You get a whole lot more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. And for police officers, you’ll get much more cooperation and respect from the community when you treat citizens with respect. While cops need to know how to use firearms, read suspects their rights and drive a police car at high speeds, they also need to know how to provide exceptional customer service. When they act as if they serve the community, in turn it will serve them.
Get More Cooperation
When police officers are trained to listen to people, hear their complaints and gauge their emotional states, they will be able to extract confessions from perpetrators and develop rapport with people who can lead them to the criminals. Training can help cops be more empathetic and more helpful. In training, police officers can learn active listening skills that make them more effective. They can save a lot of time and avoid hassles when they can recruit the community to be their eyes and ears on the street. That only happens when you spend enough time listening to their needs.
On the flip side, police officers can avoid a lawsuit and even a suspension or career-ending incident when they remain calm in the face of crises and treat citizens as if they were customers. For example, getting angry at a perpetrator who mouths off and hitting him across the face to shut him up may help you feel better, but you may end up getting hit with an excessive-force lawsuit as a result. You wouldn’t expect a clerk at the store doing that to a customer who complains about the prices. Cops need to follow the same protocols that other customer service-savvy professionals do.
Know the Limits
In a violent environment, customer service skills only go so far. By getting sufficient training, cops can learn the difference between treating everyone like a customer and catching violent predators. For example, when a citizen points a gun at a police officer, that’s not the time for the cop to show respect and calmly listen to his complaints. That can get you killed. When trained appropriately, cops are taught the difference and understand when it’s OK to defend themselves.
In business, good customer service is a result of effective marketing strategies that include knowing your customer, her culture and her needs. Effective customer service training includes sessions that inform police officers about the demographics of the communities they patrol. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the belief systems in some cultures make it difficult for the police to do their jobs effectively. Racial tensions, for example, may escalate in certain neighborhoods when the police are perceived as using excessive force. Knowing how a certain community reacts to heavy-handed police tactics could help prevent a riot and even more violent reactions.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."