Hook, Catch and Don't Release

What you say in the next few minutes can make or break all the work you put into this moment. It can tweak and pique your listeners' interest; engage their hearts as well as their minds in what's to come--or irretrievably lose them.


Then another question: Good investigation strategy or unethical or illegal use of deception?

Nationwide, there's disagreement amongst ethical officers and an energetic discussion is off and running--leading to court decisions on such conduct, whether legal equals ethical, and, if not, which should be officers' guiding light. All starting with a question that engaged learners.

Let's Talk about ME

We all love to hear about ourselves. Begin by addressing the audience's unique situation and you'll grab their attention. I was once privileged to address the National Organization of Black Women in Law Enforcement about women in policing. As I looked out and experienced for the first time what it was like to be the only white person in a room, I thought, "What on earth do I think I can tell these women about being a minority in anything?"

I changed my opening on the spot to,

I don't know what it's like to be you! You folks know that. I just want you to know that I know it. This is the first time in my life I've been the only person with my skin color in a room full of people. You women experience this every day of your life. That's right--I don't know what it's like to be you!

About that time I heard an "Amen, sister!" Another voice called out, "Say what you came to say. We're listening." I proceeded, "But we all know what it's like to be women in a non-traditional profession," and completed a presentation that was warmly received.

If you're training recruits, let them know you remember what it's like to be them, or acknowledge their situation by joking it's taken years of therapy for you to forget. If you're training a group that's more experienced and wiser, pay homage to their contributions. Then find common ground from which all of you still care about the topic.

Grab 'Em With a Challenge and Quote

Challenge the officers to open their minds and hearts to the material you'll be presenting. Then offer the quote,

"Minds [and hearts] are like parachutes, they work best when open."
--Thomas Dewar

Have the audience set their own challenge, then support that with a quote. As an instructor at a DPS academy, I begin every academy by asking each of the recruits to tell, in one word, what they think is the single most important quality to being a great cop. One by one they offer their words: Integrity, Compassion, Courage, Fairness, Persistence, Dedication, Service. I have a recruit write the words on the board. When the list is done, I tell them that in all the years I've been training, recruits never list things like being the best academically or on the range, able to run the fastest three miles or do the most sit ups. Instead, recruits always set the same sterling standards for themselves and their fellow officers. I let them know they are in good company. The once top cop of New York City, Teddy Roosevelt, said of warriors like them,

It is not the critic who counts, not the person who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to those who are actually in the arena; whose faces are marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strive valiantly; who err and come short again and again...who know the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spend themselves in a worthy cause; who at least know in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst if they fail, at least fail while daring greatly, so that their place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

I conclude this opening by challenging them to never forget the standards they just set for themselves in the arena they've chosen to enter.

Graduating classes have elected to put the qualities they listed or the Roosevelt quote at the center of their class banner. I just laid down the challenge. They picked up the gauntlet. They did it from a sense of connection with the training, the academy, and each other.

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