One of my favorite classes I teach is: “Discovering the Importance of Every Police-Citizen Encounter.” Although I speak to mostly police executives, the concepts presented can be applied anywhere. The first concept presented in the class is what I call the three phases of every encounter.
- Initial Contact
- The Process
- The Outcome
The initial contact could be a traffic stop, a response to a call, or even while in line at the local Starbucks. The process is what “happens in the middle.” It’s where facts are gathered, perceptions are made, and the decision-making process begins. The outcome is what the officer decided to do—a citation, arrest, or a warning.
The follow-up question I usually get from these seasoned veterans and police leaders is, “Which phase do you think is most important to citizens’ satisfaction with the experience they receive during an encounter with the police?”
About half of the class will choose the initial contact, about 30 percent will choose the outcome, and the few remaining think that the process is most important. What do you think it is?
Now, let me emphasize that all phases are important and should be treated as such. However, according to studies, one phase stands out clearly as most important to citizens.
The answer: the process, or what happens in the middle, is overwhelmingly the highest area of concern for citizens.
Citizens want to feel they were treated in a fair manner, and with a level of dignity and respect. Academia calls this “procedural justice.” Most will still feel satisfied with the experience if they felt they were treated correctly, at least in their minds. Furthermore, if the officer’s decision-making process appeared to be transparent, then their level of satisfaction increases.
So why should this matter to police departments or any other governmental agency for that matter? Simply put, if you had a business, wouldn’t you want to know what your customers think of your product or your service? Absolutely! If you don’t, I guarantee you won’t stay in business very long.
Those that live, work, and visit our cities are our customers. And knowing how to better serve them is just good business!