A lesson in avoiding needless conflict
“Do good, be good, treat people good.”
This is golden rule officer Elton Simmons follows. It’s the basic tenet behind an impressive run during the past 20 years as a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy:
-Traffic stops: 25,000+
-Complaints lodged against him: 0
A Captain who recently reviewed his personnel file commented that “Vegas or MIT could not give you the odds of the statistical probability of that.”
I’ve personally been pulled over before. More than once. And I’ve had different feelings, driven by different circumstances, about the situation each time. I can only imagine the spread of emotions spilled on the side of the road during car stops. There’s simply no one universal reaction or feeling people have or walk away with when it’s over.
Despite the varied emotions, I would estimate that at least 40% of the people I consult with believe (not always accurate, but they do believe it) that an issuing officer was somehow “wrong” (according to the individual’s personal definition of the concept) in his manner/procedure or his allegation that a violation was committed. Yet not one single person pulled over by Officer Simmons had an official complaint? Not one single person walked away pissed off or frustrated or feeling wronged or violated or unfairly picked out of a crowd or treated rudely or scared about someone or something to the extent a complaint was filed?
Officer Simmons attributes his successful avoidance of complaints to some very basic things. Treating people nicely, smiling and not talking down to anyone. For all the officers and their superiors who view complaints as something that just naturally comes with issuance of traffic tickets, Officer Simmons is clearly proof that officers actually have a lot more power than they think they do when it comes to shaping a motorist’s view of the event as a whole.
It’s actually an amazing lesson for everyone. All the fires between neighbors, co-workers, businesses and their customers, etc. that could have been extinguished with a little kindness before they ever got going. I’m personally reading it and thinking of all the little fights I’ve had with my wife or my kids that could have been avoided if I had made the effort to channel Officer Simmons and simply smile, be nice and show some compassion.
Some very basic courtesy from Officer Simmons obviously goes a long way towards discouraging civilian complaints against him. Next statistic I’m curious about is whether this courtesy is also reflected in the number of people who plead not guilty and decide to contest the charge against them.
Submitted by Scott Feifer