Monday, April 10, 2006

Cop communication

It's a Monday again today (so soon!). Things cooled off later last night but we are still looking at another apartment for Mom after I'm done with work tonight. The Vegetable Man called the house while I was "on vacation" and got an earful from my Mom. He called back later to make sure we were all still alive. But I couldn't talk to him about it very well with an audience so made him ask me questions and then I'd say "yes" or "no" to them! Sad for him that it was a long-distance call.

About a week ago I was reading a romance novel set in Hawaii. It was about an undercover cop and he was afraid he'd give his position away by his body language. Seems that cops are trained in a certain style of body language. Since this was about policemen, I was interested and researched it a bit. Here's some excerpts from a piece written by a (woman) cop for fiction writers:

Command Presence.
Command presence is acting, appearing, being calm, cool, professional and in control regardless of whether you feel calm, cool, and in control. It is our first and omnipresent level of force in a situation. An officer's air of confidence can mean the difference between being challenged or not being challenged. Command presence is taught from day one in the police academy. You must hold your head high, back straight, feet wide. Look people in the eye and speak in a strong voice. Walk with a purposeful stride. Wear clean, pressed uniforms, keep your weapon belt and shoes clean and shined. Command presence is the first step in keeping an officer alive. After awhile, it becomes automatic to look as though you control the world. Your police characters must display some command presence both on duty and off. Remember, however, that showing a police character without command presence could symbolize a lot of different things...

There's a lot behind the way an officers stand. Legs wide with one foot back, chest out, arms out and hands free. Do we stand that way just to look cocky? No! Try pushing a person down who's standing with her feet together and then with her feet apart. A wide stance provides infinitely better balance and stability. And when it comes to a fight, balance is the name of the game.

Start observing police officers, and notice, when they stand, which foot is always back. It's the gun side foot. Cops are 100 percent aware of their guns at all times. We keep our gun sides back and away from people. If we walk through a crowd, our elbows are pressed against our weapons. Why? If an officer's weapon is taken from him/her, chances are he/she will be killed with it. Cops know that. We live with it. And many of our movements are in protection of that gun. That's also why our hands, at least our weapon hand, is kept free at all times. We have to be ready to draw.

One thing an officer avoids is squaring off with someone, toe to toe. We are taught to stand "quarter to quarter." That means our left shoulder facing their left shoulder. It provides additional balance in a fight.

Personal Space.
Reaction time can kill you or keep you alive. In order to have more reaction time, you have to stand back. Americans generally require more personal space than many other cultures, and cops need even more. (This goes back to the gun retention issue again.) If you get right up in someone's face, it's more difficult to be aware of your surroundings, and it limits your reaction time.

Cops stand back. Even touchy-feely cops stand back.

I can sense when someone crosses into my "safety zone," off- duty or on, and I am immediately aware and on guard. That intuitive reaction is something to keep in mind when writing about a cop.

Eye Contact.
Police officers focus on what can hurt or kill them. Eyes can't pull a trigger, but hands can and often do. A cop will focus on the hands and center of the body, and this, again, is a safety issue. An officer won't stare intently at someone, usually, but will scan the surroundings. He or she tries to anticipate areas of possible threat. This lack of eye contact is often interpreted as apathy or attributed to the officer not paying attention. Not so. When I'm in contact with a person, I am listening to them, to my radio, to the sounds around me, and at the same time watching them and the surrounding area. This is a vital skill for a police officer who wants to stay alive.

Hmmm, these could partly explain why those guys seem just so darn attractive. But then the fact that it was a woman cop who wrote this caught my attention. So, starting last Tuesday I started trying to implement some of that body language at work!

It had interesting results:
1. On Thursday BZ came into my office and presented me with a bunch of papers. It was my long-lost raise! And retro to the first of the year! OK, I should have received it after my yearly review instead of getting demoted, but I have it now, so am happier...

2. And, they are thinking about making a new (accounting) position for me.

3. And, I am coming with her (BZ) to a board meeting.

4. And, I'm traveling with the rest of the team (was not invited before) to a meeting with our cohorts from other parts of the country. While this will not be a fun meeting because we have to work out some things, I'll get to stay in a really nice hotel, eat out in the evenings, etc. The meeting is THIS WEEK and I don't even know what time we'll be going. I hate planning for last-minute stuff like that but it will be sort of fun and being excluded was far worse.

So, what's your verdict, did cop body language assist with any of the above: Coincidence or not? Maybe they just thought I was carrying a weapon!

Have a great Monday!


Blogger Michelle said...

Hmmm, sounds promising! I may use that stance in court next week LOL.
I work with plain clothes detectives and whilst we're pretty laid back where i am from, you can still pick the plain clothes cops in a crowd....i can anyhow!

5:57 AM  
Blogger Stacy The Peanut Queen said...

It always helps if they think you're packing heat! ;)

7:38 AM  
Blogger Fizzy said...

Good for you, what ever you did it worked. I am pleased that things look a bit brighter for you at work.
I hope things sort themselves out at home soon too

8:35 AM  
Blogger Grant said...

The first two seem more likely coincidence, but the second two could be a direct result of displaying a more confident you. Keep it up. If possible, wear the uniform and/or gun. :p

11:27 AM  
Blogger Martini Love said...

You're right Monday came TOO quick!

4:05 PM  
Blogger Dotty said...

I was surprised to see how many of the cop details also apply to being a teacher, i.e. the Command Presence and the Eye contact, except that I'm looking to be sure no one is on the floor, playing with their phone/iPod, generally not doing anything etc.

Stick with the assertiveness, and a bit of the old Command Presence around the BZ wouldn't do any harm either. Extra Big Luck with the house hunting.

4:59 PM  
Blogger Magpie said...

yay for the raise and the new job title, don't suppose that gets you an office...???


2:39 AM  
Blogger sumo said...

I think they just recognized your true worth and included you. But the new things you've learned couldn't have hurt.

3:23 AM  
Blogger katie said...

Woo Hoo! Great news about the raise! Confidence is always good.

10:39 AM  

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