Chapter 2: Literacies at work, for fun, and at school

2.9.4 Understanding literacy of police officers (research essay)

Anonymous English 102 Writer

April 2021

In the last 20 years, it seems as though Law Enforcement Officers have turned from heroes to villains overnight. It may have been because of social media, or the news channels but Officers should be held accountable for every interaction they have with someone. I believe learning more about literacy and the experiences officers go through will allow people to understand police officers’ responsibilities. For police officers, there are many things to learn when it comes to the job and most of the knowledge officers receive comes from actual experience of being on the street and interacting with the public. The quote “Experience is the best teacher” is a perfect example of officers learning. Officers are required to learn a small portion of laws and legal terms to enforce them on the streets in a brief period. The point of this essay is not to address how I feel about police officers and to defend them. I will state my experience and some facts from academic articles I found. I will provide details to support research questions and how it pertains to literacy of Police officers. Communication, Reading, writing, interpretation, and other factors that people outside of the police would not know. Learning how police officers think and the requirements of the police department is where I will be pointing out my focus. I do not have as much experience as a 10-year veteran officer, but I believe in a busy city with crime every day, 1 year feels like 5 years with everything you see. There is a lot of training that an officer must go through in the academy before officially graduating and it seems reasonable and easy but to implement those emotions and objectives in the real world is not easy. Watching someone suffer from an injury or informing someone that something tragically happened to their loved one and arrested someone is not easy at all. It makes you feel more like a social worker, doctor, therapist, and a police officer all in one.

How to communicate within the department and outside with citizens is the most important skill an officer can utilize because effective communication skills bring easier encounters and helps with whatever the issue arises. Many people, including my own friends, ask questions such as why officers handle conflicts so violently. Well according to the article “The word is sometimes mightier than the sword” by Mario S Staller, Encounters become physical and aggressive between officers and the citizens when there is not proper communication. The example used in the article was about domestic violence, which is a huge safety risk for officers. Communication skills training allows officers to take their risks significantly less. Also listening to both parties (Victims/Suspects) allows for a more controlled environment (3-4). From my own individual experiences of being a police officer, allowing victims and suspects to tell their side of the story is somewhat of a therapeutical moment. Most individuals just want their side of the story heard and then it will allow them to calm down and be more rational. Even if we take this context out of police work, speaking kindly to someone is always the best way to improve a terrible situation. Kind words have never made a situation worse. The way someone speaks to you affects you as a human being. Words of encouragement and kindness are ways to someone’s heart. As a police officer, in the police academy, what you say, how you say it and why you say something is always important and can sway a person in your favor. Words are such a deal breaker it even shows when someone must be arrested and taken to jail. I personally have arrested someone and because we were so kind and gentle to that person, he did not put up a fight or give us a challenging time, he allowed us to handcuff him and take him to jail. Ive also seen where if you treat someone aggressive how hard it could be to take that person anywhere. A person that feels disrespected or belittled will fight tooth and nail to not go with you just to show you he or she deserves respect.

This opens the next argument about De-escalation tactics the public has concerning why Law enforcement officers must act and could not have reasoned with a person even when a person has a weapon. There are times where officers could have made a better effort to subdue the situation before acting in an aggressive manner. According to the article “A Practical Overview of De-Escalation Skills in Law Enforcement: Helping Individuals in Crisis While Reducing Police Liability and Injury” by Janet R Olivia & Rhiannon Mogan Many times when police get a call of a crisis and for help, most of the time it is someone with a mental disability. Many times, we must act as counselors and therapists in those situations, those situations can become dangerous at any moment. From personal experience, an individual with a mental disability can snap even after showing calmness the entire time we are there. When they feel threatened, they will attack or hide or feel the need to defend themselves. Officers are trained truly little on how to handle certain issues, but we are not professionals when it comes to crisis intervention training for any individual with a disability. The officer’s job is to attempt to get the chaotic situation under control (16).

