The Law Engagement Officer (part two)

In the first article of this series, we explored the changing landscape of policing and some of the fundamental needs and benefits of creating highly engaged communities. To create an engaged community a police service must know how to engender

  • Affiliation
  • Trust
  • Collaboration
  • Advocacy


These four psychological/emotional requirements cannot be sustained by force-led systems, punitive relationships and an over-processed service style.

So what are some of the attributes we as individuals and as a collective require to create engagement?

The first is: internal courage

Internal courage is different from external courage because it relies upon engaging difficult feelings, not turning away from them. Turning towards stress, vulnerability, discomfort and suffering.

Traditionally some police officers are attracted into the profession because they are prepared for external courage. A fine attribute in itself – throwing themselves into physical situations of threat and harm.

Internal courage takes a different kind of bravery and is a completely different skill set. To learn how to turn towards, face, allow and dissolve the most difficult of feelings and emotions. Those of our customers and colleagues and those within ourselves that may have become stuck, been covered up or buried for fear that emotions are destructive, or are seen as weak and cannot be healthily acknowledged in a police environment.

What happens when police officers and their leaders cannot turn towards the difficult feelings within their customers, colleagues and themselves?

This stops them:

  • Using empathy and compassion to sooth and calm others and so disconnected or adversarial relationships are ignited
  • Us versus them cultures are created instead of trust and collaboration
  • Communities don’t feel cared for or valued and therefore never become advocates (these are two proven, emotional states that are required before someone becomes an advocate of yours)
  • Personal stress increases
  • Immune function depletes (increasing sickness/absenteeism)
  • Negativity and cynicism prevails because the same old problems circulate to which many bang their head against the wall – hoping to make it to their pension without being emotionally affected!

Communities disengage, as do staff.

To develop internal courage we must develop two complimentary psychologies.

1. Mindful awareness of our cognitive, logical, ruminating brain

2. Mindful awareness of our emotions

Just in case you get carried away with the notion that anything mindful is some kind of soft, unscientific Buddhist conspiracy, think again.

Highly credible neuroscience and psychological studies are proving that how we manage our brains and emotions has a direct impact on how we can maintain personal resilience, safe levels of empathy and compassion that are required to maintain affiliation, collaboration, trust and advocacy.

In a later article I will detail more on how to develop this type of ‘mindful awareness’.

Until then here are a few things to think about regarding awareness of the brain and our emotions and how they are essential for true engagement.


  • Every single second human beings are experiencing a sensation, feeling or emotion and if we attempt to block them out, disengage from them, pretend they are not as important as logic, project them as blame onto others or discount them happening in any way, we will never create truly engaged communities.
  • Our emotions have an impact on our goals and motives and whether we give up on them. Therefore unless we develop our understanding of how goals and emotions work in ourselves and others our communities give up on us and/or we give up on them. This ties in with the UK’s recent engagement surveys that sadly conclude 75% of the British workforce are not engaged and are in states of indifference or have ‘given up’.
  • Our emotions determine how we are in the world so it’s essential to understand their changing weather and realise that with ‘mindful awareness’ we can positively work with even the most terrifying or surprising of feelings and we don’t have to suffer.

The Brain

  • The evolutionary design of the brain means there are very fast pathways that by-pass our frontal cortex and rational thinking system so it’s wise to realise in certain conditions every single human brain on the planet will make emotional ‘mistakes’ or behave in ways that cannot be avoided but can be put right through mindful practises.
  • Unless we begin to understand how the brain and emotions work and malfunction together we will continue to blame each other and develop low empathic relationships and never develop the further skills of compassion required for engagement.
  • By understanding how the brain works we can improve our personal resilience to the suffering that comes with ‘the job’ (instead of brushing it off with temporary solutions such as ‘if you don’t laugh you’ll cry’)
  • In the brain, empathy and compassion light up different areas which means if we learn how to develop compassionate relationships we don’t need to suffer empathy fatigue that permeates nearly every emergency service.

One of the challenges for the police service is their heritage. They have received very little training in how the evolved brain works and how it compliments and malfunctions with emotions.

Communication and service styles has been based on hierarchical and command and control, with a bias towards over-processing – while skills such as empathy and psychological understanding have taken a back seat and have been categorised as weak.

So to conclude this second article on The (Future) Law Engagement Officer, here is a summary

  • The police have no choice but to learn the art of engagement
  • Engagement means turning towards difficult feelings, emotions and suffering and not away from them
  • A new type of courage needs to be learned – internal courage
  • Along with developing the skills of mindful awareness for how the brain and emotions work and work against each other

In the third article of the series, I will detail the type of empathic and compassionate practices required and sometimes seen in today’s’ policing – stating the case for the police services to create more of these; a greater consistency that will naturally create the future Law Engagement Officer.

imagesExecutive briefing

Future Vision is running a special seminar focusing on some of the subjects within this article on December 10th 2013 in Manchester.

For more details about the event, download our document or head to the event page.

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