I just finished the Addressing the Challenges of Poverty conference in Orlando, and naturally it was terrific. As usual, there was a lot of discussion about new programs, new ideas, and sharing. This conference also featured a lot of sidebar chats that were very enlightening that dealt with another topic. That topic was the violence occurring in our nation and the police response that is equally violent. This is the first time I have witnessed such concern from Bridges participants about our nation’s direction in how law enforcement is responding to the community and how the use of deadly force in particular is so frightening.

So it is with a little bit of trepidation that I announce that in addition to being part of the aha! Process consulting group, I am also a retired police officer and police chief. When that part of my career is introduced at Bridges discussions anywhere in the nation, I get two kinds of responses. The first is from people who look at me as if they are seeing Bigfoot and want to run out of the room. The second is from people who have seen Bigfoot and want to grab a fork off the table and stab me with it.

What in the world can a police officer bring to the table in discussions about poverty, getting ahead, and staying ahead in life? Well, I think there is a big role that law enforcement can fill within the Bridges dialogue. Jodi Pfarr’s book Tactical Communication: First Responder Edition and its revelations to emergency responders can help you to bring law enforcement and criminal justice representatives (judges, prosecutors, probation officers) to the table to help discuss and implement changes that serve the people who are trying so hard to get ahead.

Training law enforcement professionals in Tactical Communication precepts does several things:

  • It emphasizes the importance of building relationships between police and the citizens they serve. This makes police more effective in obtaining cooperation and information from citizens, thus resulting in a reduction of crime and a greater feeling of security. Police become more effective when relationships exist.
  • Officers learn the hidden rules of the people they are serving, and citizens get insight into the hidden rules of policing. That helps reduce opportunities for escalation of conflict and avoids incidents moving toward a violent ending. Officers are safer, and so is the public.
  • Officers are less frustrated and angry about the actions or decisions of people in poverty when they understand the hidden rules of generational poverty. Understanding behavior does not excuse the behavior, but it helps to mitigate frustration and stress.
  • Law enforcement agencies receive fewer complaints from the public about how they are treated, respected, and served when there is a greater understanding of behavior within the poverty class, as well as an understanding of the rules of middle class and wealth. Police officers are just as prone to complaints when they don’t understand the hidden rules of middle class and wealth as they are when they don’t understand those in poverty. A reduction in citizen complaints means citizens are putting more faith and trust in the police.

We are about to undertake a Tactical Communication training session for the entire Muskogee Oklahoma Police Department, which includes more than 80 sworn personnel. This is a huge step for a law enforcement agency, and we are very excited about the opportunity to interact with the Muskogee PD’s finest. I hope you will continue to follow this blog as I discuss how I came to my aha! moment, where I have seen the Tactical Communication model implemented, how well it works, and keep you updated on the training at Muskogee PD.

Remember … if you want to solve your crime problem, start by solving the poverty problem!

Gary Rudick is a 35-year veteran of law enforcement in Oklahoma, serving the citizens of the state as a patrol officer, supervisor and chief of police. He has a Master’s in Criminal Justice and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, Session 242. He led one police agency to receive the International Association of Chiefs of Police Civil Rights Award, and the same agency was recognized for achieving state accreditation. Read more about Gary.