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1. Статья «Patrol psychology 101: Communication and conflict resolution»
Importance of Communication Skills in Patrol Policing
At the beginning of every one of my law enforcement crisis intervention classes, there’s always at least one cop who tells me, «My job is to catch criminals; I’m not paid to talk.» But verbal communications skills are crucial for success in virtually every aspect of patrol policing efforts.
First, the majority of patrol time is spent in routine citizen contact that does not involve serious criminal law enforcement action. Traffic stops, accident investigations, mediating neighbor beefs, calming angry or intoxicated citizens, and handling merchant complaints all require good verbal skills to deal with the situation without allowing it to escalate.
Second, successfully resolving a minor crisis, such as a family dispute or neighbor quarrel, might eliminate the need for later call-backs to the same scene for a major crisis, such as domestic battery or destruction of property. It thus makes an officer’s job easier.
Third, those crisis situations that begin as hot calls can be more effectively de-escalated by officers who possess good verbal skills, potentially eliminating the need for physical force, restraint, and arrest. Again, less risk of injury to officer or citizen and less paperwork.
Basic Communication Skills for Police Officers
Any cop who thinks talking to citizens diminishes his or her tough-guy persona should consider that many of the important communication skills patrol officers can use to defuse tension and increase cooperation in the face of everyday crises are adapted from those used by trained hostage negotiators whom nobody would regard as a bunch of wusses. Basic street-level communications skills include a variety of approaches.
To begin with, angry citizens may just want to vent. If your partner is present, avoid the temptation to give each other snickering glances, which is a sure sign of disrespect to a citizen who thinks what he’s saying is important. If the subject curses or insults you, try to respond calmly without being baited into retaliating with anger or sarcasm. Of course, if a subject threatens or attacks you, and this is an arrestable offense, do your job. But remember that many situations are far from clear-cut and that officers have great discretion in how they choose to respond to a wide range of obnoxious citizen behaviors.
Certain tactics are useful for calming angry citizens and reducing the potential for violence. Start with your voice. For some officers, voice control is a natural talent, but for most, this skill can be trained and improved with daily practice. Learn to respond calmly to insults and challenges, without resorting to sarcasm or harshness of tone.
If you feel yourself getting agitated, make a conscious effort to modulate the pace of your speech and tone of your voice. Modulating your breathing helps keep your voice cadence under control. As part of your self-training, practice different speech styles: sympathetic, commanding, reassuring, businesslike, logical, and so on. The goal is not to act like a trained parrot, but rather to become familiar and comfortable with different communication styles in order to increase your repertoire of flexible skills in handling interpersonal encounters. This gives officers tremendous power to handle virtually any kind of crisis.
Sometimes, just changing the subject to a more neutral topic can ratchet the tension level down a few notches. In general, be careful not to abruptly shift to a whole new subject, which may be interpreted as rude or manipulative by the citizen. Rather, try to segue into a topic that is related to the one now under discussion, but is less emotionally charged. For example:
Citizen: I know she took those garden tools from my shed, because I could hear my dogs barking in the yard, and the next thing I saw was her going into her house.
Officer: What kind of dogs do you have?
C: Two rotweilers. What the hell difference does it make what kind of dogs they are?
O: I mean, do you find that dogs are a good way of knowing who’s coming and going on your property?
C: Yeah, they scared off some robbers a few months ago. Nobody wants to mess with rotweilers.
O: So somebody would have to be pretty crazy to steal something from your yard if they knew you had these dogs there.
C: I guess so.
Perhaps more subtle, but equally potent, are a range of nonverbal behaviors that powerfully influence human interaction. Depending on the nature of the interaction, officers may want to manipulate their own authority image. For example, when interviewing suspects, unruly citizens, or general «hard cases,» projecting a firm position, adopting a commanding stance, decreasing personal space, moving slowly and confidently, and making steady but not challenging eye contact all serve to increase the controlled intimidation factor that may mollify otherwise overly attitudinal or uncooperative subjects. Again, the goal is to project authoritativeness, not authoritarianism.
Conversely, some meeker, law-abiding citizens may be so intimidated by the police presence that they are almost paralyzed with fear and are unable to get their story out. In such cases, it is better to stand back a few paces, relax your stance or even sit down, focus some attention on note-taking and other non-eye contact activity, and speak in a reassuring tone of voice. Remember, the goal of almost any citizen interview is to increase the flow of communication and gain cooperation.
Note-taking, by the way, serves another important function when trying to maximize information-flow from citizens. Seeing an officer write down what the citizen says gives that citizen the impression that his or her input is important, which may mean a great deal to citizens who are accustomed to having their comments shrugged off by seemingly uncaring officers. But be careful about using this device with overly paranoid citizens who may be suspicious that you’re «making a record» of what they’re saying. Finally, it may be necessary to physically separate two sparring citizens to keep a verbal fight from escalating to blows, which would necessitate an arrest.