Thanks to police procedural TV shows, many think that the bulk of law enforcement duties is concentrated on preventing crimes and conducting investigations. However, that’s only one side of the coin.
The other side involves a great deal of communication – not only with other members of the police department but also with the public, including citizens, external partners, government officials (local, regional, or national), and the media.
The messages police need to communicate with the public are often the same. However, the delivery can vary depending on the circumstance and purpose behind the message.
That’s where communication comes into play and why officers must hone their public speaking skills.
What Issues May Occur When Speaking to the Public?
Police officers typically don’t sign up for law enforcement because they love the spotlight of public speaking. Many officers have never had a public speaking class and may not consider communication the most essential part of their job. Therefore, several issues may arise when talking to the press or citizens.
Lack of clarity
Often, it’s easy for officers to explain situations using police jargon because it makes sense to them. But the reality is that what makes sense to them may not be so for everyone else. Therefore, using terms and expressions that few can understand can lead to a lower reception of the overall message.
There’s also the risk that a police officer’s message being misinterpreted or misconstrued by listeners. This type of confusion is not a situation any department wants because it opens up the doors for misinformation to spread.
Anytime police officers speak to citizens or at a press conference, it’s vital to use simple language or explain police terms so that the audience can understand the message clearly.
Poor means of communication
Another issue is a weak streamlining of communication between police and citizens. Phone calls may be the best way for citizens to contact their local police department, but it shouldn’t be the only way. Many departments have resisted implementing alternative methods for people to get in touch with police officers, which can be an issue when someone needs emergency assistance.
Law enforcement departments want their services and officers to be accessible to the public. After all, they exist to protect and serve the people.
Whether talking to the press or citizens, choosing the right tone to discuss police matters affects how the message is understood and received.
Law enforcement officers always want to appear confident. However, there can be a thin line between sounding confident and coming across as uncaring.
It’s important to consider how different situations may require officers to alter the way they speak to people. Is it a time to be more stern? Should you be more laid back and calm? Is the situation flexible enough to add a little humor?
Law enforcement leaders need to ensure that everyone on the force is on the same page regarding when to alter their tone of voice. For example, the public should expect a similar tone when any officer pulls them over. Likewise, the department should have a consistent tone during press conferences to build trust with the community.
How to Communicate Better
These ideas can help law enforcement departments improve overall communication and keep communication lines clear between their department and the public.
Listen first, respond second
It’s easy to want to jump in before gaining all the facts. Instead, police officers should listen first, then respond.
When speaking with local community members, approach conversations with the intent to understand their perspective and situation. Once a level of mutual understanding is reached, that’s when officers can come up with an actionable response that helps everybody.
Ask open-ended questions
Asking open-ended questions helps people get more information out of the people they are interrogating, whether they are suspects, witnesses, or other members of the public. “Yes” and “no” questions allow the respondent to give limited answers and withhold information.
Citizens are reluctant to approach police officers who appear threatening or non-friendly, regardless of whether that is the actual case. That’s why having a presence is essential. Law enforcement should be perceived as approachable and trustworthy to encourage citizens to come forward with information, questions, or suggestions for how police can work with the community.
Use multiple mediums
Today’s citizens consume content in many different ways, including through text messages, email, video, and social media. Video content, in particular, can be a powerful way to demonstrate how citizens should handle an emergency.
Utilize multiple communication channels
Last but not least, it’s critical to set up multiple modes of communication. While 911 emergency calls will always be one of the best ways to contact police, it’s beneficial for the department to create other ways to communicate with citizens, especially during non-emergency events.
One easy way of doing so is through social media, which citizens are already using. There are many useful platforms where officers and sheriffs can report or update people on any ongoing incidents in real-time.
Another way is through apps such as the UCP Police app. These apps are secure, streamlined ways of connecting citizens directly with police departments and vice versa. In many cases, the app may be a better option than social media as it decreases the risk of misinformation.
Nowadays, it’s a good idea to meet people where they are and utilize technology to connect with the public. So work to establish multiple communication streams to make your police department more accessible to people.
As police officers, it’s essential to develop and sharpen your communication skills and strategies as they are necessary for the job. How you speak with the public significantly impacts how people will perceive you and police departments as a whole.
Plus, you want to establish a strong relationship with the community, and constant communication is a great way to achieve that. UCP Police App for Police Departments makes it easy for the police to communicate with its citizens using an easy-to-use Mobile app for both iOS & Android. The Mobile app for Police Departments is a new way for citizens to help officers prevent and solve crimes.
The UCP law enforcement app for Police Department in USA
This Android/iPhone app for Police Departments allows the community to submit tips and information about ongoing crimes. Also, the sheriff or police departments can broadcast critical information to citizens to create safer neighborhoods and communities. Internally, sheriffs and police departments can communicate through a secure platform.
Visit our website to learn more about how law enforcement teams can use technology to better connect with the public.