Joseph T. Geller

In-Service Training Program 

1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.

The Brookline Police Department conducts a forty-eight hour annual in-service training program. This program is mandatory. It is an additional expense for the department but is one of the town’s best investments. It has helped reduce the number of police misconduct suits filed against the department. In fact, we believe we have fewer legal actions filed against us than any other department in Eastern Massachusetts. The following subjects are covered annually:

  • Criminal Law
  • Constitutional Law
  • CPR/ First Aid
  • Firearms Training
  • Defensive Tactics

Additionally the department tries to address problem areas in policing. We use outside resources from the educational community in greater Boston. We have many in-house instructors who are recognized experts in their field of instruction.

For example, the Constitutional Law curriculum is presented to the officers in order to ensure that they work within the parameters of the law. In particular, discussion is directed toward what is a hunch as opposed to what is reasonable suspicion and probable cause. The First Amendment, Fourth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment are discussed at length. This is an on-going procedure to ensure that our officers are meeting or exceeding the accepted practices of law enforcement agencies in the United States.

Several specialized topics have been introduced to our officers during the last four years.

The three we are most proud of are:

  • Conflict Resolution/ Cultural Diversity Training
  • Ethics and Integrity
  • Performance Enhancement

Our Conflict Resolution/ Cultural Diversity Training was conducted with the help of Dr. Wilbert J. McClure and Associates, who are management consultants in the Boston area.

The training was conducted in February, 1997. The following outlines the training curriculum:

We discussed awareness of cultural and organizational changes within the community and department. We explored the importance of interpersonal/conflict resolution skills in developing trust and carrying out the mission. We looked at the practical applications of enhanced communication skills in proactive law enforcement and developing professional and educational resources, (i.e., Dr. McClure) to improve the quantity and quality of communications.

The class members focused on internal traits as opposed to external traits using listening skills and working in pairs and individually. The focus on the importance of knowing one's co-workers and building trust was stressed during the class. A communication survey was used to convey principles of learning relative to effective listening and restating exercises working in triads. Listening exercises were used to establish a baseline to measure the effectiveness of the training and learning in class.

We worked toward developing effective listening and communications skills by stressing awareness of psychological and emotional barriers caused by personal bias. Incorporated into this section was the development of various scripts to establish community policing contacts and to be used to make police related contacts with the public in developing resources. This also introduced the next section, which was role-playing for effectiveness in various situations.

Dr. McClure stressed modeling and practicing community policing contacts using interpersonal skills, i.e., smile, eye contact, hand shake, and facial expressions to initiate conversation with different types of people while incorporating effective listening, restating, and sending of effective messages learned in class. Application of communications skills in making field interrogations and non-custodial contacts with juveniles to gain information which may later be used for investigative purposes was also discussed. [There was also an overview of Com. v. Thinh Van Cao Case (419 Mass 383 1995)].

We discussed conflict as being inevitable in human communication. We examined the potential outcomes to conflict resolution, which focused on problem solving and dispute resolution. We applied the problem-solving model to practical situations, developed through class participation. This stimulated discussion and produced acceptable solutions for all concerned parties.

Staying in charge of your emotions and not being held hostage by learned reactions to language, events, and situations is critical to performing the police function. A discussion about the learning principles of Albert Ellis and Wayne Dyer relative to neutralizing the negative effects of "trigger words" which cause strong negative emotional responses.

There was discussion by class members, reflective of different cultural backgrounds, based upon issues brought up in class. Each class wrestled with these issues in small group settings before making findings known to the entire class. A racial minority's model was then distributed and solutions were applied bearing this in mind. The class then engaged in a listening awareness presentation of typical habits of trained and untrained listeners.

Written feedback was submitted by the class participants and collated. We are conducting continuous review of minority complaints about our department and comparing the level with our past history.

