Training Law Enforcement in Emotional Intelligence

New book by John Shuford

Mid 21st Century Criminal Justice: Transforming Work Culture

Much has been written about the problems within our criminal justice system, both law enforcement and corrections, but never before has that been presented along with the causes of those problems and specific strategies to correct them. This unique and remarkable book, based on Shuford’s 30 years of experience, is a must read for criminal justice policy makers, leadership, supervisors as well as educators in preparing students for careers in criminal justice. This content packed text will lead the reader from research based consequences of criminal justice employee stress through an analysis of neurological and cultural variables that contribute to that stress to comprehensive yet precisely designed strategies for change and how to apply them. It is a practical guide for criminal justice leadership, training academies; and educators will find it an invaluable supplemental text for advanced policing and corrections courses and criminal justice administration and management courses. It is about time that the criminal justice field had such a resource to carry it into the 21st century.

This book should be included in any curriculum in Criminal Justice Studies. It describes dysfunctional culture within the prison system and documents the damage this culture inflicts on the health of prison employees. More importantly, it provides a vision for a more healthy culture of prison administration, and draws on the author’s three decades of experience providing workshops in prisons to lay out a path for culture change and transformation of the prison system. It is a valuable resource for those preparing for criminal justice work, for current supervisors and other criminal justice employees, and for policy makers.

Vernie Davis

Professor Emeritus of Cultural Anthropology and Peace & Conflict Studies and Former Director Conflict Resolution Resource Center, Guilford College

The psychological and physical health needs of Criminal Justice staff beyond the necessary but not sufficient “going home safe at the end of the shift” is finally receiving the attention it deserves. Agency training catalogues, selection and promotion processes, and employee cultures are under the wellness microscope in many locations. If you work in one of those jurisdictions or would like to pave the way for such an initiative, this text is a must. In this content packed text, the reader will be led from research-based consequences of criminal justice employee stress through an analysis of both the neurological and cultural variables that contribute to that stress to a comprehensive yet precisely designed strategy for change, which John has developed during his 30-year career. You will find powerful descriptions of not just what strategies to use, but how to apply them, and what behavioral and psychological principles they address.

Gregory Morton, M.Sc

Administrator of Staff Training and Professional Development (Retd.), Oregon Department of Corrections

Awesome work, law enforcement leaders and BLET instructors should read. What is clear, we must train today’s generation of employees differently. This book highlights the need for law enforcement training in effective communication and interpersonal skills, which are crucial in today’s climate. The tried-and-true para-military instruction has its place, but there is a difference between training soldiers and officers. The military is focused on killing the enemy, but in law enforcement there is no enemy, just one human engaging with another human. The theme of human engaging type training presented in this book will benefit law enforcement into the next century. John supports that need to change as we prepare our future officers and leaders of law enforcement.

B.J. Council

Deputy Police Chief (Ret), Owner, You & Five-O, LLC, Durham NC

It is excellent, right on target! A practical guide for leadership with some very real and true real world examples that can be understood at any level. Changing the work culture is so very important, equally as important as improving pay and benefits that many seem to be continually focused on as the only need.…..but without the culture improvements agencies will continue to struggle with turnover and the poor health and life expectancy of staff despite pay improvements.

Tim Moose

Chief Deputy Secretary , NC Department of Public Safety, Adult Correction & Juvenile Justice

Mid-21st Century Criminal Justice: Transforming the Work Culture is an essential read for both law enforcement and correctional executives if they want to implement proven strategies to retain talented staff. For educators, it is also a useful supplemental text for an advanced policing or corrections course or a criminal justice administration and management course. Shuford first focuses on why traditional work cultures in policing and corrections are problematic and then provides tangible and actionable solutions to reform work culture to improve morale. A supplemental text that incorporates practical application is a welcome addition for courses that examine management, administration, and leadership in policing and correctional contexts. 

Dr. Heidi S. Bonner

Director, Criminal Justice Department, East Carolina University

This book provides a comprehensive look at the systemic problems inherent in law enforcement agencies. What I found unique and remarkable is that the book also offers ways to change the culture to make it work more effectively.

As a trauma therapist, I know how important it is to address the psychological issues that emerge with  staff who are in a constant state of stress. There are programs that deal with the trauma experienced by the inmates; however little has been done concerning staff.

I have worked with John doing trauma related activities in a prison and I have seen how effective John’s experiential program has been.  To truly understand the necessary changes needed in the system, one must understand trauma. This book provides the history of trauma, how it remains in the cells of one’s body and the impact of trauma on not just a person, but the family and community outside of the job. It is easy to talk about what is wrong, harder to give examples of how the system can be improved.

