Communication Difficulties of Law Enforcement Agencies
Many police officers in the field are less effective than they could be because they have not learned the communication skills that would help them on the job. When dealing with people who may come from a different racial or ethnic background than their own, many law enforcement officers may proceed unaware of the unexamined stereotypes or misinformation they bring to these encounters. The ability to listen with care is also one of the most difficult yet undervalued skills that a law enforcement officer needs every day. Even the most experienced officers may find it hard to listen when they are dealing with situations that raise concerns for their personal safety or remind them of unrelated, negative experiences they may have had in the past. The persistent demands of community policing, where officers may feel unappreciated for the risks they take on a daily basis while facing unrealistic expectations on all sides, can at times lead to a frustration that seeps into the communication that officers have with community members. Without an appropriate venue to acknowledge and then air their frustrations in a constructive way, even the most conscientious officers may not be able to keep a tone of contempt from coloring their dealings with the public.
A common complaint from members of the public is that police officers used a gruff or condescending tone in dealing with them. Although complaints may come from every segment of society, most complainants tend to be young, unmarried, low-income, non-white males. Consequently, studies on complaints against police officers have shown that law enforcement agencies must not only improve relations with youth, racial minorities, and lower socioeconomic groups but also improve interpersonal communication training for police officers.