Most agencies have stringent hiring practices to ensure they hire the best people. You look for specific character traits and qualities in the people applying for your agency. You seek out people with strong moral character whose values align with your agency’s. You hire people with diverse backgrounds, experiences, education and upbringings. You hire good people, understanding that not all the good people you hire will be a good fit for the profession or for your organization.
If the entire recruiting and hiring practice is focused on hiring the right people, then why do some academies spend so much time trying to turn those people into robots?
Law enforcement is a profession of human beings, performing a very challenging job in complex environments involving interactions with other human beings. Cops acting like robots are not what we need. We need well-trained humans who can perform at high levels in this challenging and rewarding profession. Yes they need to be proficient with their use of force skills, officer safety and tactics for dealing with tense, uncertain, rapidly evolving and often dangerous situations. They also need to have the ability to think critically and make good decisions in those situations as well and the many situations, which are not rapidly evolving. They need human skills of empathy, emotional intelligence, the ability to listen, and the ability to effectively communicate to a wide variety of people. These are not “soft skills”, they are human skills and they are hard.
If your pre-service training academy is build on the principles of, “Shut your mouth and do what you are told. Only speak when spoken to. Or. You don’t get to make any decisions during your training, we will make all your decisions for you.” Then you may be training robots, not developing better human beings.
If your control tactics program is based on the outdated philosophy of Ask – Tell – Make, you may be training robots, not developing better human beings.
If your strategic / tactical communications program is based on a checklist of you say this, then when they say this you say this, then you ask this and if they say this you do A or B, instead of teaching them how to more effectively communicate with other people, then you may be training robots, not developing better human beings.
We talk about Human Factors when it comes to use of force events and other tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving events, as we should. But, are we focusing on the other factors of being a human, who deals with other humans, in the challenging, complex, demanding, and every changing environment of a law enforcement professional?
Robots never show emotion, vulnerability, empathy or compassion, but humans do. Robots don’t make mistakes, but humans do. Robots are unaffected by the trauma they see and experience, but humans are. Robots don’t need to ask for help when they are struggling, but humans should. Robots don’t need compassion for themselves or others, but humans do. Robots don’t need emotional intelligence, but humans do.
When I was an administrative sergeant and had to deal with citizen complaints regarding the 20 officers I was responsible for, the most common complaints were about the officer’s attitude and demeanor. One of the common comments was, “It’s like they didn’t care. Like they were a robot or something.”
The research shows that when officers allow themselves to be human, take the time to really listen, and show some empathy and compassion it drastically increases the perception of the police by members of the community. The fact they still received a ticket, or their stolen property was never recovered was irrelevant. Officers can do all those things and never compromise their officer safety. In fact, I would suggest doing those things makes it safer for them to do their job.
One of the comments I have heard from a number of officers when you discuss great leaders they have worked for is, “He or she cared about me. They cared about me as a person.”
Training law enforcement officers to be robotic in their daily interactions and processing of their experiences has had huge negative consequences in police – public relations, officer’s personal relationships and officer wellness.
Let’s help the good people we hire become better human beings as part of their journey to become great police officers and public servants. Doing so will help them also be better spouses and parents and better leaders.
Winning Mind Training – Dedicated to serving the heroic men and women of law enforcement.
The Excellence in Training Academy – A membership site created for law enforcement trainers interested in investing in their ongoing professional development.
Dare to Be Great Leadership – Committed to helping aspiring and frontline leaders on their leadership journey through a weekly leadership blog and the online Dare to Be Great workshop.