Learning the Art of Active Listening and Responding: An Ethical Imperative for Police Training

The reality of police work in the 21st century presents a number of challenges and opportunities for police. Police leaders need to reflect on their actions and training methods that have worked in the past, reassess what actions and training methods are not currently working, and move toward the creation of new actions and training methods that will increase public support and confidence. Today, the public perception of police exists within a limited understanding of the complicated and demanding nature of police work. Added to an increasing lack of interaction with police, the public frames its perceptions of police on use-of-force incidents reported in the media. Lack of connection, lack of understanding, and negative perceptions all lead to expressions of mistrust and condemnation, including verbal calls for “dead cops” in Manhattan, New York. No one can deny the general breakdown in civility across society as seen in daily discourse and media portrayals that highlight the inability of individuals to interact respectfully with one another. A divide exists today between the public and the police. The police profession has a role to play in response to this divide. In a conversation with the authors, Dr. David Schmidt, director of the Center for Applied Ethics at Fairfield University, noted,

Police have a duty grounded upon the ethical principle of non-maleficence to avoid doing harm. As such, this duty illuminates an ethical imperative on the part of law enforcement agencies to explore ways to improve their communication and interpersonal skills in order to close the public-police divide.