Celebrate Police Learning!

When learning happens in the police field we should all shout for joy. I am referring to the more “soft methods” both the Chicago and Tampa Police Departments were using in responding, respectively, to the recent NATO Summit in May and the Republican National Convention last week.

In a recent interview, Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor reflected on how she and her department performed, “No matter how many people scream and yell, you continue to communicate in a calm voice with them and de-escalate the situation.”

But I had wished she knew the literature better when she answered, “I don’t know in the past if anybody’s gone in and really talked to the demonstrators. Exactly what is your goal? What are you looking to accomplish here? We try to assist them.” This, of course, is the Madison (Wis.) Method used for over three decades and, more recently, the experience of the British police in responding to both football hooliganism and public protest.

But Chief Castor came out well in talking to the demonstrators, trying to understand their goals and purposes, and setting reasonable restrictions. The key here is respect. And it was all about the Golden Rule: “Everyone is treated with dignity and respect,” she said, “That is the philosophy we took into this event. We were able to work with the demonstrators, to help them accomplish their goals and their mission.”

Good work, Tampa P.D>

 [For the entire article click here.] 

In my new book, I have a chapter on this approach. I quote from it:

 “In the long run, police will ultimately be judged by how well they [respond to public protest]—how they do it fairly and effectively, without regard to whether they agree with the people in those crowds or not.  Overall, police officers should always treat everyone they encounter respectfully, with courtesy, and without regard to their race, gender, national origin, political beliefs, religious practice, sexual orientation, or economic status—and that goes for people in crowds, too. It’s a big job, but the primary function of police is always relational, whether they are responding to a domestic dispute, investigating a crime, enforcing a traffic regulation, helping an elderly person cross a busy street, or handling a crowd. Once this is understood, it is a lot easier to figure out what it is police need to do and how they should do it when it comes to handling public protest” (p. 180).

Let’s keep the learning alive and shared with other police departments!

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About improvingpolice

I served over 20 years as the chief of police in Madison (WI), four years as chief of the Burnsville (MN) Police Department, and before that as a police officer in Edina (MN) and the City of Minneapolis. I hold graduate degrees from the University of Minnesota and Edgewood College in Madison. I have written many articles over my years as a police leader calling for police improvement (for example, How To Rate Your Local Police, and with my wife, Sabine, Quality Policing: The Madison Experience). After retiring from the police department, I answered a call to ministry, attended seminary, and was ordained as a priest in the Episcopal Church. At the present time, I serve a small church in North Lake (WI), east of Madison. Sabine and I have nine adult children, eleven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. She is also a retired police officer and we both continue active lives.

One Response to “Celebrate Police Learning!”

  1. In his book, Let’s take back our street, Chief Greenberg stated, he ended police disrespect to the public the day he became of Chief of the Chareleston, South Carolina when he took strong disciplinary action against a couple of his officers for cussing out a citizen. He stated that if that citizen was a US Senator or a powerful rich person, they would never have done it. The officers got the message to treat everyone with respect.

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