We Need More Ethical Protectors

 Law Enforcement Officials: 
We Need More Ethical Protectors 
(The Trentonian News)


As many of you who follow me and/or train with me know about Jack Hoban and Resolution Group International (RGI). Well, here is an article that the Trentonian did on the last workshop that we taught out in New Jersey. 

I had the privileged to work with police officers from about 11 different departments from New Jersey and New York (not to mention my fellow RGI com-padres who it is always great to see and work with). 


SPRING LAKE — Nationally, the names Michael Brown, Rodney King and Eric Garner are synonymous with police brutality; while locally, the names Lael Queen, Michele Roberts, Darrell Griffin and Tyrell Green remind residents of excessive force.

It seems like just about every week there’s a media report about a law enforcement official who’s accused of making an unethical decision. The most comprehensive stats regarding police misconduct were last compiled by the Cato Institute in 2010. A Cato spokesperson said last week that current resources don’t allow the opportunity to produce comprehensive statistical reports. But the organization publishes an online daily newsfeed of reported police misconduct incidents from around the country. According to the website, between the 13th and 18th of this month, 35 new allegations of police misconduct were reported. One of those incidents occurred in New Jersey and three occurred in Pennsylvania.

Last week, The Trentonian uncovered court documents alleging that a man suffered a stroke because Trenton Police refused to allow his family and friends to provide him with required medications. Donyell Knight informed officers of his medical needs at the time of his arrest, during processing and while incarcerated, court documents state. Then, about three days after his arrest, Knight suffered a stroke while in jail, but was still denied medical treatment, according to court documents. Knight and his wife are now suing the Trenton Police Department, the City of Trenton, the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department and the Mercer County Correction Center.

There’s no doubt that these type of incidents have led to some degree of distrust in law enforcement. Pew research published last month revealed that 68 percent of people under the age of 50 say that police departments do only a fair or poor job using appropriate levels of force, while 29 percent of that age group say police do an excellent or good job. People ages 50 and older are less negative in their views of law enforcement. The research also shows that there are large racial gaps in opinion of local and national police performance, with blacks being more critical of police than whites.

The Trentonian spoke with police officers from several departments in and outside of Mercer County for this story and all of them said they received some form of ethics and communication training in the academy. But ongoing training in those areas are not mandated, they said. Every officer interviewed said their agency mandates yearly requalification in firearms, as well as training on how to control the use of excessive force. Although most NJ law enforcement agencies provide some type of in-service training in communication skills and ethics, the officers said, yearly participation in the courses after academy graduation is not mandatory.

Law enforcement veterans say that many officers experience burnout after a few years on the job, which tends to lead to unethical behaviors. Some veterans, though, have recognized this fact, and there is a movement behind the scenes within law enforcement to address the issues that lead to police misconduct.

Perhaps at the forefront of that movement is an organization called Resolution Group International (RGI), which trains police officers, military personnel, correction officers and park rangers on how to be “ethical protectors.”

“Most people want to do a good job, but right now the police are struggling with how to productively interact with the community,” RGI President Jack Hoban said. “We train officers to be the person they wanted to be when they joined law enforcement in the first place.”

Last week, 30 law enforcement professionals from 11 different agencies gathered on the shore to participate in RGI’s Ethical Protector course. Some of the officers, including two state troopers, were directed by their superiors to attend the course and report whether RGI’s techniques and curriculum should be incorporated into their agency’s training. Others, though, were sent by insurance companies.

“The insurance companies are the ones who have to pay when a cop acts like a jerk and the city gets sued,” Hoban said. “Bad policing costs the city money. So, insurance companies are making cops attend our seminar or else the towns won’t receive a favorable premium rate on the municipality’s insurance.”

Personnel from the Passaic Police Department, NJ State Police, Atlantic City PD, Perth Amboy PD, the Monmouth County Park System, the U.S. Marine Corps and NYPD were among those who attended the three-day seminar. One individual traveled all the way from Switzerland to evaluate the course and determine whether it could be used by police and military in that country.

Over the course of three days, the men and women were taught verbal communication skills, physical self confidence and ethical clarity. A Trentonian reporter attended the last day of the seminar and spoke to several law enforcement professionals, some of whom asked to have their name left out of this story because they were not authorized to speak on behalf of their department. Many of them, though, were willing to share their personal opinions about the course. All of the people interviewed had nothing but positive remarks about the program, and the officers appeared rejuvenated, with a renewed focus and commitment to ethical policing.

“After 22 years on the job working in an urban area, you tend to stereotype,” one officer said. “We’re all guilty of it, I think. But I see things differently now. Every cop should take this course.”
The men and women were taught the Verbal Defense and Influence methodology of conflict communication, which emphasizes the advantages of speaking to citizens and suspected criminals with respect.

“To be ethical, you have to be respectful when you speak to people,” Hoban said. “Most people don’t know how to talk respectfully and they end up getting into arguments. Then, emotions flare and before you know it, the situation has escalated and there’s a beat down over a minor issue. People don’t know how to talk under stress because they’re not taught how. We teach people how to talk under stress and we give them a basic proven formula to work from.”
Retired Trenton Police Detective Edgar Rios also recommends speaking to suspects in a respectful manner. Rios — who is one of the most respected officers in Mercer County, not only for his knowledge of the job, but also for his calm approach to policing­ — suggests that officers empathize with the people they encounter. Rios did not attend the seminar, and he has never heard of RGI. He shared his comments via email last week.

