Using tactical communication effectively
Street truth #1:
The Peace Officer knows what phrases create peace and what phrases create conflict (see my previous columns) but the Peace Warrior also knows some “hidden truths” unknown to most.
Perhaps the most important of these is what we teach in TAC COM (Verbal Judo):
When upset, people never say what they mean!
This knowledge keeps us safer.
When we answer calls, for example, upset and angry people often berate us. I once answered a “see the man about a burglary past” call with another Deputy. The call had come in hours earlier, but we had been too busy with emergency calls to get there.
Once we arrived, the RP screamed insults at us for being incompetent, late, and wholly unhelpful! The lead Deputy got angry and we left.
Hours later we were before the Captain trying to explain what had happened out there. There was no explanation, and an hour later we were back, handling the call a second time!
We didn’t have time to do it right, only time to do it twice!
Had the deputy been trained in TAC COM he would have known that “Words fly out, meanings lie behind.” People never say what they mean!
In our case, the RP said one thing-all negatives-but what he meant was:
1) Help me!
2) What about my stuff?
3) How do I handle the feelings of fear and insecurity I now feel?
4) How do I handle feeling ‘Raped!’? And…
5) How come you’re late?
The last element-time--is really the minor one, but when upset, that was all he could voice. The Deputy reacted to the words and hence was incapable of responding to the meanings!
When we REact, the ‘act’ controls us; when we REspond, we re-answer, suggesting control and assertiveness.
Let me present three Laws of Field Contact. I call them Thompson’s Laws because cops from across the country taught them to me over the years.
As we teach in TAC COM, the Deputy should have swiftly deflected the insults: “Sir, I can see you’re upset and I can ‘preciate that,’ but I can help you here. Let me come in. . . “--and then focused his dialogue on the professional goal at hand. In this manner, the call would have been handled quickly, effectively and efficiently, the “QEE Principle” of good field contact.
This is Thompson Law of Field Contact #1. All calls for service should obey this principle, thus leading to better response time and more calls answered per shift! Good stats for any department!
Now, what might motivate a Deputy to make an effort to deflect and handle verbal abuse well? What’s the “W.I.I.F.M.” hook (the “What’s in it for me” hook?)
Two crucial police benefits, aside from the obvious PR benefit:
If we treat people well when they do not handle themselves well, they remember that and they remember being treated with REspect. Consider the possible benefit…
What if the Deputy, three months later, is looking for a certain vehicle wanted in a series of hit & run burglaries and he recognizes that the area in question is the same area as the one he answered the burglary report call earlier?
If he handled the subject well then, he can return to that home, knock on the door, and ask the subject to keep an eye out for the vehicle in question. Because he had treated the subject well, there is a good chance the subject will agree to be his “eyes” now. You cannot be everywhere, but your people can be!
Thompson’s Law of Contact 2:
“Whenever you contact someone, see to it you develop a “pair of eyes”, a pair of contacts!”
Put another way, treating people well is good for you because it ‘softens people up’ for the next possible encounter.
By contrast, insults and harsh treatment close the eyes and increase the resistance! Rude cops are indeed stupid cops! Such cops are indeed a crook’s best friend, for the blinder the public I,s the freer the crook is to ply his trade! Tactical civility is one powerful weapon against such people!
And finally, Thompson’s Law of Field Contact #3:
The Closure Principle: “Leave people better than you found them, at their worst!”
It is impossible to “leave people better than we find them,” for usually we deliver bad news-"you’re under arrest, your son was killed in an accident, your daughter arrested for prostitution"-but we can always leave them better than we found them at their worst!”
For example, you might have to physically throw someone down to make the arrest, but when you leave him at the jail you can suggest to him that next time, talking would be better. Fighting is not necessary! Only the officer can suggest not fighting and not lose face.
If you think about it, we are paid to say this! If the officer does, there is a good chance the next meeting will be peaceable! “Let’s not fight” is one of those great “Peace Phrases” but hard for a young officer to say. Get ego out of the way, and such words will flow forth.
And everyone is SAFER if you do!
If you remember that people never say what they mean, particularly when they are upset, you will never find yourself reacting to their careless, abusive words, and hence you will be smarter, safer, and more professional at all times!
Good for you, for others, good for everyone!