Fairness is Good Business

Guest Blogger - Andy

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.

  1. Initial Contact
  2. The Process
  3. 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 doa 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!

6 responses

  1. I strongly agree in the process is the most important since the decisions made will play a significant role in the outcome for the reason police presence was requested.

    1. You’re exactly right, David!

  2. John Paul Meiners | Reply

    I couldn’t agree with major Harvey any stronger, he is exactly right that what we as law enforcement officers, supervisors, commanders and civilian staff need to do is renew our focus on the process of providing good customer service. However, it is important to note that good customer service is not solely external, it must first be internal, as how we treat our people and how our people treat each other will be the most visible means of our ability to provide great customer service to the public. Major Harvey is a forward thinker when it comes to teaching us all the actual process of what good customer service is all about.

    1. Wow. Great observation, John. Customer service definitely starts internally. Thanks for your comment!

  3. When we hear the phrase “customer service” we don’t usually correlate this to police work, but we are all familiar with the catch phrase “protect and serve” and these two go hand in hand. Always keep this in mind, the general public does not have contact with city government on a regular basis so when it comes time to ask for or seek assistance, it is usually with anxiety, fear and hesitation. It is up to US to change this image and make their encounter with the police department a pleasant one. We as law enforcement officers have to understand that this call is the most important thing going on in their world at this moment and we must treat it with the respect it deserves, regardless of our personal feelings.

    Major Harvey, I agree with your training and I thank you for continuing to strive in taking our honorable profesion to the next level of excellence.

    1. Indeed. Thank you so much for your comment, Vince!

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