“Try and understand that their concerns may not seem like a big deal to the officer, but to that citizen it could be the biggest problem in the world at that time,” Rios said. “Often, their situation may not make sense and that is why the problem exists. First, you should try to calm them down to a degree where they are able to converse with you. Then, you can recommend a solution to the problem.”
The seminar also taught methods of cross-cultural communication that foster respect even if the officer doesn’t know every nuance of the culture. RGI, in fact, spawned from Hoban’s work with the Marine Corps’ Martial Arts Ethical Warrior Program, which was tasked with training soldiers how to “win the hearts and minds” of people living in other countries.

“We taught them the communication skills to win the hearts and minds of the people in the villages of Afghanistan and Iraq, while at the same time being ready for combat with Al-Qaida and the Taliban,” Hoban said. “They had to be very good fighters, but they also had to be very good community liaisons so that we could convince them to work with us and to trust us. Some of the rough neighborhoods in America are almost like being in a combat zone, and police need those same skills to gain the trust of the local people. They won’t cooperate with the police unless they really trust that police respect them, understand them and that they will protect them from the bad guys.”

The seminar attendees were also taught various martial arts maneuvers that were aimed at disarming individuals who physically challenge officers. The maneuvers, though, were not necessarily the types of moves that could injure a person. They were disarming techniques meant to protect the officer and the suspect, and they were taught to be used as a last resort in convincing a person to comply. Attendees were also instructed on how to speak to the suspect in a respectful manner after disarming and placing them in handcuffs.

“Someone who doesn’t have physical confidence either won’t speak up when they need to, or they’ll overcompensate by acting too tough when it’s not necessary,” Hoban said. “Cops have to speak up because they’re supposed to be in charge, but some may not have the physical self-confidence, so they act too tough. Martial arts is used to provide calm self-confidence so cops can speak forcefully yet professionally and respectfully and not like some type of tough guy thug. It’s not all about fighting. The fighting you see on television is sport fighting, it’s not martial arts. In sports fighting you fight for yourself; martial arts is for protecting others.”

One particular block of the seminar emphasized the importance of teaching something to someone every day, learning from someone every day and smiling when interacting with others. Attendees were also reminded to treat everyone as equals.

“It’s amazing how issues go away when you treat people the way you want to be treated,” RGI Associate Joe Shusko said. “Life is about relationships, and we all hurt and bleed the same. Smiling is a universal language, and when you smile, people gravitate toward you. But when you don’t smile, you automatically elevate a negative situation.”

On the last day of the seminar, the attendees participated in team building exercises where they learned how to improve physical fitness by using another person’s body weight. The exercises were suggested as ways that law enforcement partners could maintain fitness, while increasing their humanly bond, in just 10 minutes a day. Physical fitness also clears and refreshes the mind, they were taught, which helps maintain ethical clarity.

“The NYPD admires this system,” Detective James Shanahan said. “We need all the training we can get in terms of how to deal with people.”

Detective Shanahan is a hostage negotiator for the New York City Police Department. He attended last week’s seminar on his own time.

“I have a version of this program that I’m sharing with NYPD,” Shanahan said. “My goal is to put the human face back on policing. Training is ongoing in the NYPD, and every officer receives in-service training, which involves professionalism in the work place. But this course is a combined version of all of that training.”

Retired New Jersey State Trooper Jim Challender was the keynote speaker at last week’s seminar, and his message was a reminder to always “do the right thing.” In 1972, Challender uncovered a money laundering scheme involving top state officials as well as several politicians connected to the national Watergate scandal.

Trentonian editor F. Gilman Spencer won a Pulitzer Prize in 1974 for a series of editorials about corruption in New Jersey’s state government that lead to a federal investigation. Those editorials included accounts of Challender’s findings.

“In my career, I had to lock up state police officers that didn’t behave themselves properly,” Challender said. “When I was Commandant of the academy we had a serious problem in the New Jersey State Police. There were some officers acting totally out of character of the organization.”
Challender said he later created several courses that trained troopers in police professionalism, cultural diversity and self-defense.

“We had a few shootings where officers acted prematurely because they weren’t confident in their ability to properly defend themselves,” Challender said. “So, we taught troopers how to behave pursuant to their oath of office and pursuant to their oath of human decency. I wonder if the officer in New York who’s now in trouble for allegedly choking (Eric Garner) could’ve handled that situation differently. I also wonder if things would’ve been different in Ferguson, Missouri, if that officer had attended this course. You can set your attitude every morning by looking in the mirror and saying, ‘I’m going to do the right thing.’”

The Trentonian obtained a copy of the police academy curriculum that Mercer County recruits will advance through over the next 21 weeks. The training includes several communication and ethics classes such as Conflict Resolution Crisis Intervention, Cultural Diversity, Arabic Culture, Basics of Community Oriented Policing, Morals and Ethics, Awareness of Emotional Reactions and Handling Individuals with Special Needs.

It’s not exactly clear whether those courses are also offered as continual in-service training to refresh officers on the concepts. The academy’s website only lists the upcoming in-service courses that are scheduled through next month. But according to academy Director Al Paglione and Trenton police, the only refreshers that are mandatory to complete every year are firearms requalification and training on how to control the use of excessive force. Perhaps that will soon change.

“We need more ethical protectors,” Hoban said.


Penny Ray has worked in media for the past 14 years. His career began in radio broadcasting, and most recently he served as editor of Homicide Watch D.C. Reach the author at pennyray@trentonian.com or follow Penny on Twitter: @Penny_Ray.

Original Article Comes to You From The Trentonian 9/21/14




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