Webinar presenter John Thompson answered a number of your questions after his presentation, Emotional Intelligence for Law Enforcement: Hidden Keys for Survival. Here are some of his responses.
Audience Question: How can a line officer, or supervisor go about working with their command staff or even their city council if you're a chief to help work on implementing this training within an agency?
John Thompson: Law enforcement is not a one-size-shoe-fits-all across this country. The way agencies operate and policies from state to state change. The very first thing is that the individual officer himself needs to become emotionally intelligent to change him.
Everything's different, if you have union, if you have your sergeant, lieutenant, captain or training department, they can take it up and request that type of training. Because of the difference, it is hard for me to answer that question directly.
But the bottom line is, it's the responsibility of the agency's management, chief of police, sheriff, or training department to ensure that we're getting the needed training. It is so important that we get some type of EQ awareness within the Academy, but more important when the officer is on the street. Talk to who you can within your agency and try to move it in that direction.
Audience Question: Emotional intelligence is applicable not just for law enforcement, it is also applicable to probation and corrections officers. It is really applicable to almost every one of the disciplines both within and outside criminal justice.
John Thompson: More importantly in corrections, when you're dealing with a closed facility like that, or even probation and parole. This is not just for law enforcement. We're only talking about law enforcement because of the situation you're put in, sometimes life and death situation. But this does to any job, whether it is public service or not. So yes, it applies to everybody in your life.
Audience Question: When a person is training themselves to redirect our beliefs, how long does it typically take for them to automatically go to the redirect response?
John Thompson: It took me one day, but again, I understood it. I gave you the scenario of me driving. I drove for years and years getting more and more stressed out, almost wanting to run somebody over but then it just dawned on me, "What am I doing?". I think it hit me that if I have an emotional response during my drive, I'm in trouble — I'm going to go to jail, I'm going to get killed — I mean these are the options that I have, and they weren't good options. So basically, it took me one day to reprogram it. I fall back occasionally.
It's hard for me to say. Can you do it today? Some of you wrote those three triggers that you may be able to change even before you get on this webinar because you just said to yourself, "I'm not going to let that bother me, and if it happened, this is the way I'm going to think about it".
I always say generally, it's like putting a seatbelt on… I try to tell people, "You get in the car every day, you want to program yourself to put your seatbelt on". Every time you get in the car before you start it up, you put the seatbelt on, you take it off and put it back on. Within seven days you're not even going to be thinking about it. It's going to be an automatic response. If you start thinking about these triggers that you have, and you start working on them, it becomes automatic. So, once you're put into that emotional situation, you're not even going to think about it, you'll just immediately go there.
Audience Question: How can a person best help a colleague who might be having issues with emotional intelligence? How do you approach them and share the fact that they maybe need a little bit of work in this area?
John Thompson: Understand their emotions, what are they dealing with? Is there something in there? I always say just be kind to people because you really don't know what kind of demons they are fighting, and you don't know what's going on in their life.
What's your relationship with them is really important. Is your relationship close enough that you can sit down and have a candid conversation with them? Maybe show them an instance when somebody has been really good at this. Or buy them the book and say, "Hey, I bought you a book and I think it may be a good read for you". You can do it that way.
If they're your friend and you can talk with them, you don't want to go out on them like you're wrong, and you don't want to go out on them like they're something bad. You want to go at it more of, "Hey this could really help you, it helped me. Guess, what it did for me after I read this book, it changed my life, and I want to share it with your because you're my friend."
Audience Question: I'm interested in considering how emotional intelligence might be used to improve a law enforcement response to adult sexual assault. What are your thoughts on that?
John Thompson: I think it all starts with the beliefs. What does that officer believe in a sexual assault? Let's say an officer goes on a sexual assault call but his belief is that this woman should have never put herself into that position. She should never have gone to the party drinking. If that officer believes that this girl is responsible for the sexual assault, I don't think in my mind that the response that officer would give will be what it needs to be.
It goes back to the way the officer thinks of sexual assault. The way to deal with that is to make sure that the advocates have enough information. It goes right back to the officer that if s/he is not emotionally intelligent, and not want to change his beliefs, then we end up in a situation where it may become a discipline problem rather than a training problem. I always said it's either the training or the disciple. You can't train someone who doesn't want to be trained.
I'll be honest with you I sat in classes that they made me, as a law enforcement officer, I had to sit and listen to why we should be concerned to domestic violence. When all along, my beliefs at the time were that, "I went to house I asked the lady to leave, she wouldn't leave, she decided to stay, so guess what, that's her problem now". That was the belief and attitude that I had, so guess what? When I responded to a domestic violence call, how do you think I was going to handle that? I'm going to look at it and say, "C'mon, let's get out of the house, you can leave now, but if you didn't, it's on you". But after we were trained and understood the dynamics of domestic violence, then again, we reprogrammed our self and reprogram the way we think about it and we actually move into that situation better.
That same situation goes along with sexual assault. It goes back to training the officer and getting them to believe what the real problem is. Even if a woman goes to a party, she doesn't have the right to be sexually assaulted — whether she was drinking a beer or not.
Audience Question: Are you familiar with any research or studies that look at how a person that's currently taking psychotropic medications including antidepressants, how that medication might impact their EQ?
John Thompson: I don't. That's way above my pay grade for sure. I'm sure any kind of medication you take is going to affect you. I remember when I had kidney stones and they gave me OxyContin, and I took the Oxycontin, I start seeing people move around, so I told my wife to throw that stuff away. Medicine's going to affect everybody. I don't know what the answer to that is, I don't even know if you can get to dealing with emotional intelligence in an individual that's on medication. You'd have to investigate that yourself because I do not have any information, sorry.
Click Here to View a Recording of John Thompson's presentation, Emotional Intelligence for Law Enforcement: Hidden Keys for Survival.