CPR: Career Saving Advice for Police Officers

Article excerpt

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) has long been recognized as a lifesaving measure. As a basic component of emergency first aid, CPR plays a role in the academy training of every new police officer. In addition, most departments mandate regular refresher training to keep officers prepared for emergencies.

Yet, the term CPR has new meaning for today's police officers. Although not a lifesaving technique, civility, professionalism, and restraint can represent the lifeblood of a police department. These three symbiotic and complementary components serve as the foundation for all actions within a police department. Once internalized by all members of the department, this easy-to-remember moniker can provide a source for decision making during difficult situations.


Civility describes a state of affairs characterized by tolerance, kindness, consideration, and understanding. Civility can be represented by action or, in some cases, inaction. For example, a friendly greeting or other social courtesy, such as holding open a door, qualifies as a civil action. At the same time, when police officers exhibit self-control and fail to respond in kind to verbal assaults from upset citizens, they demonstrate civility, even without performing overt acts.

In The Police and the Public, A. J. Reiss lists three conditions of civility between the police and the public. First, citizens must act civil in their relations with one another and the police. Second, citizens must grant legitimacy to police authority and also show respect for the right of the police to intervene in their private affairs. Finally, to prevent police tyranny, the police may be held accountable to civil authority.(1) Balancing police and citizen responsibilities in this area might require expanding Reiss' conditions to include two more: that the police be civil in their relations with one another and with the public and that the police recognize the citizen's right to remain free of arbitrary intrusion and to maintain personal dignity.

These additions balance the equation and call for a civil reciprocity between the police and the public. In short, "civility must be met with civility."(2) Deviation from this standard by the police or by citizens requires corrective measures, which may range from mere verbal disapproval to incarceration of either the citizen or the officer.

While the police have a duty to uphold the constitutional rights of all citizens, they must juggle the competing demand of enforcing the law, and as a result, they must compel individuals to behave in certain ways. Yet, all citizens "...care about the officer's effort, concern, and respect in dealing with them - the equivalent of the physician's 'bedside manner'...."(3) Experienced police officers, particularly supervisors, are well aware of the large number of complaints that can stem from an officer's poor bedside manner, or lack of civility.

Rudeness likely is the most common complaint leveled by citizens against the police. Yet, as challenging as some encounters with citizens prove, officers must strive to avoid rudeness and to maintain civility. The chief of the Apache Junction, Arizona, Police Department deplores what he calls "attitude complaints" against his officers. He does not resent citizens for filing such complaints; rather, he resents the fact that an encounter between a citizen and one of his officers resulted in such a complaint. …