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July 12, 2013

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Olivia Johnson Peer Support
with Olivia Johnson

Officer needs assistance: 4 things cops should know about building trust

Knowing if you are trustworthy starts with being completely honest with yourself

My article entitled “Officer needs assistance: Are you ready to really help?” spurred many comments regarding a need for more skills and tools to help officers in need. I followed up with an article in June, “Officer needs assistance: Backup has arrived.” 

This article provided some real life situations and solutions to assist officers in need. 

This final article will highlight the importance of trust when considering whether officers will seek you out in times of need. 

Trust and Vulnerability
When we say backup has arrived, we know that officers will respond to an officer in need. But if responding officers are not trustworthy, it will most likely be in vain. 

Are we ready to step up and be responsible for our words and actions? Once we acknowledge our role in the bigger picture, we can begin to move forward with equipping ourselves with the tools and skills necessary to help fellow officers. 

Knowing if you are trustworthy starts with being completely honest with yourself. Do others seek you out for advice in personal matters? Do you maintain confidentiality? Or do you betray confidence in order to share the latest gossip? 

Trust is an elusive concept, requiring a varying degree of vulnerability by both parties. But each person’s willingness to be vulnerable builds allies (Psych Central, 2013). Trust is a major component when life and death hang in the balance. The key: knowing trust is placed in someone who has someone else’s best interest at heart. 

Remember: trust is not built over night, but it can be lost in moments by our words and actions. 

Can trustworthiness be measured?

It appears the answer is “yes.” Trust can be measured. Baldoni (2008) defined trust “... as being composed of four attributes: credibility, reliability, intimacy, and self-orientation” (para. 2). The idea is to quantify “trust” (i.e., giving it value, which can be measured). 

Credibility is measured by how well you keep your word and if your words match your actions. Reliability measures how dependable you are. Can you be counted on when things get tough? Intimacy measures ‘how safely people are sharing with you’ (Baldoni, 2008, para. 7). 

Finally, self-orientation addresses how much self-focus you have. If you have too much ego or are more concerned with yourself, others will more than likely look elsewhere for a confidant. 

Building and Maintaining Trust
Do you measure up? Are you deemed trustworthy? Remember, trust can be lost in the blink of an eye, but it can also be built upon daily. Here are a few tips to think about. 

1.) Credibility: When you say you are going to do something, do it! Don’t make excuses or lie. If something comes up and you are unable to fulfill an obligation, just be honest. Others will respect you more and using lies or excuses can lead to a loss of trust. 

2.) Reliability: Do others count on you? Are you reliable? You can increase your reliability by being reliable. Your actions will speak volumes. If you tell a fellow officer you have their back, than show it when things get tough. It is all about actions and following through. 

3.) Intimacy: Do others feel comfortable and safe in sharing information with you that may make them vulnerable? If so, they feel safe with you. This is a gift. Intimacy is maintained by keeping your mouth shut. Do not divulge confidential information. By maintaining this confidentiality, we can almost guarantee that these individuals will come back. And they will come back when they need help. 

An important caveat to this: if an individual reveals they are going to harm themselves or others, or if they say they have made a plan to harm themselves, then you have to step up. 

This does not mean you tell everyone you know. It means you put their best interest at heart and you get them help. It means you share only what is important and only what is necessary to get them immediate assistance. They are confiding in you because they trust you. 

4.) Self-Orientation: If you are too caught up in yourself, you will turn others off. This is about going overboard. Always talking about you and your accomplishments. You need to be concerned with others as well. “Too much self focus will lower your degree of trustworthiness” (Baldoni, 2008). 

Where Do We Go From Here?
Look, mental health issues of any kind are scary for anyone, especially for those whose livelihood requires them to be ‘fit-for-duty.’ But being fit-for-duty requires officers to be fit physically, psychologically, and emotionally. 

There may be times in which officers are deemed temporarily unfit-for-duty, but this is not necessarily a career ender. A definite career ender would be that officer who does not trust others enough to seek assistance. An officer who does not understand how seeking assistance may get them back to feeling like themselves. A career ender is an officer who sees suicide as an option. 

So when we ask, “Where do we go from here?” we should start by increasing our trust factors. Learn to build credibility, reliability, intimacy, and be aware of how much you talk about yourself (i.e., self-orientation). 

Build strong, trustworthy relationships with your fellow officers. Your life or theirs could depend on it.  Remember, we never leave anyone behind. 


References and Resources 
Baldoni, J. (2008, May 15). How trustworthy are you? Retrieved May 28, 2013, from http://blogs.hbr.org/baldoni/2008/05/how_trustworthy_are_you.html
Collingwood, J. (2013). Trust and vulnerability in relationships. Retrieved May 28, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/2008/trust-and-vulnerability-in-relationships/

About the author

Dr. Olivia Johnson holds a master’s in Criminology and Criminal Justice from the University of Missouri, St. Louis and a doctorate in Organizational Leadership Management from the University of Phoenix – School of Advanced Studies. Perseverance in raising awareness to officer wellness resulted in her being named the Illinois State Representative and Board Member for the National P.O.L.I.C.E. Suicide Foundation. This role led to her being invited to speak at the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit’s 2010 – Beyond Survival Toward Officer Wellness (BeSTOW) Symposium. 

Dr. Johnson is a veteran of the United States Air Force and a former police officer. She collaborates with several law enforcement publications and is a columnist for PoliceOne.com. She was recently asked to lead the peer support section with Crisis Systems Management, where she trains Military and Law Enforcement personnel worldwide on Critical Incident Peer Support (CIPS) and Law Enforcement Resiliency – Peer Support (LERPS). 

Dr. Johnson and the Blue Wall Institute have partnered with the University of Wisconsin-Platteville to bring The Balanced Warrior: Proactive Officer Wellness class online. Recent speaking engagements include: FBI National Academy Associates Conference 2013, International Association of Chiefs of Police [IACP] Conference 2013, National Interdiction Conference 2013, Midwest Security & Police Conference 2012, and the International Law Enforcement Educators & Trainers Association [ILEETA] 2012. 

For further information on the Blue Wall Institute and Dr. Olivia Johnson, visit  www.BW-Institute.com.

Contact Olivia Johnson





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