It’s the Small Things

Guest Blogger - Andy

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.

Ethical standards in various professions

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.

8 responses

  1. I would agree with you that taking the extra time out to explain a person’s actions can go a long way. In our profession, perception becomes reality in a matter of seconds, it is the responsibility of each officer to ensure that the encounter is as positive as possible.

    1. Great point, Danny! Thanks for your comment.

  2. I fully agree with Lt. Harvey. As a fellow officer most of our contacts with the public take place because law violations have taken place. If we do the little things like being courteous and explaining the situation then people are more appreciative of our actions. In turn it helps build a better perception of law enforcement officers in general.

    1. That’s a good point. Thanks for your comment and for your commitment to public service.

  3. Donovan Olvera, Lt, Albuquerque P.D. | Reply

    Great article Lt. Harvey! Sometimes a few extra minutes of letting someone vent out a complaint about your officers, saves a trip to IA. Most citizens just want to be heard out and if they feel they are, they complaint usually stops there.

  4. Great article Andy and great comments.
    It’s up to the leaders of Police organizations to convey the message, of building trust and improving community relations through communication, and getting back to the old adage of treating people the way you would want to be treated. Taking a little extra time to explain an Officers actions is invaluable to people and communities, and goes a long way to gain public trust.

    1. Spoken like a true leader, Captain!

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