Presentation of the Mission Statement - All class members were given a copy of the Brookline Police Department's "Mission Statement". Chief O'Leary addressed the class regarding the newly-issued mission statement. Member's input, which he received in making this draft, indicated the need for more training in this area. He highlighted his commitment to the mission and the importance of both the service and partnerships, which we are building in our community. He discussed the values listed in the mission and stated that the most important asset of the police department has always been and remains the membership and their commitment to professionalism.

2. What specific advice do you have for mayors interested in replicating a program such as yours?

Specifically we advise anyone who is interested in providing the best service to their community, to reach out and return to the roots of early twentieth century policing. Despite major technological advances, community policing remains the core instrument to assimilate knowledge, problem solve and provide service to those in need.

Every community is judged on the treatment of its poor, elderly and disenfranchised members. Every public servant must do his or her part to first understand their needs and hopefully provide proper assistance. The first step for our police agency was to bring an organization to the table that was capable of bridging the gaps between the poor, elderly, disenfranchised, middle class and upper class members of our society. While not being an easy task, it is attainable when lines of communication are opened and understanding of cultural diversity begins.

Our ethics and integrity training was conducted by Captain Peter M. Scott (Commander of the Community Service Division) and Lt. Stephen Burke (Internal Affairs). The department felt that there was a further need to create a higher level of personal sensitivity within each officer in the town of Brookline. Also, we felt the need to cover certain topics which affect the law enforcement community in particular (i.e., race profiling, gratuities, mediocrity and personal integrity). This is the first time that this training has been offered to the officers of the town of Brookline.

The program was a training session in which ethics and integrity were discussed in a forum that encouraged officer participation and feedback. This forum was more than just a lecture and question and answer session. The participants actually created the scenarios for use in the learning process. This forum covered actual cases of alleged police misconduct and proper conduct.

The definitions of ethics and integrity are covered thoroughly. Ethics and integrity are the cornerstones of the department's ability to serve the public interest. They are also the cornerstones of developing, earning and maintaining the trust and respect of the citizens of the town of Brookline. Personal responsibility is important for every member of the department. If mediocrity is allowed to become the normal operating procedure for a department then the ethics and integrity of the department are compromised.

Statistics were presented to the class concerning recent surveys completed by state agencies polling the public on police behavior. Discussed thoroughly during the class were such topics as do police officers accept free food or coffee, do police officers harass citizens based on race? Use of excessive force and the term coined by Alan Dershowitz, "testalying," was addressed.

Also discussed in the class were the Massachusetts conflict of interest laws. Officers reviewed what is acceptable and unacceptable in terms of accepting gifts, free food and other services because of the position that they hold.

In closing the officers were handed surveys to be completed at home anonymously. These surveys consisted of questions on ethics self evaluation, mental self-evaluation and family self-evaluation. They were also given a survey on listing values in order of importance.

In January of 1996, we established an on-going relationship with Professor John M. Yeager of Boston University School of Education. Dr. Yeager is an expert in the area of performance enhancement in the work place. His class presentation assisted officers in developing strategies to combat the daily stresses of life.

The goals of this training session were to become more aware of each officer's reactions to daily stresses, to distinguish the relationship between stress and health, to learn hardiness skills to apply at home and in the work environment and to actively participate in self-regulation skill development through the use of bio-feedback and guided imagery.

Dr. Yeager's work with our department enabled individual officers to recognize stressors in their lives and imparted information to help them deal with those stressors in a more effective manner.

In January of 1999, Dr. Yeager returned and conducted a training session for all supervisors of the department to better identify officers in need of intervention under their command. By identifying these officers before incidents occur, the department hopes to minimize the negative impact that improper enforcement of law may bring upon the community at large.

In the future, we would like to broaden our problem-solving tools through the use of mediation. This would be accomplished by using a professional to train supervisors in the area of mediation. We hope this method will resolve some complaints against officers. This would be for officers charged with minor transgressions.

For more information, please contact:

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The United States Conference of Mayors

J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
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Telephone (202) 293-7330, FAX (202) 293-2352

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