Thursday, May 18, 2006
Teaching and tutoring new police officers
Unfortunately, that manifested itself as over-confidence in just a short space of time. Having picked up basic process procedures such as issuing producers for drivers; £30 Fixed Penalties for traffic infringements and filling out stop-search forms (as they were then, before they became stop-account/search forms), combined with one or two successful arrests for minor offences with varying degrees of resistance, I was convinced that I knew it all and there was nothing more to it.
A couple of people arguing in the street? John Wayne here would wade in and separate both parties before it got out of control and someone got killed.
Someone's committed an offence? What on earth are we waiting for, let's get in there, arrest them, and try to prosecute for the most serious offence possible!
Being tutored and advised how to do things? Get out of here! I can handle everything on my own. Experience be damned, 'out of the box' thinking by us newbies is how things get done around here!
A few injuries, 'words to the side' and the forecasting of the potential collapse of cases phased this gung-ho attitude out over time.
So it was, then, that when I eventually finished my probation, and unofficially took even newer officers out than I, I could understand where they were coming from when they were answering back and doing things 'their way'. I now also appreciate how bloody irritating it is, and commend my former tutor for not slapping me one on occasion - looking back I couldn't have blamed him if he did!
It's true that with each passing day, you see more and know less. Unfortunately, conferring your experience by way of offering advice or suggestion, but never order or demand, on handling (or, indeed, not handling, if circumstances require) situations to a new probationer often runs in direct competition with unbridled enthusiasm and immersion in this new role they have found themselves in. Enthusiasm usually wins out, often to the detriment of the probationer, who goes away to lick their wounds (both physical and mental) and learn from the experience, be it the incorrect administration of a form or process, which causes a case or ticket to become void, or a making an uninformed decision on the street that inflames what would have been an otherwise manageable situation.
Thus, whilst I will prevent new officers from doing things so obviously likely to harm them, such as wading into a confrontation without first risk assessing the environment; the people involved; the nature of the dispute and weighing up the advantages of intervention against the advantages of discretion, there are other times when I am convinced that words can not triumph over actions when attempting to exhort the follies of a particular course of action. Like bringing up a small child, there are some times when the youngling must simply learn through trial and error, for only then can they appreciate the validity of that which you were initially trying to suggest to them:
"You were right, but I had to find out for myself".
Students who pick up one proficiency early on and are relentless with it, to the exclusion of learning or doing anything else soon find themselves being advised that this is the right way to rub people the wrong way. As do those who insist on answering back or doing things 'their way' without even due consideration to alternative courses of action.
Officers with measured enthusiasm, a desire to learn and who ask plenty of searching questions find themselves given more to do earlier on, and are also recommended to supervision when an operation comes up that would be ideal experience for them. Those who have a unique and creative way of approaching matters pique my interest, and I have picked up and learnt a lot from people who look at things in an educatedly different way.
Furthermore, there's nothing worse than working with just one officer for the entire time during one's probation - exposure to just one style of policing - the nuances of conversation with the public; handling offenders and investigations - is quite detrimental to assisting the development and understanding of a system which cannot possibly be comprehensively documented. Instead, through working with different officers in different areas, probationers can get a 'feel' of the different ways of approaching situations, and mix and match until they have a style that is unique to them, and which they can carry off convincingly and effectively.
Ultimately, when you see people whose hands you have held in the first few steps of their career go on to be promoted or achieve excellent results, you can't help but feel very, very proud for them, even if helping them to get there sometimes involved moments of utter frustration and the onset of headaches!
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Wall, head, brick, hitting.
Mind you, they are top notch on diversity.
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