Gibbons, D. C., & Farr, K. A. (1998) noted that if we fail to communicate in a clear and meaningful way, our good works are of no value. Effective communication is one of the most important attribute an individual possess. Whether it is verbally or nonverbally, effective communication is essential in expressing oneself. Lack of or ineffective communication can lead to negative consequences and in some cases death.
For example, as a law enforcement officer we conduct numerous search warrants and arrests warrants throughout our career. Several years ago, my squad was conducting a fugitive investigation in the Midwest region of the United States. The subject of the investigation was a drug trafficker that was known to be armed and dangerous. During the investigation, we received information that the subject was hiding out at a relativeâ€s residence in the city where he grew up. After identifying the residence, a team of officers approached the residence to execute the warrant. We dispatch two officer to the rear of the residence to watch the back door, while the other officers entered the front door. The officers conducted a security sweep of the house, while the two officers covered the back door.
Shortly thereafter, the security sweep came to an end and the subject was nowhere to be found. One of the officers that was inside the residence subsequently opened the back door in order to exit the residence. However, he did not communicate to the outside perimeter officers that he was coming out the back door. As he opened the back door, one of the officers got startled and misidentified the officer for the fugitive and fired a shot at the officer. The bullet grazed his forehead causing him to fall to the ground. Fortunately, he was not critically injured, but had to go to the hospital for his injuries.
In this example, the officer exiting the back door did not communicate to the officers in the rear that he was exiting the back door. Additionally, the team inside the house did not advise the team outside that the house was secured. The officer that was shot did not communicate to the outside team that he was exiting the back door and the officer at the back door did not provide verbal commands before shooting. While this incident was not fatal, the consequences could have been very detrimental due to the lack of communication.
The officers in this example could have applied basic police communication protocol, which is taught to all officers who conduct these high risk arrest warrants. Basically, upon completion of the security sweep, the inside officers should have communicated to the external team via radios that the house was cleared and the fugitive was not found. Further, the officer who exited the back door should have identified himself and notify the officers in the rear that he was exiting the back door. This would have lowered the danger level for the officers on the outside, diminishing the possibility of shots being fired. Finally, the officer that was conducting the rear security of the residence should have verbally communicated commands to the officer exiting the back door before firing, this would have given him enough time to identify his partner and/or the fugitive.
Gibbons, D. C., & Farr, K. A. (1998). The good, the bad, and the ugly: Dealing with flawed writing in criminal justice. Crime & Delinquency, 44(3), 464â€“474.
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