Expert to Durham cops: What would Aristotle do?

DURHAM – Harry Dolan wants Durham cops to be more like Aristotle.

Dolan, who retired as Raleigh’s police chief in 2012, believes the ancient Greek philosopher’s modes of persuasion – ethos, pathos and logos – can help save careers and even lives.

At a day-long workshop Tuesday, he armed Durham police officers with verbal strategies for de-escalating volatile situations.

Attendees watched videos from traffic stops to see if the officer “stopped the car like Aristotle might” and did role-playing exercises.

Dolan says better communication can dramatically improve police-community interactions. He told how one Occupy Raleigh protester sent a letter to the editor thanking the police for the respectful treatment he received while being arrested.

But these strategies have limits, he admitted.

During one session, the group watched body camera footage of an encounter in another city that went wrong, leaving a teenager dead, and analyzed what the officer could have done differently. The verdict: not much.

“What everyone has to realize is there are times when it doesn’t work,” Dolan said in an interview.

The stakes are especially high given increased police scrutiny across the country.

Dolan, a third-generation officer, said police officers have been “scapegoated” but maintains the general public still respects and trusts law enforcement. He cited a Gallup poll saying faith in the honesty and ethics of police rebounded in 2015.

“People admire you very, very much,” he told the officers, although he added, “people hold you to standards they don’t hold themselves to. And you don’t make a lot of money.”

“We’re like teachers,” he said later. “It’s a calling.”

But Detective Deborah Smith, who joined the Durham department 13 years ago, said she hasn’t always seen positive attitudes toward the police.

“Growing up, I had always thought law enforcement was the most respected profession out there,” she said. “It’s not like that now. We’re being looked at as evil almost.”

“What a lot of citizens don’t understand is that we don’t know what we’re going into,” she explained.

Even routine traffic stops can be risky.

“When we stop a car we have no idea who’s driving that vehicle,” she said. “It could be just an average citizen, or it could be someone who just killed somebody three counties back and is paranoid. Things could get ugly really, really quick.”

“We are not the enemy, period,” she said. “We are here to help you. We don’t want to hurt you, ever. Even when we have to fight you, we don’t want to hurt you.”

Dolan hopes the empathy he discussed with the officers can go both ways. “Police would like people to treat them with respect, wait for the facts to come out and look at the situation holistically,” he said.

Nearly all of the Durham’s 512 police officers and some non-sworn department employees have now completed verbal de-escalation training, either at Tuesday’s session or an earlier workshop on March 9.

Smith said de-escalation training is critical, especially for young officers.

“If you don’t know how to communicate with your public, things go wrong,” she said. “You’ve seen that all over the news. I think this needs to be a longer class, to be honest.”

“Just like we teach you how to use handcuffs, we need to teach you verbal de-escalation,” Dolan said. “This should be something we do on a regular basis.”


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Community policing topic of symposium

Police must regularly communicate with the people they serve, as well as have positive contacts with people, in order to gain respect and trust, consultants told Martinsville Police Department officials on Thursday.

“Negative contacts with police, if we can knock that out, that’s 50 percent of the battle” to convince people that police are striving to serve them rather than harm them, said Richard Johnson, chief academic advisor to the Dolan Consulting Group, which helps public service agencies develop organizational leadership strategies.

The other 50 percent, Johnson said, is finding opportunities to have face-to-face interaction with people at times when they are not actively trying to enforce laws. An example, he said, is getting out of their patrol cars and walking through neighborhoods while on their beats to try and get to know people – even in districts where police know they are not well-liked.

It reduces fear of crime and increases public satisfaction with police, said Johnson, a former law enforcement officer in Indiana and Illinois who now teaches criminal justice at the University of Toledo in Ohio. He has done extensive research into how police and citizens interact.

The strategy is called “community policing.” Martinsville police have emphasized that strategy in recent years as part of their patrols, according to Police Chief Sean Dunn.

During a symposium Thursday afternoon at the New College Institute, police officers received guidance in using the strategy from Johnson and Harry Dolan, the consulting group’s president and chief executive officer who is the retired chief of police in Raleigh, N.C.

Community policing involves “going back to the basics” of law enforcement, Dolan said.

To successfully fight crime, police and the public must work together, he said.

That is where police walking during patrols, and getting to know people they encounter, comes in.

“There are a lot of people hiding behind the blinds (in their homes) who would support you,” Johnson told police officers. “They just don’t know you.”

Research mentioned by Johnson shows that 86 percent of recent immigrants to the United States are somewhat dissatisfied with police. He told officers to keep in mind that many of those immigrants come from countries where police have reputations for being corrupt and abusive. In turn, those people do everything they can to avoid having any contact with police, he said.

Police must strive to find ways to get to know immigrants and let them know that police practices in America are not the same as those in other places, especially smaller, lesser-developed countries in the Middle East, he indicated.

