The paper will be about a personal encounter of the student (or someone known by the student) with a law enforcement officer; e.g., a traffic stop which either did or did not result in a ticket. Students will: • Express critical thinking about the human dimensions of their encounter • Analyze police operational styles • Demonstrate an applied understanding of the literature on police personality
(a) What does a ‘personal encounter’ mean? It means that the student will write about a face-to-face contact between the student and a police officer. There must have been words and police business exchanged between the student and the officer for it to qualify as an ‘encounter’. A traffic stop is just one example, but the student is free to use any experience with a police officer that goes beyond mere greetings such as “How’s it going today, officer?” Other examples include, but are not limited to:

• Being a suspect/witness in a crime and/or asked questions and/or interrogated by police

• Being a victim of a crime and/or asked questions by the police (unless the experience is too personal)

• Any situation where the student had to go to police headquarters (to fill out forms for example)

• Any time a student heard an officer give a guest lecture or speech (other than DARE)

• Asking directions from an officer while on a trip • Talking to a police recruiter or officer about employment possibilities

(b) What if I have never had a police encounter? The assignment allows the student to use someone known to the student who has had a police encounter. It is unlikely, however, that the student has never had any kind of contact, and it is preferred that the student use their own contact. What the student cannot do is go out and arrange a first-time police contact or interview any officer just for the purposes of the assignment. If the student comes from a police family, do not write any of your family members (too close to the subject matter).
(c) When should this encounter have occurred? I prefer the students’ earliest memory, but if you talk about when you were an infant and you your mother told you to “Look at the poleeze man!” you’re probably going back too far. On the other hand, if you choose a recent encounter involving a matter that has yet to be settled in court, you’re probably too close to the situation to write an objective paper. Choose an encounter between your earliest memory and most recent memory, or your most memorable experience.

(d) What does ‘write down my facts and feelings’ mean? The paper will be 5-6 pages long and divided into the following sections, which you should use to plan the organization of the paper. Use section headings.

• Facts and feelings

• Human dimensions of the encounter

• Police operational style

• Police personality

The first section is the descriptive part of the paper. Try to keep this section down to1 & 1/2 to 2 pages at the maximum. You would be surprised how easy it is to be carried away and write several pages describing the encounter, so avoid the temptation. Some of the important facts are: what were you doing at the time, the date, place, time and context of the encounter. What you were thinking or feeling at the time is also important, as is how long the encounter lasted, the first thing the officer said to you, your tone and demeanor, the officer’s tone and demeanor, the outcome and how you both left the scene.

The second section is the analytical part of the paper. Try to keep this section down to 1 or 11/2 pages. Basically, what you want to do here is critically analyze how professional the encounter was, whether things should have been done differently (from your point of view). Maybe you thought the officer should have listened to you more carefully or taken into consideration more information. Just do not get carried away with this section, either. Try to focus on the “human” dimensions, like how well your personality and the officer’s personality clicked or clashed.

The third section is the applied part of your paper. You will be applying the material and information you have gotten from the lecture notes or textbook and demonstrating your understanding of the literature. Try to keep this section down to one page or put it in a table on half of one page. Fit the descriptive material you have been given earlier into the categories of police operational styles for analyzing stages of the encounter. Entry: how did the officer “break the ice” or approach you at first? Mid: how did the officer get “down to business” and handle the chores of police work? Exit: how did the officer and you part? Who left first? Use your notes, the textbook or do a library search for books and articles on the topic “police encounters.” You will find a vast amount of information and I will be able to easily tell those papers that used the simple examples in this assignment description from those that did more research and incorporated research that is more academic. Do not just place pieces of your description into table categories. Learn, use and apply some of the academic words for behavior in the stages, like “command voice”. Provide a short, objective analytical justification for why you have placed some piece of descriptive material into one of these stages.

The fourth section is also an applied part of the paper, so be sure to incorporate academic research, ideas, concepts and terminology from the book, lecture notes or the library. Reserve at least 1&1/2 pages or 2 pages for this section. Try to make this section the most well written section of your paper. I know it is difficult to merge personal experience with academic terminology, but give it a shot. This is your opportunity to demonstrate that you know the literature on police personality. Use whatever descriptive material you have mentioned earlier in order to demonstrate that you can knowledgeably use words (do not just mechanically throw in words) like: White’s Typology, Coates’ Typology, “Crime Fighter Personality” or “Task-Oriented” Type. Other words you should consider using (if appropriate and you feel you are certain of what they mean) would be “Reciprocator” Personality Type, “TV Cop”, the Wyatt Earp Syndrome, John Wayne and Doc Holiday Syndrome. Also, if you want, try to mention (if appropriate) any of Skolnick’s concepts such as isolation, brotherhood, action or working personality. You might also consider Neiderhoffer’s concepts of Cynicism (and its four stages) and Authoritarianism (and its nine subscales). Remember, don’t just mechanically mention these things unless you really apply to your description, but you should develop the technique of academic writing (like in a literature review) where you seem to mention everything and in the process of elimination and/or analysis of shortcomings/applicability/etc., you accept or reject a concept for more detailed analysis in your paper. Avoid the kitchen sink approach.

You will need a reference page in the APA style. If you do not know what that is, look it up in the library. Additionally, do not forget a title page.

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