FEATURED IN TRAINING
Have you ever been in a hospital with a loved one and talked with a doctor who you felt was belittling or arrogant, and you perceived that he really didn’t care about you or your loved one’s situation? Almost all of us have.
While you are explaining your concerns and probing for answers, it becomes very apparent that Dr. Dread is impatient to leave, hearing only about half of what you say. His mind seems to be elsewhere, and he’s practically oblivious to your concerns. The little bits of information you can squeeze out of him condescendingly relates to the obvious fact that if your loved one hadn’t contributed to their situation by smoking, drinking or whatever, we wouldn’t be here at all.
Haven’t we all experienced that feeling of resentment that such an insolent attitude creates? “What an uncaring, unprofessional jerk,” you mutter under your breath. “Why doesn’t this A.H. spend a few minutes to fill us in on what’s going on and how we can best remedy the situation?”
Now, what you don’t know is that your loved one’s condition is not nearly as serious as the last three patients Dr. Dread just left, all of which have rapidly progressing, terminal diseases. You also don’t know that he’s in the 19th hour of a forced 24-hour shift.
Furthermore, you don’t know that those who he considers as his out-of-touch administrators have unnecessarily elevated his stress level to an unbearable degree.
Not only do you not know these things, you really don’t care. What you do care about is the situation you’re currently dealing with. It doesn’t matter to you that your loved one’s condition is, when compared to terminal illnesses, just a minor problem. To you, it’s a problem of extreme importance, and you expect to be treated with dignity and respect by those who are being paid to help you deal with it.
Let’s contrast Dr. Dread’s actions with the response of Dr. Dignity. Dr. Dignity looks you in the eye and expresses genuine concern for your dilemma. He takes a few minutes to respectfully explain that he is doing everything he can to resolve your situation. He shows you and your loved one empathy for your situation and makes respectful suggestions on how your loved one can improve life quality with specific lifestyle changes. Even if he doesn’t, he at least makes you believe he’s sincerely concerned for you.
What if Dr. Dignity respectfully explains he can’t actually solve your problem? Wouldn’t that still make you far more appreciative of him over Dr. Dread? And wouldn’t Dr. Dignity leave you with a much better perception of the medical profession as a whole? Sure he would. Because everyone wants to feel that all professionals will do their best to help them resolve their problems. Regardless if the patient contributed to creating them or not, the medical profession exists because of such problems.
As it Pertains to Police Work
Fast forward to the world of police work. It’s been an exasperating day. Two shootings, a fatal car v. juvenile bicycle accident, and residential burglaries are off the hook. Your next call sends you to the home of Mrs. Cravits, where her car window was shattered because her teenaged granddaughter left her purse on the front seat. The window is shattered, her granddaughter is crying, and the purse is long gone.
Now, how are you going to handle this? Are you going to show your displeasure for having to write a report (which is partly why your job even exists)? Are you going to berate the teenager for being so “stupid” to leave her purse there (even though she comes from a civilized small town where people don’t do such things, and she lacks the life experience to understand the criminal mentality)? Or, are you going to respectfully explain that not everyone has her morals and ethics, and take the time to give her one of life’s bitter, but important lessons in reality?
When Mrs. Cravits asks if you’ll be checking for DNA evidence, are you going to crassly reply, “You watch too much TV lady?” Or, will you be a professional and politely explain that DNA processing must be performed by trained evidence technicians, and it’s cost prohibitive and unfeasible for such a crime as this? Perhaps most importantly, will you leave that scene giving the impression that you sincerely care about the involved victims, or will you leave them with the same bitter taste that you experienced with Dr. Dread?
You must remember that many people will only have contact with law enforcement when they have been victimized. These people turn to you, the same way you turn to doctors when a medical issue arises. The way you handle yourself and talk to these people is truly of paramount importance in establishing and maintaining good public relations. Good public relations can affect our entire profession. For example, should one of these victims be a juror on a police use of force case, do you want them to have a favorable impression of law enforcement, or look at us the way you remember Dr. Dread?
Do Unto Others
As long as they will let you, treat people the way you would like to be treated. As I’ve said before in the classic words of Patrick Swayze: “Be nice until it’s time to not be nice.”
Being nice doesn’t mean dropping your guard or squelching your willingness/readiness to use reasonable force. When it’s time to not be nice, respond appropriately, professionally and reasonably. Based upon the totality of the circumstances, this could range from a verbal direction, all the way up to deadly force.
But the next time you start to say something to someone that you know is inappropriate and unprofessional, think about how you feel about Dr. Dread. Relive in vivid detail the sour taste that he left you with towards the medical profession. A noble profession, which is actually filled with caring, self-sacrificing individuals who don’t like Dr. Dread either. Think about how easy it really is for one individual to give the other members of a profession a bad rap, which they really don’t deserve. But most importantly, think about what you can do to leave people with a memory of you as being Officer Dignity, rather than Officer Dread.