The definition of De-escalation is to calm, resolve a situation that is heightened with other alternatives other than physical violence (18). De-escalation has become an important word used in the police academy and in the police department overall. We now have training on De-escalation tactics and live scenarios we play out to find specific ways to make an appropriate decision. Sometimes officers are left with no option to stop someone from being aggressive but for the times we do which is more than not, we should be prepared which is why we have programs set in place. There are several De-escalation methods that are effective and will lead to less harm for the individual the police have to detain. The first is talking or, as the article states “Verbalizing”, another has multiple officers on scene (18-19). This is a technique learned in the academy for officer safety. The more officers present will make it easier to diffuse a situation. Those two are methods can be used without physically touching an individual. It allows the officers to deter the potential threat that someone or many people could cause. This is one reason you would never see one officer on a scene that could potentially seem dangerous. The general policy for police officers at my job is that if the call is a code 1,2 or 3 with 1 being the most serious, then two or more officers, also known as a two-man car will be dispatched to that emergency call for safety reasons. The other 3 methods to de-escalate do not appear to be a de-escalation factor but it may have to be done such as hand control which is using your hands to gain control. It can be grabbing the arm, wrist and manipulate the joints (19). The next method is using a less lethal method which would consist of a Taser, pepper spray, which the article labels it as a chemical method. We are also given a Baton which may be seen as very dangerous but is less than a firearm. The methods above are especially important methods officers should keep useful instead of the gun that is on our hip which should be the last line of defense. The body camera’s officers have been wearing is holding them accountable for their actions. It will record audio and videos of the entire situation. In the article “Implementing a Body-Worn Camera Program: Recommendations and Lessons Learned by Miller, Lindsay, Jessica Toliver, discussed accountability and statistics that lead to a reduction when body cameras were implemented. The body cameras after being implemented lead to a 60 percent reduction rate use of forces by officers and other shifts experienced double the amount of use of forces (Miller 5). The cameras are used to help always hold officers and citizens are accountable. Cameras can result in less complaint from citizens and encourage officers to be professional when recorded (Miller 5). Many times, when someone knows they are being recorded, they may come into the district and make the complaint but when they understand the situation was recorded, they tend to let the complaint go (Miller 6). There were also incidents that showed an officers camera malfunctioning, and the camera was tested, and it was discovered that the officer was deliberately turning the camera off when he arrested someone or in the middle of him interacting with a person and he left the job when he was caught (Miller 8)

The Police department I work for was given body cameras in 2015 to help the accountability of officers and to show what we previously couldn’t see. There isn’t any way to turn off the camera or stop the recording without using the power switch and it’s not an easy switch to turn off so if that occurs during an altercation, the department will bring you up on charges. That also goes for covering the camera not allowing the video to be shown, if it is speculated that an officer covered his camera up then he will be suspended. Cameras are needed and have been needed for the past 20 years. From the crazy stories I hear around the district about how it used to be without the cameras shows me that the police in the past used to take advantage of a lot of situations. This new age of policing is allowing officers who are using the job for personal gain and neglecting their duties to be held accountable whereas before the cameras, officers were doing anything without documentation. Body cameras are not only to hold a person accountable, but there is also great benefit to having documentation of a situation. When officers began to create a report and they need details about every word the suspect or the victim states, the body camera footage is accessible. For me personally, it has helped a lot of officers make police reports more efficiently instead of trying to gather information based on what someone said, we can replay the body camera footage to determine exactly what the context of the situation. Imagine if we had no video footage of any police interactions. We would all be blind to the terrible things we have been observing over the last 5 years. Body cameras are the best thing that could have ever happened to the police and the communities.

