The Power of Persuasion.
As part of my internship, I spent a little bit of time with the police officer from West High School. The experience was very interesting and so I wanted to write about it. I chose to write an inner dialogue between someone’s right side and left side of their brain. The ‘someone’ is meant to be anyone – if they were a police officer about to start working in a high school. The inner dialogue is supposed to be an argument (kind of like someone’s angel and demon arguing except there is not necessarily a good or bad side) about how to interact with the students.
Left: Your best option is to befriend the students. By being friendly and respecting them, they will surely listen to you!
Right: Nonsense! Don’t listen to him, he’s a fool! These kids don’t even listen to their own parents and teachers, what makes you think they would listen to you? Befriending them may work for the well behaved ones, but it won’t work for the problematic ones. They will just try to take advantage of the friendship you offer them.
Left: No, no, no, he is soo wrong! As their friend, they won’t want to disappoint you and so they will listen to what you have to say. They will behave in a way to try and make you proud of them.
Right: My god! Please do not listen to this utter nonsense coming out of his mouth – it makes me cringe. You aren’t here to make friends; you are here for a much more important purpose. The purpose of having these kids come to school is for them to get an education. Your job is to ensure they have that opportunity to get that education by making sure they actually go to class, stay out of trouble, and don’t do anything to detract from other student’s educational experience. To do this you need to demand respect. The students need to know that when you tell them to stop, go to class, or something else, that you mean business. As a police officer you have both formal and informal persuasive powers, and it is important that you utilize them.
Left: Ha, persuasive powers, eh? The Badge won’t get you very far in here. Unless you are threatening to arrest them or give them a ticket they won’t care who or what you are. You are just another authority figure telling them something they don’t want to hear – and they don’t like it. Many of these problematic students already hold negative views towards the police, and if you are going to be strict and stern with them, it will only feed into this negativity. That is why it is absolutely imperative that you act as a friend. Show them that the police don’t have to be the enemy – you can be their ally, their friend!
Right: Wrong yet again. Your naïve side over there doesn’t seem to comprehend the importance of utilizing both formal and informal persuasive powers. Some of the students may not appreciate your Badge, but by being stringent and tough, they will learn to respect it. Demanding respect is the key. Once they begin to respect your authority, you will be able to effectively carry out your duties and responsibilities. Don’t you see, if you simply try to befriend these students you lose your formal persuasive power – and you need to utilize both formal and informal persuasive powers to effectively do your job.
Left: Oh come on now, don’t listen to your lesser half! Friends respect each other and even if you aren’t great friends with the students, they will respect the fact that you respect them.
Right: Your slow side over there is making me sound like a broken record – how many times will I have to repeat myself to get the point across?? If you did befriend these students, your friendship would not be the same as, say, their friendship with other students their age. And if you were their friend, many of the more problematic students would continue to cause problems and think that you won’t stop them because you are their ‘friend’. Similarly, if you ask them to stop or to go back to class, they might not take you seriously. On the other hand, if you demand their respect, they will know you are serious and they will be more likely to listen. It’s just like tough love. You need to be stern and strict with them – but ultimately, you are doing it for their benefit.
Left: Interesting that he brings up doing it for their benefit. If you are strict you’ll just end up continuously punishing the problematic students – and probably end up expelling them or arresting them. How is taking them out of school going to benefit them? If you were really doing it for their benefit, wouldn’t you rather keep them in school to keep them away from the streets and jails? Being friendly with them truly is for their benefit because you will help keep them in school.
Right: Funny, I’ve been here this whole time and yet I don’t remember ever saying that being strict with the students would cause you to arrest and kick them out of school more frequently than if you befriend them. Your other side is hopeless; why do you continue to listen to him spew lies and fallacies? As an officer you have something called discretion. I know you know that, but I’m just saying it so Genius over there understands. Being strict doesn’t mean you arrest the students at every chance you get. Being strict doesn’t mean you try and kick out the bad students. Being strict simply means that you will be firm with them. You will let them know what is acceptable behavior and what is not acceptable behavior. Punishment may be required – but you can use your discretion when the time comes. You can hand out citations, give verbal warnings, or even suggest they go to some type of counseling. Arresting the students or recommending that they be expelled should be your last resort – and only used if nothing else works.
Left: He says this now, but look at the statistics – they don’t lie! The more schools entertain and put into practice these ‘get-tough’ policies, the more students are being arrested and expelled. I know you want to do your job and help these students out – you don’t want to be a part of those ‘get-tough’ policies.
Right: Sigh, some people just can’t understand something until they see it work – and it appears my other half is just like that. Discretion! Discretion! Discretion! There may be times when you need to arrest a student, but the vast majority of the time you will be able to rely on your own discretion. YOU will be able to choose if you arrest a student, give them a citation, or give them a warning. It’s the exact same if you are friendly with them – the only difference is they will be more likely to take you seriously if you are strict (so you won’t have to punish them). The decision is yours.