John Shuford’s book would be helpful as a resource to criminal justice students, supervisory staff in law enforcement and those working with the impact of trauma. It is filled with examples and provides a realistic guide in ways to deal with the trauma of working in a nonsupportive, outdated system. 

Elinor H. Brody MSS, LCSW

Australian Interview with John on Trauma From the Front Line

John was interviewed by Bruce Perham on his podcast program “Trauma From the Front Line” which is a podcast series directed at correctional officers and frontline responders to provide them with access to a wide range of psychologists working in the trauma fields, key stakeholders in the emergency sector and individuals willing to share their experiences of trauma in the delivering of their frontline occupations. The focus is educational and the goal is to encourage people to be proactive in managing their own mental health and for people who need help to find the pathway to achieving it.

A number of progressive administrators and policy makers realize the importance of teaching emotional intelligence skills to police officers. This is because, as studies have shown, an officer’s job is only 5% apprehending suspects and the rest involves report writing, investigations and interacting with the public. Their training, however, is not focused on emotional intelligence skills. This means officers are not trained with the skills to be successful. When considering incorporating emotional intelligence in officer orientation and in-service training it is critical to understand that the training methodology used to train police as warriors is not going to work with emotional intelligence. It has to be a completely different approach, both structurally and functionally.

The current focus on changing officer behaviors may be politically expedient, but it is only looking at a symptom of a greater issue; that of the overall work culture within police departments. It is the relationships between officers, officers and supervisors, and staff with administration that are creating the problems. Those relationships are the cause of high turnover, over aggressiveness, marital problems including divorce, suicide, health problems [high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes] and a life expectancy 20 years shorter than the general public. If policy makers want to truly turn things around, they must focus on officer wellbeing, rather than just the symptoms of stress and “bad” officers causing conflict with the public. Policy makers must look beyond those symptoms to the cause; the toxic work culture within the department. This cannot be accomplished by simply providing interpersonal skills training.

Emotional intelligence is not just about interpersonal skills; it is much more. It is about attitude or the mindset of the officer. This comes from the subconscious or limbic system in the brain. Lecture and even practice in the classroom will not immediately impact the limbic system. These techniques will not transform relationships.

The foundational skill of emotional intelligence is self-awareness. Without establishing self-awareness, emotional intelligence will just be interpersonal skills and can be used as manipulation without any empathy or sense of social responsibility. Only direct experience of a new culture will. The key to training in emotional intelligence is the awareness that direct experience comes before understanding. Actually experiencing the desired work culture precedes understanding the depth and power of a transformed work culture. Knowing a particular skill does not mean you have the cultural awareness to use it appropriately.

A number of training academies with California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation found staff highly resistant to emotional intelligence training. They were using the traditional style of training, lecture and skill practice without the foundation of self-awareness. Also, the title of the training is critical. Calling it Emotional Intelligence or Soft-Skills training will come up against the warrior identity of many officers and be highly resisted. Teambuilding is a much more effective title for the training and it should begin with developing safety by having the trainees learn about each other and have activities that are fun with a lot of movement.

There is a lot more to learning emotional intelligence than one training. It must be incorporated in the total training program and repeated with regular refreshers. There are many different aspects to emotional intelligence, so the refreshers can be new approaches to and different aspects of emotional intelligence. Some of those aspects might be: empathy, empathy response statements, developing your empathy, deeper self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, social skills, relationship repairing, conflict resolution, mediation, emotional intelligence assessment and testing, emotionally intelligent recruiting, and many others. The reason these topics are important is because they build emotional intelligence in the individual, which increases the emotional intelligence in the unit and department. This will not only improve job performance but staff retention, morale and relationships.

One training methodology has been proven effective in teaching emotional intelligence and has been well accepted by staff. It is the Immersive Experiential training design. The Teambuilding Attitude Conflict Transformation© [TACT] training incorporates this design and is a two or three day emotional intelligence inoculation. This training could be the initial mandatory training in a systemic approach to increasing the emotional intelligence of a department and its members. Adding to this could be a second training, a personal self-awareness growth training. This second training should be voluntary because it would be deeper and more intense and would facilitate personal growth in staff and accelerate the learnings of the first training.

A third training could be a bias awareness training that would include community members. [Note: although well accepted, implicit bias training has not proven to be effective at changing behaviors.] All three trainings would be highly experiential, positive and engaging. This training approach would strongly improve the efforts of community policing; transforming relationships and empowering both police and community to develop creative and innovative strategies to make our communities safer, healthier along with improving the health and wellbeing of our police force. Any serious effort to incorporate emotional intelligence into law enforcement must be systemic, well thought out and not piecemeal. The potential for transformation is unlimited.