Stress is also a substantial component in the world of a police officer because with a unhealthy mindset how can you help someone else? In the article “Positive and Negative Emotion Prospectively Predict Trajectories of Resilience and Distress Among High-Exposure Police Officers” by Isaac R. Galatzer-Levy, Adam D. Brown, Clare Henn-Haase. Healthy outcomes are related to positive feelings from an officer (3). Happy emotions have been shown to have a healthy aid in making better decisions and helping a situation (3). Research showed that years after the academy shows officers did have increased PTSD symptoms (8). There were classes used to help officers come back to a level of calmness but years later the stress of life-threatening events made the level of stress rise again (8). While working as a police officer for the last 3 years, I have seen all types of stressful situations and how it affected me and other co-workers. In my time working, I have heard of a female officer committing suicide after she saw a child be run over by a vehicle she was pursuing. That officer may have been too stressful to handle and we never weigh in the stress in our personal life. It is surreal to hear those stories because I did not expect to hear these stories and meet people who later will never see again. The officer was only on the job for about 3-4 years as well so to see how much time she had of experience is scary to me. Going to work with a clear mind is the best thing an officer can do because being stressed about home life can harm your life at work. Every moment is important so that we can make a good decision.

The public has the power to show positive and negative effects of the police and it is necessary for sure. We have good officers, and we have bad officers the same way we have good and bad parents or good people and bad people in this world. We are all capable of doing evil things as we have seen with the murder of George Floyd and many other victims of police brutality. I go to work every day hoping to help someone with their problems because most of the time when police are called, there is a problem, and that person could be experiencing the worst day of their life. One person’s actions do not speak or represent all people. We cannot allow the stigma to harm us in the future. I went to an incident that recently involved me helping a child who may have been shot and the parents were being so uncooperative and despising of the police, but we were there to attempt to help a child who may have been harmed. It really frustrated me because I would have loved to help but they did not want any service from us because of the recent actions of police officers in other cities and that was incredibly sad to me. I could not be too offended because we are supposed to be held to a higher standard and when it is not being shown we must earn that respect back and the only way it will happen is more positive actions by one officer and it can start with me. I appreciate the job I have, and I never ever pictured myself becoming a police officer or aspiring to become a police officer until about 3 years ago. These experiences are great to be able to share with my family and kids I will have one day. Every moment as a police officer is incredible and shocking at the same time. Having a strong mental is key to having a healthy career because without it there is danger to your future and your family’s future.

Next source is about the victims of crimes. “First response to victims of crime” by US Department of Justice enlightens officers on how they should approach victims of crime. We are supposed to reassure the victims that they are well cared for and safe and that we have their best interest at heart (2). Properly introduce us to our responsibilities at that moment. Be respectful to their privacy and accommodate their needs as much as possible (3). Depending on the victim, we should have a specific setting. For kids we should place them in an area that will not make them uncomfortable or unsafe (10-11). Every age will decide what setting the child should be placed in. For some children, at certain ages it is not recommended for the kid to be with the parent because they will not open because they do not want to make their parents angry (11). When approaching a Victim of crime, it is always necessary to be kind and gentle. We want to help as much as we can. That only happens when we understand how to do it properly. Ask the proper questions, like them appropriately, be mindful of their feelings. Be honest with them about the next steps to take. Most people will not be upset when you tell them the truth about what is going to happen next. We are all humans’ beings with feelings and the same worries, and we will worry unless we know what will happen to our situation. Speaking to a person that has vision impairment. When speaking to someone who is visually impaired, make sure to announce who you are, for example “Hello I’m Officer Brown with the [city’s name] Police” then state what your purpose of being there is and the environment of the place they are in (29). Basically, inform the visionally impaired victim when changes to the environment change and if someone walks in or out of the room. It gives courtesy to the victims and allows them to be comfortable with the environment.

