As I rapidly approach nearly two decades of law enforcement service and reflect back, I can say there are many things that leave me shaking my head in awe about how cops think, act, and most importantly what they say or shouldn't. For example, I know of officers who think that because they are cops, they are best suited to make the transition from police work to security management. Having a deeper understanding of the security industry than most of my colleagues, I am not sure why they think that way. I think that being an experienced police officer, considering all its advantages, can actually be a severe hindrance when vying for that "cushy" security management job.
Several years ago, our patrol commander would often bombard us with what we termed "hate mails." This particular supervisor, residing on day shift and who rarely left his carpeted office, chose to communicate with all the officers of the uniform division almost exclusively by e-mail. At best, his e-mails were worded tersely--at worst, downright insulting. I vividly recall an instance where he sent me an e-mail after noticing that I had signed a report in blue ink instead of black ink. He told that from his perspective this was a continuing problem and that if I was to sign another report in blue ink that I should "don your riot helmet" and be prepared to have my head smashed in. Now, can you imagine this former police commander, who is now competing for a security management position in the private sector, speaking like this to non-police types? How long would his tenure be? Although this example is extreme, sad but true, it does highlight communication problems that I believe are systemic and unique, to law enforcement.
It's been said that there are two barriers to communication; physical and psychological. Police work encounters both on a daily basis, and due to tactical reasons, reinforces them. Riding in a patrol car for an eight hour tour means our main method of communication is via radio. The barrier is the cruiser itself, in addition to a secondary physical impediment, which is the distance between the officer and the dispatcher. Officers and dispatchers cannot see each other, sense one another's tension or lack of frustration, and they miss out on all the non-verbal cues that account for the vast majority of communication. If not speaking over the radio, officers communicate either by MDT chat, texting or through the "ping" of a Nextel. These other communicative methods share the same inherent problems as ineffective radio communication. Furthermore, radio codes and signals compound the problem. Simply saying, "in service" can be accomplished by stating, "10-8", "Signal 33", "Signal 23", and so on. Tactically, short numerical expressions have their designed purpose, but I would argue that repeated exposure to this method of communication actually diminishes, maybe even suppresses, a person's natural ability to communicate clearly. In short, it's a reinforced behavior that eventually becomes incorporated in different areas of our lives, not just police work. Ever wonder why most cops, although allegedly "people persons," are about as fun to talk to as your dentist as you sit in a chair waiting for your root canal? We are trained not to say much, and then blurt out a lot of abbreviated information in the form of a code that very few people understand.
Years later, you may find yourself sitting in front of normal looking human beings (i.e., no gun belts, body armor, or radio traffic chattering) wearing suits and speaking in long, descriptive sentences. These individuals are known as "human resource specialists" and they expect you to speak in a normal tone of voice while holding a conversation and explaining why you are the best person for the job. They do not understand "police speak" or "cop talk," and it does not impress them. The business world thrives on people who can communicate. Relearning the essential skill of speaking should become a priority as we near making that decision of whether or not we are ready to leave the police service. Here are suggestions that lead you toward becoming an impressive enunciator: