Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Chicago Police Need Customer Service Training

A friend and I were discussing my post from Monday, "Uptown Gang Shooting, Police Confusion, Panic," and the rude behavior of so many Chicago police desk officers at districts' headquarters. She excused their rudeness with, "Well, they're kinda like paramilitary and under a lot of pressure." My response was "so what?" Police officers take a lot of abuse on the job, no doubt, but they are also public servants. Not that most public servants are known for stellar customer service; generally, they're rude and not very helpful. The police motto, "Serve and protect," does not include "insults and secrecy," and even in time of war our soldiers home on leave tend to be more polite than the average cop. I've called the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard, FBI and other agencies, all of which are under pressure, too. In none of those experiences were the people on the phone rude to me. Sometimes they answered questions, sometimes they didn't, but they always did so politely. If they didn't know the answer to my question, they usually referred me to someone who did or simply said, nicely, that they didn't know. It's been unusual for them to not return my calls. For the average concerned citizen, a returned call from the Chicago Police Department is about as rare as a six-legged dog or, for that matter, a returned call from most Chicago aldermen. Chicago police officers, far too often, ask you what business it is of yours, who you are, why you want to know, and do so impolitely. Not every officer, certainly, but far too many and far too frequently. For all the talk of openness and reaching out that we hear from Mayor Daley to district commanders to officers who sit in on CAPS meetings, we never hear the phrase "customer service." Police officers get "diversity training" and anger management counseling, but after all these years and hundreds of thousands of instances of secretive, rude refusals to answer basic questions from city residents, nobody in the City of Chicago's government seems to have considered good old customer service training for police officers. The kid working the fryer and taking your order at a local fast food restaurant is under pressure, too, and also takes abuse from customers all day. He's insulted by rude and impatient diners, yet he's more likely to politely answer your questions than are many police officers. That kid doesn't have a contract either, he makes a crappy wage, and he has no gun to protect himself in the event of the restaurant being held up. His customer service training - all 30 minutes of it - is worth more than all of the hollow talk of better community relations that we get from the Chicago Police Department and Mayor Daley combined. It's true, obviously, that the police officers risk their lives every minute that they're on duty, and they do so to protect you and me. But the same can be said of truck drivers, on the highways where over 30,000 people are killed annually. That's far more than the number of police who die on duty. It's true that police save lives, if they're able, but it's also true that power company and gas company repair crews do the same. The odds of being struck by lightning while standing on a ladder in a lightning storm is far greater than being shot while you're a cop on duty. Still, the average repair crew member is more polite and willing to answer questions than many cops. The dangerous nature of their job, and the good work that they do every day, is something for which we should respect police officers. Their wages are paid by our taxes, however, and without our cooperation they could not do what they do. Your calls to 911 are their eyes and ears. The seem to forget that, however, when they answer a question with "What business is it of yours?" It's entirely our business, yours and mine. Isn't that what CPD keeps telling us? Also see Chicago Cops Don't Know CTA Photo Policy, about CPD officers and a CTA employee who harassed me for all the wrong reasons. Hint: They did not know the CTA's own policy about photography on CTA property. Leave a Comment on our Guestbook! CommieBama Hats and More Chicago News Bench RSS Feed Follow ChiNewsBench on Twitter