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I am writing to inform you about a communication training program that would be very helpful for the officers of your department in Ferguson, Missouri. Keeping order in the streets requires a lot of interpersonal skills and sometimes brings up issues associated with a lack of understanding between the two parties. By now, you are certainly familiar with the public discontent related to police treatment of minorities. As these actions are the direct outcome of communication problems, I believe that interpersonal training for officers could be helpful for improving the situation.
Issues of Perception
One of the main causes of misconceptions is the difference in the perception of each party. For instance, police officers quite accurately perceive themselves as people who ensure order in the streets. Their decisions are guided by regulations that rarely consider the context since the law has to be the same for everyone. Police officers do not usually view suspects as marginalized elements of society, yet certain hostile attitudes sometimes take place. Suspects, on the other hand, often feel frustrated by the actions of police officers and administration, regardless of whether or not they are guilty. Being under suspicion puts psychological stress on people, and they are more likely to cooperate out of fear than out of any wish to help an investigation. Both parties perceive each other as rivals, each trying to prove a different point of view.
The lack of communication skills can be especially problematic when discussing the interactions police officers have with representatives of minority populations. Woods suggests that police officers seek the community’s acceptance of objectivity regarding everything (45). However, each situation is unique, and people tend to rely on context as the power for shaping reasons. That is why decision-making relies so heavily on communication. Several recent cases of police officers shooting black teenagers, which have led to mass protests, are examples of this issue. Moreover, common misconceptions about what behavior is common to people of certain races stand in the way of police offers truly being objective.
Despite the usual high level of professionalism, many police officers carry certain cultural beliefs that could be detrimental to their duties. For example, minorities are usually made suspects more often than white people. Moreover, the article suggests that winning an argument and proving a point are very important motivating factors for police officers (45). They may fail to utilize basic listening skills due to a false belief that they have the right to have the final word as legal representatives. Interpersonal training seeks to create an understanding among police officers that different behavior is not necessarily a reason to suspect someone. Furthermore, many minority cultures include elements of protest against the government that has oppressed them for so long. However, this attitude does not necessarily mean that a particular minority representative is engaged in any criminal activity. Listening and understanding other points of view are the core skills delivered by an interpersonal training program.
The program suggests that improving the listening skills of police officers will help them detect signs of criminal behavior more accurately. Instead of sticking to one point of view, they should become sensitive to other cultural traits and beliefs. Understanding the psychology of people with other cultural backgrounds is an important part of any investigation, and it is impossible without highly developed communication skills. I hope that your participation in this process will help ensure a safe and collaborative community.
Woods, Marylin J. “Interpersonal Communication for Police Officers: Using Needs Assessment to Prepare for Skeptical Trainees.” Business and Professional Communication Quarterly, vol. 63, no. 4, 2000, pp. 40-48.