Dynamic Presence Rather Than Command Presence: How Communicative Intelligence Influences Police/Citizen Interactions

Dynamic Presence Rather Than Command Presence: How Communicative Intelligence Influences Police/Citizen Interactions

Renée J. Mitchell (University of Cambridge, UK & Sacramento Police Department, USA) and Kendall Von Zoller (Sierra Training Associates, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8516-9.ch013

Abstract

Human beings are social animals inhabiting a world where unspoken, nonverbal body language dominates the perception of the listener. It has been shown that nonverbal behaviors effect perception more intently than verbal communication. Police-citizen interactions are a complex process where verbal and nonverbal interactions are occurring simultaneously and interpreted immediately, leading to multiple chances for misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the officer's intent. With little research on the actual techniques to create the perception of police legitimacy, the authors intend to link communicative intelligence to the verbal and physical behaviors officers should engage in to enhance procedural justice and improve police legitimacy. They posit that the citizen's perceived level of police fairness is derived from the officer's treatment of the citizen which is significantly influenced by how the officer communicates with the citizen.
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Introduction

Human beings are social animals inhabiting a world where unspoken, nonverbal body language dominates the perception of the listener. It has been shown that nonverbal behaviors effect perception more intently than verbal communication (Matsumodo, Keltner, Shiota, & O’Sullivan, 2008) and increasingly so if the listener feels as though they are being misunderstood (Chan & Frey, 1992). Police-citizen interactions are a complex process where verbal and nonverbal interactions are occurring simultaneously and interpreted immediately, leading to multiple chances for misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the officer’s intent. Misperception of an officer’s intent during a conversation can affect a civilian’s view of the legitimacy of that officer or authority. Civilian perception of police behavior is an important aspect of police legitimacy, which makes the interpretation of police nonverbal behavior an important component of procedural justice and police legitimacy.

As a society, there are social norms that prescribe process and outcome in the criminal justice system, and when these are violated, we object (Tyler, 1990). Citizens encounter these processes when interacting with police officers. Officers have constitutional laws, city and state laws, and standard operating procedures of their departments that they must follow during an encounter with the public. The process that underlies a police-citizen encounter is nuanced and varied. But it is this encounter and how the officer treats the citizen that defines a citizen’s sense of procedural justice. Tyler (1990) asserts that “the justice of the procedures through which outcomes are distributed and decisions made” is procedural justice. Outcomes are the result of the contact, i.e. arrest, citation, removal from the area, etc. and the decisions are the multiple determinations an officer makes throughout the contact to resolve the issue at hand. The outcomes and decisions the officer makes influence the public’s perception of police legitimacy (Mazerolle, Sargeant, Cherney, Bennett, Murphy, Antrobus, & Martin, 2014) Police legitimacy is defined as the belief that police are a legitimate authority that the public will defer to and obey (Sunshine & Tyler, 2003b). Police legitimacy allows society to function smoothly. The authors assert that during this encounter, the citizen’s experience with the officer defines the level of procedural justice, which in turn, creates the degree of police legitimacy.

America was founded on a citizen’s right to procedural due process in regards to “life, liberty, or property”. This belief was well founded in common law even before the constitution codified it in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments (Orth, 2003). These Amendments ensure fair treatment of an offender when charged with a legal violation. There are three essential features of due process: adequate notice, a fair hearing, and judgment based on evidence (Fogler, Konovsky, & Cropanzano, 1992). Citizens contacted by police officers over a potential violation are at the mercy of the police that they have a fair hearing and a judgment based on unbiased evidence. Officers collect evidence at the scene of the crime, take eyewitness testimony, and often provide testimony themselves. If citizens view the officer as incapable or unwilling to conduct the investigation in fair and equitable manner the citizen will view the encounter as a violation of their procedural due process or procedural justice. By definition, policing is procedural justice. The police make the initial decisions about which procedures and outcomes are distributed to the public (Tyler, 1990). All police/citizen contacts involve procedure and outcomes; thus, every police contact will involve a modicum of procedural justice.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Command Presence: Essentially presenting yourself as someone in authority, trusted and respected.

Efficacy: The ability to have confidence in your communication skills, to know what speech patterns to engage in to achieve the response you are looking for.

Communicative Intelligence: The integration of cognitive and emotional resources with behavioral abilities that creates experiences and develops relationships to solve problems, catalyze change, and create new meaning.

Police Legitimacy: A psychological property of an authority, institution, or social arrangement that leads those connected to it to believe that it is appropriate, proper, and just.

Craftsmanship: Is the repertoire of skills of communication, knowing what technique or speech pattern you are going to use and then having the ability to execute it.

Consciousness: The ability to step outside of yourself as you are speaking to see the interaction as though from a balcony.

Procedural Justice: The justice of the procedures through which outcomes are distributed and decisions made.

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