In the Article “What is literacy” by James Paul Gee labels our jobs and schools as a secondary Discourse. Before addressing a secondary discourse, A discourse according to Gee is being a part of a group that is accepted by others who are like you (1). In other words, there is a clique. Secondary discourse is the things we learn in the discourse such as a language (5-6). As a police officer we are taught certain ways to speak and things to say. It can be Code words, our uniform makes us discourse, and plenty of other things. Stating words like Copy, the Phonetic alphabet: A- Adam, B-Barney, C-Charlie, D-David, E-Edward, F-Frank, G-George, H-Henry, I-Ida, J-John, K-King, L-Lincoln, M-Mike, N-Nick, O-Ocean, P-Paul, Q-Queen, R-Robert, S-Sam, T-Tom, U-Union, V-Victor, W-Walter, X- X-Ray, Y-Yesterday, Z-Zebra. That alphabet is specifically for us to use on the radio when we are communicating with our dispatcher. If a person that never worked for a law enforcement agency spoke on the radio, you could tell instantly. It is just proper to use certain terms when speaking over the radio and there is on the job training required so officers become comfortable with speaking over the radio. We all belong to some group whether we agree or not. It may be small or big and have a major impact or minimum impact, but it is important to that person.

In conclusion, the job of a police officer is much more than what meets the eye. There are many different dynamics that police officers are not known for. Most things will never be known to someone outside of the department because sometimes it takes being in the position to understand the whole role. This is to just inform others about the learning and discipline officers are attempting to achieve it. Officers should be held to a higher standard for sure because with great power comes great responsibility. Being mentally healthy is a must for officers and many fall short of that goal due to being a human and having a life outside of work. Being a police officer from my experience is sometimes a weird situation because you can be the most accepted person by the community and have a great attitude and help as many people as possible and the moment a officer in another state does an evil action all officers are responsible and frowned upon. Even though it’s irrational, the best thing to do is not be victimized by it but continue to be the best and helpful person you can be. We should always continue to do good regardless of how we are viewed because that will kept a person true to themselves.

Works Cited

Zaiser, Benjamin, and Mario S. Staller. “The Word is Sometimes Mightier Than the Sword: Rethinking Communication Skills to Enhance Officer Safety.” Journal of Law Enforcement 4.5 (2015).  Microsoft Word – The word TUESDAY Final.docx (


Kwon, Gyu H., Tonya L. Smith-Jackson, and Charles W. Bostian. “Redefining interoperability: Understanding police communication task environments.” Symposium on Human Interface. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, 2009.


“Police Communication Skills Matter More than Ever: Here’s Why.” University of San Diego, 9 Aug. 2019,


Oliva, Janet R., Rhiannon Morgan, and Michael T. Compton. “A practical overview of de-escalation skills in law enforcement: Helping individuals in crisis while reducing police liability and injury.” Journal of Police Crisis Negotiations 10.1-2 (2010): 15-29.


Kwon, Gyu H., Tonya L. Smith-Jackson, and Charles W. Bostian. “Redefining interoperability: Understanding police communication task environments.” Symposium on Human Interface. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, 2009.


Rosenfeld, Richard, Thaddeus L. Johnson, and Richard Wright. “Are college-educated police officers different? A study of stops, searches, and arrests.” Criminal Justice Policy Review 31.2 (2020): 206-236.


US Department of Justice. “First Response to Victims of Crime.” Https://Ovc.Ojp.Gov/, July 2010,


Miller, Lindsay, Jessica Toliver, and Police Executive Research Forum. 2014. Implementing a Body-Worn Camera Program: Recommendations and Lessons Learned. Washington, DC: Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.


Bayley, David H., and Egon Bittner. “Learning the skills of policing.” Law & Contemp. Probs. 47 (1984): 35. Learning the Skills of Policing (


Galatzer-Levy, Isaac R., et al. “Positive and negative emotion prospectively predict trajectories of resilience and distress among high-exposure police officers.” Emotion 13.3 (2013): 545.


Gee, James Paul. “What is literacy.” Negotiating academic literacies: Teaching and learning across languages and cultures (1998): 51-59. What-is-Literacy-2.pdf (


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Understanding Literacy in Our Lives by Anonymous English 102 Writer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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