According to the latest Gallup poll that rated honesty and ethical standards in different fields, police officers still rated among the highest. In 2012, 58% of people rated the police high or very high. While that may or may not seem high, compared to other fields it’s pretty darn good. However, I believe we can be better than that; there’s always room for improvement.
So how do we gain more favorable ratings? If you notice on the graph, nurses, pharmacists, and doctors rank the highest. Why is that? I suppose that because they are perceived as caring and dedicated to helping others, people are always going to place them in high regard, and rightfully so. Perhaps we, in policing, should take note.
Aren’t the police caring and dedicated to helping others as well? You bet we are. We just don’t show it as best as we could at times. Managing perception is an area that we can improve, both as individuals and as an organization. At the individual level, we must recognize that every police- citizen encounter is important. And just like field goal kickers in football, we are only as good as our last kick, or in our case, our last encounter. Officers are doing a great job out there, no doubt about it. I am not saying we are perfect, no one is. But I contend that if we managed perception a little better, the view of the police would positively increase.
People want to be treated fairly, period. Studies show that people are more concerned about the process than the actual outcome. If police do the small things like explain why they took a particular action, most people will feel better about the situation. They may not totally agree, but at the minimum, believe they were treated in a fair manner.
When I was a first line supervisor, I listened to many citizen complaints about alleged officers’ behavior, such as rudeness or an improper arrest. First, I actively listened so I can clearly understand their concerns. Then, I painted them a picture so they could see through the lens of an officer. I can tell you that most people were satisfied after I explained why the officers acted a particular way. As stated, people are more concerned about the fairness of the process. Take the time to explain your actions. If we all do that, I bet our ratings go up even more.