After a few incidents between their officers and village residents escalated verbally, the Village of Mamaroneck Police Department wondered if a little communications finesse would go a long way in defusing potential conflicts. So it turned to area etiquette and protocol expert Melissa Leonard (establishyourselfny.com).
“I learned what they required for their job, meshed it together with my expertise, and came up with a program for them which we call ‘Etiquette 911,’” says Leonard, noting that one incident prior to the start of her training underscored to everyone its importance. “An elderly female resident asked one officer the day before the training, ‘Are you a good cop or a bad cop?’ So right there, people are thinking the worst of the cops, and not even giving them a chance.”
Says Lt. James Gaffney: “You want to give officers as many tools as possible. Ninety percent of the time, proper etiquette is going to be effective in helping you get the job done.”
It didn’t take long for Leonard to win over any skeptical students. “I don’t teach stuffy, white-glove etiquette,” she says. “I teach practical etiquette. I grew up in Mamaroneck. I’m not there to chide them.”
Leonard worked with the officers in small groups, as they practiced and honed their communications skills via a variety of role-playing scenarios.
Leonard’s training apparently has paid off. “Since the training we haven’t been getting any unnecessary complaints,” Gaffney reports.
Leonard hopes to bring her “Etiquette 911” program to other area departments, or perhaps teach it at the county police academy.
// Robert Schork