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Laura Kessel is managing editor of The News-Herald in Willoughby. She writes a weekly column and shares her thoughts here.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Questions show these police officials are really on a roll

“You know you’re good people. We don’t know you.”

I’ve learned a lot already. But this might be the most important thing so far.

Capt. Scott Roller of the Euclid Police Department has said it twice in class so far.

Each time, he’s said it really slowly.

The instructor of the Euclid Citizen Police Academy has a distinct speech pattern.

When he’s being serious, he slows down. When he’s making a point, he slows down.

Roller’s point in the statement at the top applies to anyone, in any city, in any state, in any country.

What it means is that if you stumble across a police officer, they’re going to treat you with respect, but with a suspicion that comes with a job that puts them in danger every time they report for work.

Don’t take that the wrong way.

They don’t assume you’re a criminal. They just don’t assume they can trust you until you show them that they can.

When you consider it that way, it really does make sense.

To find that trust, though, requires communication. That’s where the questions come in.

Roller’s great with a question. If he wants a second career, he should consider English teacher, because of his skill dissecting a sentence.

I’m only two weeks into this 11-week course offered to Euclid residents and the families of Euclid police personnel and I’ve already found myself churning around in Roller’s meat-grinder a few times.

You can see why he’s been around 24 years and moved up the ranks from a patrol officer. He’s all business when he wants to understand what you’re saying.

I knew I was in trouble during a phone conversation when he followed a statement about a recent issue involving police work with a stern, “Laura!”

Parental. Authoritative. And, requiring explanation.

That clarifying only gets him going.

“OK, let me ask you this ...”

If he wasn’t physically the exact opposite of Perry Mason, I’d consider that comparison.

On Tuesday, the class met someone who I was sure had been one of his pupils.

Roller has overseen many aspects of the training of new officers since 2002.

When a classmate asked Patrolman Brian Collins a question about a specific police procedure, Collins responded with a question.

I laughed out loud. It was like Junior Roller was standing before the class.

I whispered my belief to Roller, who assured me that Collins had been trained by someone else, only because he was on another assignment when Collins started on the force. He laughed as he admitted, though, that others have noticed the similarities in the past.

A little while later, Dispatcher Karen Cassese walked up and made it clear that questions are her game, too.

She needs information when calls come in, and sometimes those reporting what they think is a crime need a little coaxing to get the information out.

“I can’t do my job without your help,” Cassese said. “I really, really, really, really can’t. I can’t make this city a better place without your help.”

She discussed how important it is for callers to know their address — sounds simple, doesn’t it? They often offer cross streets, or neighborhood names, because they’re new to the area or maybe not even a resident in the home. Occasionally, they’ll try to tell her the color of the home and its awnings.

Cassese and Roller discussed their concern, too, that the reason for the reluctance to share their address is that they fear reprisals from those they’re attempting to turn in to police.

Roller said it’s incredibly rare, and said the only times he recalls it on his cases is when the parties involved knew each other and had regular involvement in each others’ lives.

“I’m worried that what might happen keeps people from doing what they should do,” Roller said. “I’m really worried.”

The pair pointed out that callers can remain anonymous, which should help residents feel comfortable calling about things they might believe to be a crime.

A tour of the dispatch center a few minutes later left little doubt that anonymity doesn’t signal freedom from the third degree, as we listened to a dispatcher question someone calling in a report of a possible drug deal.

“Did you see any money change hands?”

“What did you see them do?”

“What are they wearing?”

“They’re behind the building?”

Your willingness to answer questions like these goes a long way to letting a police officer know that he can trust you, and the information you’re providing.

Remember: “You know you’re good people. We don’t know you.”

It’s up to you to change that second part.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you want to know how policemen really are. Watch TV's show 'Cops'.

September 23, 2013 at 7:29 PM 

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