Can Specialist Communication and Customer Service Training Improve How Police Officers Use ‘Stop and Search?’

During the course of a typical working shift, the modern police officer will interact with the public in a number of different ways; some quite straight forward, others far more complex and challenging. What is evident from our work with the police service is that good communication and customer service skills really do make a significant difference to how police officers approach interactions with the public and the quality of service they deliver.

The big question?

The question for the police service now, is should they now focus their communication and customer service (CSS) training on teams and departments who deal with the most complex and challenging police/public interactions? This bears in mind the continuing need to make significant financial savings, and the impact this is having on training budgets, as well as the priority of improving customer service throughout the force.

While it is imperative the police continue to focus on improving the victim experience, it may also make good sense to deploy specialist CCS training where it can have greatest impact. It is my belief, that focusing on the more challenging interactions instead of the everyday interactions, can make an even bigger difference to the public’s perception and experience of the police service.

So what are the most challenging police/public interactions that officers face?

  • Carrying out ‘stop and search’
  • Conducting street or traffic stops
  • Dealing with the victim or offender on scene or in custody suites

I would suggest these interactions that are police initiated and are not always clear cut in their outcome are generally the most difficult and challenging for many police officers.

It is in these pressurised interactions that police officer communication and customer service skills are really tested, especially when the member of the public pushes back; or is initially hostile to being pulled over or stopped, and then searched, which is quite often the case. These interactions are often more emotionally charged and require far greater emotional awareness, empathy and rapport building skills on the part of the police officer, if the interaction is to go well and a good outcome is to be reached.

How is the ‘stop and search’ interaction viewed by the public?

How police officers approach these interactions is critical. We could consider the ‘stop and search’ interaction and how this is viewed by some members of the public, even those with nothing to hide or fear, and certain sections of the media. It is clear, that while it can be a useful tool in disrupting and preventing crime and disorder, it is also vital that it is seen by the public as being legitimate and is applied fairly and with reasonable grounds.

It is how police officers conduct stop and search that really matters. It is imperative that officers recognise the range of emotions this process can stir in someone, and they are able, through their approach, language and behaviour to manage the emotional aspect of the interaction as they conduct the process of stop and search.

How can we improve ‘stop and search’ interactions?

Ask yourself; do your officers carry out stop and search in a way that encourages cooperation and minimises the emotional intensity of the interaction? Do they recognise the importance of managing the person’s feelings as they first explain, and then guide them through the process, all the time paying equal attention to how they do this and the importance of treating the customer as a human being and with courtesy and respect?

Our CCS learning programme is ideal for improving these kinds of interactions. It is designed to aid police officers when they are most under pressure and are required to use the full range of their communication and customer service skills to deliver a successful outcome.

If you have already invested in CCS style training then consider including it in your stop and search training or your training for custody officers. If you are looking at how to improve service, consider focusing your training budget on improving the more difficult interactions first as these are likely to have a much bigger impact overall.

imagesIf you would like to find out more about our approach to transforming police communication and customer service and how this can be used to transform even the most challenging interactions, book your ticket to our police briefing in December. The event will be hosted alongside Greater Manchester Police who used this programme to transform their quality of service.

Tony Dain

MD Future Vision


Tony Dain

Tony is the co-founder and MD of Future Vision. He has been working in customer service and contact centres since 1993 including frontline retail and contact centre roles, before becoming a supervisor and team coach. In 1997 he joined CCC, one of the first training organisations dedicated to customer service and contact centres, where he established the telebusiness function. After three years he became the sales and services director before leaving to set up Future Vision.

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