Good Cop, Bad Cop – In the Cauldron of Communication

Devil whispering to Businessman. Unfair business metaphor


While government point to the crime statistics the public rarely see the hard reality of communicating, thriving and surviving in the police.

Before I became involved 15 years ago I assumed officers would automatically receive the very best of everything to support them through their world – one so important to ours.

Trained for the Emotional Cauldron?

As standard there’s no learning on emotions, to further develop their ability to approach and be with suffering.

They are expected to learn these ‘on the job’ or to be automatically skilled in these beforehand.

Yet, arguably, these are the skills they need the most. Far more frequently than the use of force.

Almost all learning is on process, rules and law. With an emphasise on physical assertiveness to contain.

Most officers I’ve worked with want to make a difference by helping the community.

When surrounded by suffering they stick to providing whatever action they can, within their power

This feels familiar and safe to them (of course) and is often where they are seen to do their best work.  And there is a lot of great work out there too.

This also creates many self inflicted difficulties because they quickly talk about process, steps and justification and are surprised when the victim, witness, offender or colleague becomes more emotional.

Unknowingly, they mistake talking about solutions (or justification if there is no solution) as forms of empathy.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve witnessed internal and external ‘customers’ being emotionally disregarded; along with their pain and suffering.

Because of the wear and tear of their work, especially with the ‘regulars’ they come into contact with (including regular colleagues) they use cynicism as a coping mechanism.

This can alleviate on the short term but long term it tends to preserve high levels of judgment and blame.

These directly block

  • Compassion
  • Empathy
  • Their resilience and
  • Wellbeing

It also means many find it difficult to stay open to new learning, often fearful that they could be perceived as ‘not being good enough’ or ‘weak’. It’s not un-heard of for managers to send officers on communication training as a ‘punishment’.

A Matter of Culture 

Culturally, ‘If you don’t laugh you’ll cry’, still predominates.  Police cultures lack ‘healthy conflict’. In which people’s differences and true feelings can be healthily shared, discussed and worked through.

This over spills into the style of communication sometimes meted out to the public.

Tick boxes and command and control management still prevail. Coaching is almost non-existent (apart from isolated examples)

The mantra I’ve heard most frequently in the last 24months – across different forces – is, “Man-up”.

This is being used when officers dare to speak up against the levels of change and austerity that threaten their wellbeing.

The ranks above are products of the same learning system.

Although, I am led to believe EI – emotional intelligence (Based on Daniel Goleman) was introduced to the seniors around the turn of the millennium.

Apart from isolated instances EI doesn’t translate into everyday conversations.

What Governments Don’t Talk About

I was with a Sergeant not so long ago and we spent the entire shift trying to find a man who had threatened suicide (in a call the man had made to another agency) and he had now ‘disappeared’.

At 3am in the morning we finally tracked him down – through excellent intelligence work – to a previously unknown address. The man let us in and the Sergeant through subtle questions was making an assessment for a potential section order.  His first process.

In the conversation he listened patiently to the man’s story of suffering. In response he used a lot of ‘positive psychology’ type attempts.

Pepping the man-up, trying to get him to connect to the brighter side of life. In the face of the overwhelming story we had just heard.

He offered the help of counselling (specifically CBT) to help with his sense of hopelessness.

The Sergeant had 26 years of service and in the journey back to the station I was curious to the training or learning he had received in his career for this essential part of his role. He had been given none and had just made it up as he went.

He knew next to nothing about the CBT he had suggested as a potential life line.

All of which he thought it was unfair on him and those he was trying to help.

But who is really listening to him to get these things changed?

The Government?

The Culture?



If you would like to chat about our specialist communication, influence and engagement training contact me at

  • Quote-background

    Police cultures lack ‘healthy conflict’. In which people’s differences and true feelings can be healthily shared, discussed and worked through. This over spills into the style of communication sometimes meted out to the public.

    Glenn Bracey,
    Future Vision Training Ltd,
    2nd November 2015


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