Biases. Everyone has them. It is human nature to form opinions from personal experience or what you hear from others. After all, where else are opinions going to come from? Most folks have such limited contact with police officers that their expectations are formed by assumptions, what they see on T.V. and movies and what other people have told them.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) commissioned a study, The Public Image of Police, that found that 95% of the public consider the mass media their main source of information about crime. The study went on the say, “Entertainment media present images of police that distort the realities of every-day police work…police are more often than not presented as incompetent rule-breakers.”
The IACP found that even personal experience cannot be trusted. “The general thrust of this research is that how citizens experience the police personally shows a significant impact on their general assessment of the police (and)…negative experiences appear to have a more powerful effect than positive experiences.”
Since most people form their opinions from the media or from what others tell them, and of their own experiences they are more likely to remember the negative than the positive, it should come as no surprise that a majority of your “customers” have set their expectations pretty low. Are you going to be that lazy cop who can’t be bothered? Or maybe the adrenaline junkie who is bound to abuse their authority? Maybe an indifferent bureaucrat who will victimize them all over again? Odds are they will have low expectations of your ethics, your competence, the way you will exercise your authority, the way you will treat them, or all of the above.
As a police officer everyone you meet is an opportunity. Every interaction is a chance to confirm or dispel a stereotype, and make no mistake, you are doing one or the other. Don’t waste a single opportunity to deliver a pleasant surprise.
Finally, meet Deputy Elton Simmons, dispelling stereotypes everyday…