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Paul Clinton

Paul Clinton

As the POLICE Web editor, Paul Clinton contributes posts about patrol cars, motorcycles, and other police vehicles. He previously wrote about automotive electronics as managing editor of Mobile Electronics. Prior to that, he was an award-winning newspaper reporter.



William Harvey

William Harvey

William "Bill" Harvey is currently serving as chief of police in south central Pennsylvania. He retired from the Savannah (Ga.) Police Department where he worked assignments in training, patrol, and CID. Harvey has more than 25 years of experience working with recruits, rookies, and FTOs.
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Learning to Speak Effectively

It's not what you say but how you say it.

January 07, 2008  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author

I have spoken with scores of senior, wily veteran officers that have made it in the streets for years. Most of them will tell you it is often your ability to calm and direct people to solutions that is more important than almost any other skill. I have participated in several academic studies and the findings are similar. Most officers wish they had spent more time learning interpersonal communications skills early in their career.

Cooling the Mark

We have all heard of the story of two different cops that work with you. One will back you in the toughest fight at the drop of a hat; probably has a broken nose and is maybe Irish like me. Always there for a hot, dynamic call and ready to go anytime. These are the "manly" officers that every squad needs a few of for those special and "just in case" calls. 

On the other side of the spectrum are those officers that can cool off the hottest heads. They have great communications skills and could probably charm the birds out of the trees if they needed to. They know how to read people's body language and how to guide them from perturbed, disturbed, and ready to fight to nearly apologetic for bothering you. Now, some may ask which officer you would like to have riding next to you. Or better yet, which officer are you. The best of both worlds would be the great communicator who is also a warrior.

Learn While Young

I do not know what your academy or FTO process teaches you. I would now recommend that you enroll in a Verbal Judo or MOAB course to learn the finer arts of what I call "tactical talking." These two courses or similar ones will teach you not only the intricate means of police communication, but also survival.

When we deal with the emotionally disturbed person (EDP), people at domestic disputes, or those with chemicals in their system, knowing how to engage them with proper, systematic conversation that is coupled with the appropriate body language will be a key to success. These classes also teach you great survival tactics, such as how to read subjects, actions that are indicative to non-compliance, and so forth.

I can recall several calls of my past where it was not the newest devices of police work that gave us a peaceful solution to a tense call, but rather the skills of the seasoned officer who knew how to say it and when to say the right words to defuse that tight spot we were in. Communication is often best, less stressful, less dangerous, and often requires far less paperwork.

I cannot overemphasize how important learning the fine skills of interpersonal communications is for the young officer. Proper communications can reduce citizen complaints, probably lessen arrests with use-of-force applications, and can be a bonus for your career. Sometimes citizens even recognize one's mastery of this vastly underdeveloped human skill. If you are that good I want you on the hostage negotiation team.

Skills you learn now are for life; get a handle on all of your skills. You use your speech far more than any other issued item. Make the best use of it.

Train smart, train hard, and train with a purpose!


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