Written in 1937 by the Commissioner of Michigan State Police, Oscar G. Olander, this chapter is by far my favorite so far. It’s so incredibly pertinent even 80 years later. I pride myself on my people skills and my ability to interact with the public, whether innocent citizens or criminals. The crimes change, the drugs change, laws change. What doesn’t change is human nature.
Know how to shoot. Know how to drive. Know how to fight. But, of equal importance, know how to treat people.
A. Public Courtesy
—“Courtesy is the only oil for the wheel of human contact that always retains its lubrication quality.” It sounds pretty cheesy, but a little Courtesy today can have far reaching benefits. Courtesy is described in this chapter not in the hand-shaking back-slapping superficial niceness we may show the public. It in the “quiet, unassuming behavior based on a sincere consideration of the feelings of others.” The author describes it as “the undefinable something about a man that inspires confidence.” Read that sentence again and think about it. An “undefinable something about a man that inspires confidence. We need the trust of the public. One show of rudeness can remove all confidence that individual has is all of law enforcement.
There is nothing about courtesy that is exclusive of strength, sternness, and force. They can go hand in hand.
There’s an interesting line in this chapter: “Donning that uniform does not set the wearer apart to herd the rest of the race of men about like a circus worker with a ‘bull hook’ handles his elephants.” Ever since Lt Col Dave Grossman compared us to sheepdog protecting the sheep from the wolf, I believe there has been a tendency to distance ourselves from the flock, as though were a different breed of human altogether. I don’t mention this to disparage Grossman’s analogy in any way. It’s definitely a worthy way of viewing what we do. However, 80 years ago, it was important to note that we are still part of the flock.
A scientist of the time, Robert Millikan, remarked that men who operate gas stations have done more to educate the public on courtesy and good manners than all the professors in college. Knowing that the smallest act of rudeness to a customer can directly affect their bottom line, attendants regularly went above and beyond to earn their customers loyalty. Our “customers,” the public, don’t often have another option than us. But that doesn’t mean their loyalty is unwavering. Losing the support of the public puts us at an extreme disadvantage.
“A man can be be a policeman and a gentleman at the same time. He can be courteous to everyone without exception and still be firm and sincere in his efforts to enforce the law.”
80 years ago, the author described a police officer as virtually “on parade.” A police officer is always seen by a great many more people than he sees. Showing off for the public by trying to appear smarter than them, more privileged than them, or having the ability to break laws will not produce a confidence in law enforcement.
Olander explains, even 80 years ago, we were more than bad guy chasers. We have been viewed as community leaders. We are viewed as protectors. A lack of courtesy can destroy this confidence.
I’ll quote the final paragraph in this section and leave it without commentary.
“It is possible to impart instructions and give commands in such a manner and in such a tone of voice as to inspire the desire to obey. He who regards the respect which is due others, cannot fail to inspire in them disregard for himself. But the officer who feels and hence manifests disrespect towards others cannot fail to inspire hatred and disrespect for himself.”
Stay tuned for the next section Public Courtesy ON DUTY.
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