Social media, the legislative process, grant writing—not exactly the kinds of topics you might think street-level cops would need to cover.
And you’d be right. These are a few seminar topics for the Oklahoma Association of Chiefs of Police’s Annual Training Conference.
The Association’s interim director Phil Cotten says that things like gang or narcotics investigation are topics more often covered in training for rank-and-file officers and detectives.
Police chief training, like at this conference, “is hopefully at a level for the administration more so than the street-level officers.”
The conference began today with training seminars. Tuesday will feature a fair of over 100 vendors in an exposition of the latest in law enforcement technology.
Issues for Administration
An example of a course offered with police administration in mind is “Chiefs Role in the Legislative Process.”
Mike Haefner is deputy chief of police in Sapulpa.
“As an administrator in the department and a city official,” he said, “what I’m looking for basically out of this class is to learn how to deal better with legislative issues on a state level.”
“I’ve learned that it’s very important for me to make contacts with not just my local, city government, but the state government and county as well,” he said.
Amanda Eastridge is one of the two instructors for the course. As chief of police in Forest Park, she says she’s had to learn how to build relationships with legislators.
“Be familiar, know who your legislator is,” she advised. “Be on a first-name (basis), exchange phone numbers, let them know they can always contact you if they have a law enforcement-related question … they can call you at any time and make sure that the information that they are receiving and/or giving is actually what’s happening in real life,” she said.
Haefner has been deputy chief in Sapulpa for just a year and a half, and this class especially appealed to him.
“It’s a little bit different than the guy out on the street,” he said. “Trying to be able to see things from my own perspective as a police officer, but then as an administrator who works for the citizens, and spending their money, and asking for money … it’s very important to see both sides.”
“What it does is it helps me be a more effective leader for my men,” he said.
He wants to focus on ways to spend more efficiently, as well as looking for more efficient technology.
“We’re always looking for a better way, a more efficient way, a more efficient way of doing our jobs and providing the services that the community comes to expect of us,” he said.
An Unusual Opportunity
Oklahoma police chiefs will have an opportunity to take a class not offered in many other areas of the country: “Autism in Law Enforcement.”
It will teach chiefs techniques that they can pass on to their forces on ways to recognize and handle autism in the people they encounter on the job.
“Often those people are mistaken for people on drugs, or people that are mentally ill, or people that have Alzheimer’s, or have some other kind of mental handicap, and that’s not the case,” said Frank Miller, a command staff specialist, who teaches the only course of this kind in Oklahoma.
He says the inspiration of this course came from an incident early in his career as a police officer.
“I pulled up to the front of the convenience store with my red lights and siren on. I go in, take control of the situation; I touched the guy on the shoulder, and it just escalated into violence in no time at all,” he recalled.
“People with autism, you have to be very sensitive about the fact that their sensory perception of what’s going on around them is very sensitive,” he said. “They can suffer from sensory overload.”
He said he regrets that the incident turned violent.
“I’m really not proud of that. I really am committed to seeing that law enforcement gets trained in a way that will keep everybody safe: the officer as well as the person we’re dealing with, and the public that we serve,” he said.