Further Adventures of Flex Cop

by Michael Gardner

Last winter’s VAK carried an article by Michael Gardner about using NLP techniques in his work as a police officer. Michael and his partner had defused potentially violent situations by doing unusual things to get outside the expected police role and distract people form whatever they get violent about.

Since that article, Michael took a leave of absence to work with his wife, Debbie, in her self-defense seminars and to take on some other projects, one of which was a program to bring the benefits of his experience to other law enforcement people and departments. This is Michael Gardner’s response to the VAK’s request for a report on how he got the program accepted by his own department.

Originally my leave was going to be up March 1, so February 17 I met with the Chief of Police to request an extension. I went to Police Headquarters, which most police never got to do. I wore what I call my IBM suit, a navy blue suit with a red tie and a cuff link shirt, more to distract my mind form going into that room and perceiving that he’s at the top of the ladder and I’m nearer the bottom, He was there with his eagles on his shoulders, and I wanted to go in as the executive type thinking, “We’re even at this.”

I was nervous and made a conscious effort to get rapport by mirroring the way he and the assistant chief were sitting. If their legs were crossed, mine were. In the past, I think I would have been hooking them under the chair or something.

First, I gave them a goal sheet. My top goal was to live and work in a community where policemen are happy and enjoy their work. That goal was on the sheet with everything I was going to do to achieve that goal – ironing out more about NLP and finding out more about police training, supervisory methods, and the civil suits problems the department has.

Then I told the story of the hanging incident years ago when I was in a district where a prisoner hanged himself and I helped cut him down. We brought him back to life only to have him die again later. Four months after that, I got a subpoena to a civilian review board investigating my actions in the hanging for improper procedure. During that four month time I was becoming a hateful person. (My wife could attest to that. She was at the meeting, and she assured them that these things happened.) I didn’t want to be around anybody. I thought the world was divided into cops and bad guys. I explained how those emotional highs and lows are something a lot of policemen go through periodically. Unfortunately, the only way many of them deal with is to resort to alcohol or whatever.

I told the chief I think a lot of people on the job really do care about their work and supervisors should look beneath surface behavior. If they’re not writing enough tickets, the supervisor shouldn’t punish them but find out why.

Then to the assistant chief, who was sitting next to me, I said, “Colonel, put your hand up.” He put it up and I pushed on it. The push-get-a-push. That really seemed to open things up for the whole conversation. I went on to say, “That’s just natural behavior. If you’re pushed, you tend to push back.” I said, “Not only is it externally, where police are dealing with people on the street, that it’s natural to want to push when being pushed, no matter which side you’re on, but also internally with police supervision.

I’ve seen supervisors who would tell a guy at roll call, ïIf I’d catch you not wearing your hat, I’ll write you up.’ And later I would see those guys start to put their hat on, then they’d just throw it in back in the car, just unconsciously seeding a way to push back because of being pushed.” I still wasn’t as relaxed as I could be, so I fired my anchor from the Donald Dossey seminar two years before. My anchor for a calm, relaxed, and alert feeling is grabbing my left ring finger. I told them I was going to do it, and honestly, as soon as I did even the chief, sitting across from me, could see the difference. I had a glow that showed it worked. I said “I wish I had done that when I first walked into the room, because now I feel great.”

The chief said something like, “Is that NLP the stuff I was reading about that people cab fool lie detectors with?” I said I hadn’t heard that, but my purpose was for positive use in police work. I used the example of when I was in the District 2 area, I had a hard time working tickets. The lieutenant would chew me out every month for not writing enough tickets. I wondered, “Should I write tickets and have the people on the street chew me out, or should I have the lieutenant chew me out?” The lieutenant won, because he controlled my time off and assignments.

While this was going on, the assistant chief said, “Remember, you’re talking to the chief,” and I said, “I feel totally confident that I’ll express myself in such a way that I get across what I intend to, which is that there are a lot of terrific people on this job. They just don’t know it, because they’re not positively reinforced periodically.

The chief and the assistant chief started laughing when I told a few stories of my experiences with pattern interruption such as saying “Do you smell gas?” at family fights and the others that were in the VAK.

They had some belly laughs, and they interrupted me saying, “Can you put this together for recruits?” I told them I felt it was best for people who had some experience. A recruit wouldn’t be as receptive to the idea because they don’t understand the procedures so well. They would be too much like robots. They could stop a car and say, “Thanks for stopping,” but if it’s not done with integrity it could come across as sarcasm and actually work against them.

Then I got into the civil liability cases all departments face. Police have a chart called “Escalation and De-escalation for Force.” It has an arrow that goes both directions. At the top is Deadly Force, then Impact Weapons, Chemical Irritants, and at the bottom, Verbal Persuasion. I said with just four choices, there are so many missing, and my goal is to out so many on that arrow that should the ultimate ever be needed, a person will be more justified because of going through hundreds, possibly thousands, of choices at an unconscious level to try to solve things.

About an hour into the meeting the assistant chief said, “Mike, we want it, you don’t have to oversell it. Call the academy and tell them how many hours you want, put together a presentation for our combined staff meeting, and that’s it. It’s great! We honestly don’t know how to deal with people who accept their responsibility like you’re doing here. Most of the time a guy tries to come up with ten different reasons. they work harder trying not to work than if they would just go out and do their job. It would be a lot easier.”

At this point I told them improvement is always possible, but we have to work with what is there. Looking at the silver birds on the chief’s shoulders, I said, “You can’t send ducks to eagle school.”

I asked if I could be put back in my old district. Since I had been gone for nine months, I wanted to get some research on the attitude of the department now and what specific needs and problems they have. The said, “Sounds great.”

Even with myself, nothing really has changed but my attitude, my perception. Now work is research. I look forward to it. Some others say, “Well, only six more days and I’ll be off.” Next night they come in, “One down, five to go.” Dossey told me years ago, you can see them coming in the building. They’re live people and they walk in the building and the building has anchored them in a state of depression.

Isn’t it amazing? It really does get down to being that simple. Sometimes it gets so complicated, and the whole thing, no matter what people want to call reality, is the way they perceive it.

Originally published in the VAK Newsletter.