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  • Writer's pictureCarole Gilmore

Why teaching empathetic communication skills to law enforcement officers matters.

Teaching empathetic communication skills to law enforcement officers is essential because it helps build trust between the police and the communities they serve. As a result of the recent High-Risk Traffic stop that occurred in Frisco, Texas, on July 23, 2023, the question has been posed: Were the police officers involved in the traffic stop empathetic enough when it was discovered that a mistake had been made?

Before continuing this article, it is important to state that Chief David Shilson of the Frisco Police Department did issue an apology to the family for the incident. However, the scrutiny expressed during an invitation-only community meeting with Chief Shilson, questions were directed toward the police officers on the scene and their behavior. Shilson’s demeanor was transparent and empathetic. He not only held the officers accountable for the traffic stop gone wrong, but he also held the department, and the level of training Officer McQueen has received since joining the Frisco Police Department approximately one year ago accountable. No matter what side of the argument you sit on, it is clear how this situation was handled was not and is not ideal. Shilson expressed his belief in transparency and community relationships. The purpose of the meeting was to explain what happened from the written investigative report conducted by the department, how "high-risk" traffic stops are handled, and to receive feedback from the community members in attendance, all of which was done.

As a wife and mother, my heart grieves when incidents like this occur nationwide. In this case, I am grateful that this family could walk away from this event physically unharmed. Even though the emotional scars will take time to fade, my hope is that this family, particularly the children, will not allow this incident to define or derail the prosperity their futures hold. We must learn to embrace all perspectives when incidents like these occur. Attempting to see things through the lens of others promotes personal growth and motivates advocacy for systemic change.

As a member of the Frisco community for over twenty years, I have been proud to be a part of a city that has been voted one of the best places to live. And after hearing from our community leaders and our police leadership the other night, that has not changed. What has changed is my goal for how I can help my community. I now have a reignited passion to do my part to get our law enforcement officers the proper interpersonal skills training and support they need to work effectively in our community.

One of the most important interpersonal skills a police officer can have is empathy. Empathetic communication skills enable officers to listen and understand the concerns of the people they interact with, which can lead to more positive outcomes and de-escalation of potentially volatile situations. In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of the role that police officers play in the communities they serve. There have been many high-profile incidents of police brutality and excessive use of force, which have eroded trust in law enforcement and created a sense of fear and mistrust among many members of the public.

By teaching law enforcement officers empathetic communication skills, they can learn to communicate more effectively with people from diverse backgrounds and understand their perspectives. This can lead to better outcomes for everyone involved, including reduced use of force, more positive interactions, and increased trust between the police and the community when incidents like what happened on July 23 occur.

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