Now, before you go and tell me i’m wrong, here me out first. I get it’s not the most popular thing to do and go say something negative about the cops, but let me give you some background. First of all, I am a cop. I’ve been a full time cop for over 20 years in the Greater Los Angeles Area. I grew up as the child of two customer service driven, small business owners. I hold a masters degree in public relations and for the past three years, I have been an adjunct professor, teaching public relations, communications and journalism at a private, Christian, division 1 university here in Southern California. Does that make me a customer service expert? Maybe, maybe not. But it does give me a set of expectations. Expectations that I set for myself when I provide service and expectations I have for myself and my family as customers.
Let me just say, that some of the most customer service oriented people I have ever met have been cops. They get that because its ingrained in them. Maybe it’s from prior customer service experience or that they are just people pleasing people. Whatever the case may be, they are good at it. You may even know cops like this. This cop could be you! But do you think customer oriented cops make up the majority? Maybe? Maybe not. There aren’t any readily available studies that show what percentage of cops are highly customer oriented. So for arguments sake, lets say a majority are (highly doubtful, but lets just say it).
If out of a 100 officers, 90 are customer oriented and 10 aren’t, is that a problem? Of course it is. Ever heard of the bad egg? The bad Apple? No one wants that one as a partner. No one wants to be be paired up with an individual that is going to get you complained on right? So what do we do? What do we do about the bad apples? Training? I think that’s a start, but ideally, and based upon my experience, influence and honest talk makes more of an impact.
As a young detective supervisor, I overheard a senior detective just going at it on the phone. I thought to myself the person on the other end was a suspect or some sort of scammer. When I discovered the person on the phone was a victim, I was flabbergasted. I heard phrases being yelled like, “You don’t tell me how to do my job!” Or, ” I’ve been a cop for 20 years and I know what i’m doing…” Needless to say, we had a sit down.
I asked this detective if he was having a bad day. I knew he wasn’t. I knew he was sort of a jerk. He had that reputation, but I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. Turns out, he was being a jerk. We had a talk about the agency’s expectation of him, but more importantly, what HIS expectations were. I turned the tables on him and asked him, what if it was me talking to the victim on the phone like that and what if the victim was his mother?
The look on his face indicated to me it “clicked.” That’s when I learned the valuable teaching lesson of perspective. People that are great leaders and great at customer service are naturally empathetic individuals. According to Prudy Gourguechon of Forbes, Empathy enables you to know if the people you’re trying to reach are actually reached. It allows you to predict the effect your decisions and actions will have on core audiences and strategize accordingly.
When you understand the person you are addressing, you tend to create a more appropriate approach. In the case of this detective, a little empathy was all he needed for him to agree with me that he was rude on this contact. Did it fix him? Heck no. But that’s where I as a good supervisor will continuously monitor and add to his progress. But we will discuss that another time.
Empathy and perspective is what we as officers crave from the public as well. How many times have you heard from officers or police supporters that the anti-police folk don’t understand what we go through? It’s the same on both sides.
I can say with confidence, that putting people’s perspectives in check will change the way they approach situations. Perspective and empathy is definitely something we all can learn to adapt into our daily contacts with people. I encourage all of you supervisors to empower yourselves with this tactic.
I’d love to know your experiences with this subject. Leave a comment here or reach out to me via Direct Message on Instagram and Facebook at @911strong.