do not treat people like ladies and gentlemen because they are. We do it because we are." – Michael Rudinski
- "At the end of the day, you have to look at yourself in the mirror. Make sure you're proud of what is looking back at you." – James Mark
- "It costs nothing to show some compassion and empathy." – Cameron Hayden
- "I have learned – after 20-plus years as a peace officer in California – that you have to treat individuals like you want to be treated – with respect." – James Sharpe
POLICE1 READERS RESPOND
No matter the tone or how loud someone is all they want is to be heard and felt listened to. There are times this means ignoring the fact that someone is yelling in your face and just understanding the intent of what they are saying or expressing to you.
Believe in the power you have to make an impact on someone's life. I don't just mean the authority to take them to jail, but the opportunities you have to show someone compassion, empathy and humanity. Make those things your version of "professional courtesy." Treating everyone with dignity and respect costs you nothing, but it pays you back immeasurably. It is such a powerful tool if used consistently. It not only makes you a professional LEO, it bolsters your own sense of self worth because you rise above adverse circumstances to treat someone the way you would want others to treat you in similar circumstances. Make the most of these opportunities and, at the end of the day, you will know you truly made a difference.
- Do not take the job personal. Some of the individuals we encounter probably have had a bad experience with an unprofessional officer. We should strive to change that perception by being professional and showing people how law enforcement truly behaves and not feed into the stereotype some people initially have of us.