They also must strive to reach people of all ages from all segments of society, Johnson said.

Younger people, in particular, need to be taught how to act in encounters with police, he said.

People also need to realize, he continued, basics such as being caught having no license with you while driving is a misdemeanor but fleeing from police to avoid being caught without a license is a felony, which is more serious. A felony on a person’s criminal record potentially could ruin his or her life, he mentioned.

Gaining respect and trust also involves keeping people informed about police activities, the consultants said.

Traditionally, media coverage has kept people abreast of those activities. Johnson suggested that police “don’t do the ‘no comment’” when reporters ask questions about crimes they are investigating or other aspects of their work, but instead “quickly respond” with as many details as they can without jeopardizing investigations.

But through social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, police now can communicate with the public directly, such as by posting news releases on those sites, Johnson said.

“Tell your story in a way that it’s going to make the most sense to the people who read it,” such as by using plain English instead of police jargon, he said.

And, “give them a visual story that they can understand in their terms,” he said, using photos when appropriate.

Photos can be disturbing as long as they portray what actually happened in an incident, Johnson indicated, showing one of an officer with blood streaming down his face as an example.

When people get details they need to make informed judgments concerning police actions, it reduces the chance for a “media firestorm” with sensationalized coverage, Johnson said.

“Their message is on point,” Dunn said of the consultants, adding that “a lot of what they’re saying reinforces what we’re already doing” at the police department.

Dolan, who has more than three decades of experience in public safety, including 25 years as an executive in the field, oversaw more than 900 employees while he led the Raleigh Police Department from 2007 to 2012. He said that while eating lunch with Martinsville police officers in the community in recent days, he has been impressed with positive interactions they have had with area residents with whom they came into contact.

It seems that “everybody knows each other,” he said.

Community policing has been more prevalent in smaller localities but now large metropolitan area police forces are delving into the concept, Dolan pointed out.

In the big cities now, “when they’re successful, they think small,” he said.


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Martinsville working toward “Community Policing”

MARTINSVILLE (WSLS 10) – Police in Martinsville are working to be more involved in the community.

Officers there want input from the people in the community to influence how they enforce the law.

At a symposium Thursday, speaker and former Sheriff Harry Dolan says this community policing concept began after several high profile cases around the country demonstrated a disconnect between the police and the community.

He says Martinsville is one of the jurisdictions taking a lead in finding innovative ways to build that relationship, and the result is a safer place to live.

Dolan says the first step to building a community police relationship is for officers to be accessible.

“Personalize service to meet the needs, make sure the preponderance of the officers are in the neighborhoods around the clock. It’s what the citizens want,” said Dolan.

Martinsville Chief Sean Dunn says he has already begun to use this advice in running his department.

“We’ve got the entire city broken down into 20 small, manageable areas, and each one of our officers is assigned one of those 20 areas. So we want them in those areas as often as possible, just out of the car, just talking to kids, just talking to residents,” said Dunn.

From that added exposure, Dunn says police are learning what issues matter to the public.

In Martinsville, priority number one has been drugs.

“Day one I had citizens tell me hey listen I’ve got this drug complaint, this drug issue next door, this drug issue down the street, I’m scared to sit on my front porch because of drugs,” said Dunn.

Since then, Dunn has made stopping drug-dealing his number one priority.

Just last month, the department put 14 accused dealers behind bars.

Dolan says another important role police are taking on is dealing with mental health.

“We’re asking our officers, who are the only ones left making house calls, to now become almost clinical people dealing with folks in psychological crisis,” said Dolan.

That’s why Dunn says officers with Crisis Intervention Training, or CIT, are increasingly common.

“We’ve got probably about 50, 60 percent of the department trained, by the end of 20-16 I hope to have the entire department trained, at least the entire patrol force trained in Crisis Intervention,” said Dolan.

A department that works with, not for, the community.

Dunn says in addition to regular policing and community interaction, his department has benefited from programs like “Coffee with a Cop” and “Hoops with Cops”, which helps build a bond of trust with people in the City.

He also says there is a CIT training seminar scheduled for officers in his department next month.


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Durham police trained in verbal de-escalation tactics

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Nearly every Durham Police Department employee is now trained in verbal de-escalation tactics.

The announcement was made Tuesday during the final training session led by retired Raleigh police chief Harry Dolan.

The purpose of the training is to improve police-community relations, reduce citizen complaints and improve safety for officers and the public.

More than 100 sworn and non-sworn staff attended the final training class held at the Holton Career Center in Durham.

Assistant police chief Ed Sarvis told CBS North Carolina he is confident the training will enable DPD to better serve the public.

“We’re talking about the importance of how to deal with people, treat them with respect, tell them why when you can, and you get a lot more cooperation,” Sarvis said.

De-escalation training was implemented under former chief Jose Lopez.


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