Major crimes happen in every economic circle, but as first responders learn how to more effectively communicate with different people, they can better solve crimes and keep themselves and others safe.
That was the message that Jodi Pfarr, author of Tactical Communication - The First Responder Edition, delivered to Lucas County community leaders and first responders, during an event Tuesday at the United Way of Greater Toledo.
In attendance were representatives from law enforcement, health care, family services, and other governmental agencies.They learned about how to better understand and connect with low income families, the middle class, and the wealthy. Subtle verbal and non-verbal cues may change how a call for service is handled, said Ms. Pfarr, of Richfield, Minn.
“We hope they take the material and re-look at how they can embed it in their respective department, get the support they need, and work together to maximize efforts,” Ms. Pfarr said.
Ms. Pfarr said “crimes play out differently in all three” economic backgrounds.
Those in poverty heavily rely on relationships and other people. They tend to focus on the present, and their problems are interlocking, Ms. Pfarr said.
The middle class is primarily comprised of achievement-based people. They focus on the future, and their problems are more contained, Ms. Pfarr said.
Wealthy individuals focus on connections — political, financial, and social — and the future. Their problems are more controlled, according to Ms. Pfarr.
Ms. Pfarr offered a hypothetical scenario involving an officer responding to a domestic violence incident at a middle-income residence, displaying strong, non-verbal cues. The officer threatened to arrest a disorderly person at the scene. However, because that individual is achievement-based and thinks of the future, he or she will likely settle down, Ms. Pfarr said.
However, if the officer responds to the same situation at lower income household, that incident could escalate because that person typically thinks in the present and the officer displayed strong non-verbal cues with no relationship in the neighborhood, Ms. Pfarr said.
Each person in every circle is motivated, Ms. Pfarr said, leaders just must understand how each communicate.
Toledo Police Chief George Kral said he’s interested in getting the next academy class trained with such information.
“Everything she was saying, we were looking at each other saying, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so right,’” Chief Kral said. “[For someone in poverty] all these problems are interrelated and they affect each other.”
Oregon Police Chief Michael Navarre is also interested in having his officers trained.
“This is what we do as police officers, we respond to crisis. A lot of the problems that have occurred across the country, resulting in very bad things happening, are a direct result of police officers communicating with mainly lower class individuals,” Chief Navarre said, adding his department has trained more over the past several years in how to effectively communicate without resorting to deadly force.
Lucas County has some of the highest poverty levels in northwest Ohio, according to the Ohio United Way.
Of the 176,176 households in Lucas County, 19 percent of them are at the poverty level, compared to 14 percent of all Ohio households, according to the Ohio United Way.
The poverty rate in Toledo is 27 percent, according to the most recent available U.S. Census figures.
If a leader or a police officer hears or sees something they don’t understand, judgment or action sets in, Ms. Pfarr said.
“As law enforcement, judge and react is deadly, because you’re no longer in control of the scene,” she said.
“We want to gain understanding of what they see so they can be understanding of what they can see — so they can be the most effective — so they can choose their response,” she added.
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