A few months ago, I received a telephone call from a family friend during date night with my wife. The call was from a family friend so I answered the phone. Our friend was in the observatory which is on top of the Prudential Tower in Boston. She called asking for some advice. The power was off and it was dark.
• Friend: The lights and the power are off and no one is telling us what to do?…
• Mark: O.K.
• Friend: What should we do? Should we go down the stairs?
• Mark: What is the staff or security telling you to do?
• Friend: There’s no one here and the signs on the stairway doors indicate the alarm will be set off and the Fire Dept. will be notified.
• Mark: O.K.
• Friend: There are fire trucks over at the hotel below and there’s smoke everywhere.
• Friend: What would you suggest we do? (There is some commotion in the background)
• Friend: Oh, I guess some people are going into the stairway now.
• Mark: That sounds like a good decision.
• Friend: You think so…..?
• Mark: Because when you activate that alarm and start down the stairs, I hope you’ll encounter the firefighters with their flashlights so you can see where you are going.
• Friend: O.K. thanks.
I go back to date night with my wife and of course I am scheming some practical jokes to play on our friend.
Later that night I read about the massive power failure in Boston and I start barraging our friend with all the official tweets to her phone. She was out of the building and now enjoying a movie in downtown Boston.
It reminds me of a late night text message I received from another friend a few years back at 2:00 in the morning.
• Friend: Hey Mark, Do you hear that dog barking? It has been barking for a while.
(Mark wakes up from a sound sleep and is now thinking in his head) I DO NOW!
• Mark: Call the station.
• Friend: Well I don’t want to send an officer over there. This is very unusual as I’ve never heard this dog barking before.
• Mark: That’s why you need to call. There could be a problem.
You guessed it; I was awake for the next 2 hours listening to the barking dog.
Many LEO’s encounter conversations with our friends and the public everyday whether we’re on or off duty.
• Hey, what happened last night at ___________________?
• Do you know how long the __________________ is going to be closed?
• (My favorite) My buddy’s half sister’s boyfriend’s uncle got stopped by this cop. Can he do that?
Think about the Dispatchers who receive the telephone calls inquiring:
• Do you know when the lights are coming back on?
• Is there any school today?
• What time do the fireworks start?
Frustrating isn’t it. Our patience is tested while we feel the urge to lash out at them. This really tests our stress level and now we see why some of our peers isolate from the public both on and off duty.
A suggestion for all the members of our honorable profession is this: Grin and Bear it!
Use a smile and a polite reply to these inquiries. If you know the answer, humbly share it. Our responses to these frustrating moments sometimes catch us at a weak moment and we lash out in anger or with a little sarcasm. This is what gets us into trouble.
Please take advantage of attending a Verbal Defense and Influence, dealing with difficult people or other conflict resolution style class. We learn new skills to deflect these questions and respond in a professional manner. These skills provide a positive reflection on our profession while demonstrating our resolve as public servants.
Communication is vital for our profession. We depend on intelligence to fight crime and terrorism. We depend on good communication skills with other people for developing this intelligence.
Our profession is facing a more demanding public every day. It is a different era today as many people including bystanders are legally recording on video through electronic devices and posting these encounters onto the internet. We need to be on top of our game professionally through great communication skills.
This helps reduce our frustration level which reduces our stress. This is good for our own wellness.
REMEMBER: WE ARE THE HONORABLE PROFESSION!
Stay safe and be well!
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