I have learned that no matter what situation you are faced with in life, how you handle it will vary greatly depending on your perspective. It’s something we probably don’t consider often enough when we deal with people.
Two different individuals can face the same scenario and approach it from polar opposite directions simply because they have different perspectives.
Example: When I am at work my office door is typically open. But on the rare occasion it isn’t, the message I am sending to the team is “Unless the building is on fire or someone’s life is in immediate danger…I am not available.”. Officers will pass by and respect that, knowing that interrupting an important meeting or phone call may not be well received.
On the other hand, if my four year old son comes by my office for a visit, he pays no mind to any of those unwritten rules. To him it matters not if I am meeting with the Queen of England or am about to usher in peace in the Middle East…he will gleefully barge into my office and jump in my lap!
That is based on the difference in viewpoints. To the police staff, I am the Chief. To my son, I am just his dad. In reality, I am both.
Something many of us can relate to are traffic stops. To the public, they are pretty benign. While inconvenient, they are typically uneventful. The driver knows that showing his license and exchanging a few words will result in a warning or citation and they will be back on the road.
To officers traffic stops are statistically one of the most dangerous things they are tasked with doing. Approaching a car at night without knowing what the intentions of the occupant are. Keeping an eye on traffic to avoid being hit by a car, while also watching 3 or 4 occupants who are in a suspicious area at 2 or 3 a.m. keeps most officers on high alert. The situation is the same for both parties, but the perspective is very different.
Or consider, when you see someone climbing in a window of your neighbor’s house at midnight, one can safely assume a crime might be occurring. But to the elderly woman who called for help because she fell in her home, she sees the family member in the window as a rescuer not a criminal. Same situation but very different perspectives.
Our perception is our reality. If we believe something to be the case, in our mind… it is.
As officers who routinely try to solve people’s problems, we try to keep this in mind, but when we break it down we can all be served by taking a moment to look at the world through the eyes of those we interact with.
Try it for yourself! Those few extra moments it takes to pause and consider the viewpoint of others typically pays big dividends and leads to a more equitable solution to whatever issues we are dealing with. Until next time, Chief Eric Kaiser
ERIC KAISER is the Chief of the Jourdanton Police Department and is a Master Texas Peace Officer.