Saturday, December 02, 2017

Learned More About True Police Work Than 1000 TV Shows Could Teach Me

Humane Policing: How Perspectives Can Influence Our Performance
Author: Darren Spencer
            Publisher: Inspire On Purpose Publishing, Irving, Texas, 2017

Learned More About True Police Work Than 1000 TV Shows Could Teach Me
Ever since a police officer returned my mom’s lost wallet to her intact when I was just five years old in Toronto, I have always been fascinated by police work. As I grew older and although I have never been in trouble with the law, I started realizing that all officers are not the same with respect to their fairness, kindness, and professionalism. As a parent and grandparent, I’ve struggled lately with whether or not to teach my grandkids what I had learned, that is, that a police officer is your friend.

So when this book was offered for review, I jumped at the opportunity. Darren Spencer’s personal story is worthy of a book on its own.  However, what he shares with us here in this account can certainly change one’s perspective about law enforcement officials. It moved the needle considerably as far as I was concerned.
Darren is no doubt a quick learner as he grasped much during his relatively short career as a law enforcement officer.  And he is enough of an entrepreneur to know how to make what he has picked up in experience pay dividends both for himself and those he shares it with in the future.  He also doesn’t give up easily, fighting hard to continue making a contribution in an area that he loves after discovering his health wouldn’t let him continue as a frontline officer.  Finally, there’s no doubt he really cares about bringing both the police and the community closer together.
In his book, Spencer talks about his vow to protect and serve and how a good officer must always remember that. He covers why he believes the way law enforcement is carried out today has to change. And in so doing, shares the officer’s perspective on a very difficult job, informing us that “over one hundred law enforcement personnel take their own lives each year” in America alone.
He teaches us about “officer-induced jeopardy” and helps us understand how police officers have their perspectives shaped. Central to his theory on how to police is the need for officers to allow those they serve (victims and suspects) to relate to them.
Through his experience working in a prison, he tells how one has to earn respect in the most difficult of situations and what needs to be done when a fellow-officer screws up. Spencer insists officers seek cooperation rather than compliance.  It is that approach that led almost every one of the people he had to charge or arrest to actually thank him.  He shows us how officers can get to the truth and how they can win over spectators at a scene of conflict. And how officers must learn not to judge those they are apprehending.
He reminds us that we might not do too well ourselves in a job where the majority hate us or become aggravated at the sight of us, and where 80% of those we question or approach in the community lie to us.
The book is full of real-life experiences. I felt I was in the midst of a “Dragnet” episode that aired in the 1950’s with Jack Webb saying, “No ma’am.  Just the facts, ma’am.”  Great reading.
This is also a great book for community advocacy groups that are working to improve the relationships between officers and the people they serve. I highly recommend it be read by every person serving as a law enforcement officer, on a police services commission or board, as well as every municipal politician in the country.
There’s good advice on dealing with mistakes, what happens when an officer runs out of patience, and even swearing on the job. He shows how developing good relationships with those you don’t arrest the first time, can easily pay off in spades down the road.
One frustration I do have with Spencer though is the fact that he gets his readers so engrossed in a case he is describing, makes the point he wants to, and then leaves us hanging as to how that case worked out. Dang.
Spencer also shows us that in this business there is a great need, as well as an opportunity, to go beyond the call of duty. Part of the reason for that is that officers are often haunted by the thought of, “What if this had been my family?”
Most of the cases he shares with us deal with illegal drugs and that caused me to wonder what this says about the future of policing when small amounts of recreational drugs become legalized in communities. Some will argue they’ll be less busy. . . but will they?
My favorite take from the book: When an individual can recite their own Miranda Rights better than they can the Pledge of Allegiance, you know there’s something wrong.
My favorite application and one that will give you a taste of Spencer’s writing deals with the idea that we have to treat criminals respectfully in front of their own children. He writes:
“Most people care about their kids and care what their kids think of them. They don’t want to traumatize their children or be seen in a negative light in front of them. I always kept this in mind and always did everything possible not to arrest people in front of their children. This took time and patience, but it gained me more respect and cooperation in the end and was simply the right thing to do. I never wanted children to see one or both parents being taken away in handcuffs.”
Darren Spencer is publicly recognized as an expert in his field and now spends his time teaching his approach to other officers and communities. ( But start with reading his book. Highly recommended.

·      Ken B. Godevenos, President, Accord Resolutions Services Inc., Toronto, Ontario, December 2, 2017,

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