Friday, September 20, 2013


There are three classes that I think should exist but don't.  Maybe they exist somewhere, but I haven't heard of them.

1) A class for women going into law enforcement.  I wrote about this in "Violence: A Writer's Guide." Men and women are different.  And law enforcement, like it or not is a paramilitary, testosterone-laden and violence-driven profession. (Note well, I don't consider any of those things to automatically be negative.)  Not all, but most guys going into these professions have already handled the locker-room politics of team sports.  Many of the women going into the job don't know when they are being tested versus being harassed or when it is absolutely necessary to handle things yourself.  Many (again, not all) were raised that friendship comes from niceness and respect is assumed.  In this world, friendship stems from respect, which is never assumed and must be earned-- and niceness itself is suspect.  We lose too many good female officers on probation because no one taught them that being a nice person and being a good officer are unrelated things.

(I am aware that this sounds sexist.  FIDO.  One of the reasons that this class doesn't exist is because the politically powerful people who control the dialogue insist that men and women are the same.  This stupidity and blind ideology, no matter how well meaning, condemn too many women to failure.  The pretense that the world is fair or equal creates victims.)

2) Political survival for tactical leaders.  This class appears to not exist for two reasons.  Number one, the political players keep insisting that they aren't playing politics.  The other guys are playing politics, but not me...  So they tell the operators just to be natural and everything will be fine.  The second reason is that tactical guys have a couple of blindspots and an arrogance issue.  The blindspot?  We believe that 'playing politics' is an inborn things, some kind of genetic trait. The arrogance?  We believe we are above that:  "You play your silly little bullshit political games.  We're saving lives here."

Because of this some really good operators get punished or sideline.  How cool would it be if you could play the games well enough that your budget didn't get gutted every year.  And it's a skill.  As much resistance as there might be to such a class, it would be extremely effective.  Because if there is one thing good operators know it is how to learn and how to use information and how to adapt.  And politics is a skill.

For some reason, the first name that comes to mind for collaborating on this is Greg Ellifritz, which is odd because I've never met the man.

3) Nerd rehabilitation. The Conflict Communication material keeps turning over new rocks.  Originally intended as a de-escalation program for cops to manipulate crooks, the principles have worked for everything from negotiating huge business deals to family issues to getting along in the workplace.  The reason is that it is natural communication done consciously.  A friend pointed out tonight that ConCom has all the tools for people with no social ability (nerds was his word, not mine) to gain those abilities as skills instead of inborn talents.

All three of these would be good classes.  Valuable.  None of them do I feel fully qualified to design and deliver on my own.  Ahhhhhh, who am I fooling anyway?  As if there was enough free time...

Coming up:
Nine days in MInnesota with Steve Jimerfield, Marc MacYoung and Kasey Keckeisen:

How to run a scenario in Port Townsend, WA:

A long weekend in Oakland.  Ambushes and Thugs, ConCom and a Playdate.  Probably.


Maija said...

Definitely :-)

Jim said...

Jim Glenn touches on some of the political survival stuff in his program "Ultimate Survival Instincts." (Lifeline Training, Inc.)

They also have a program targeted at female cops -- but I don't know if it gets into some of that locker room stuff. Honestly -- a fair number of rooks today need it, whatever their gender. They haven't been in the military, they didn't play team sports (or if they did, helicopter parents controlled their experience...) and they just haven't dealt with it in the current climate of "everyone is oh-so special..."

And, along those same lines, lots of people need to learn communication skills, not just nerds. I had to; I was definitely socially backward growing up. Today, might have been classed somewhere towards Aspergers, or maybe I just was strongly introverted and just plain didn't care. Fortunately, I had a friend take an interest and make me start learning social skills.

Anonymous said...

As a comic nerd myself. The last class is totally something I support.

Lise Steenerson said...

Agree, agree and agree!!!!

Greg Ellifritz said...

Thanks for the mention Rory! I'd love to collaborate on these classes with you. I agree that they are all needed.

As for the "political survival" class idea, I may be helpful only to serve as your "bad example." I've had some very good political successes in my training program, but I've also had some dismal failures as well.

In the end, I fear the laziness and inaction from the petty bureaucrats will eventually overwhelm even the most politically-savvy instructors.

Slim934 said...

Speaking of ConComm...what is the status of that material?

Is the idea to into a series of books/videos (a la Logic of Violence) or to keep that as a classroom/seminar sort of deal?

Unknown said...

Nerd Rehabilitation? I'll sign up to that, need it badly. :)

Deborah Clem said...

A class for women going into law enforcement....hmmm.....I am a police officer who happens to be female.

We received a pretty basic primer of defensive tactics in our academy...very basic, though for me, it was enough to tell me how much I did NOT know, and seek out additional instruction on my own. (I practice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Arnis Eskrima).

This is a tough subject. I mean, I brought a fairly goody two shoes background to the job, but also a physical background. I used to study classical ballet, I had run marathons, done strenuous hikes solo, mountain biked on rocky terrain, etc.

My parents instilled in me the ability to manage myself, to be responsible for myself, so when I became a police officer, those attributes became my closest allies. My inexperience in the monkey dance was supplemented by my solid instincts and my ability to carry myself with a certain strength. Does that make sense? When you have pushed past what you thought was a limit, that experience kind of paints you.

I don't know if you can teach that instinct. You either "get" that bad guys are bad guys and do bad things and you had better be ready when those things come your way; OR you don't "get" it.

Speaking from experience, the women I have known on my department who don't get it, should have never been police officers in the first place. They moved quickly from the patrol car to non-police related desk jobs (op support or juvenile stuff) and no class was going to change that.

I love seeing new women on the department who are really game for it, for the patrol car, the busy divisions, but they are rare animals. And the women who ARE game have not necessarily been in fights before, they are just ready to jump in.

Rory said...

Dagney-- I'm not really talking about the fighting/bad guys/violence/DT aspect, but the political side of getting along with other officers. There is something that all FTOs do at some point to all rookies, that many women (and guys who haven't done team sports) misread as harassment.

What all of these class ideas have in common is trying to train people over common blindspots. Commonly (not always) Women perceive testing as harassment; Tactical guys perceive a status check as punishment; and nerds have never learned that there are rules for eye contact or how long you can shake a hand.

I'm with Greg on this, in that most of what I can bring to the table is an analysis of my failures in communicating with admin. In Baghdad, they've had 3000 years to perfect bureaucracy and I was forced to learn the game. Makes me want to redo a lot of my sheriff's office career. It wasn't that they were bad guys (no matter who they are--FTOs or Admin or Jocks or...) they see the world differently, and they deal with the world they see.

I find if you can consciously see what they see subconsciously, you can outplay them at a game you have no gift for.

Susan (HedgeMage) said...

1) Please do that. I never had that wiring (what you described as the problem many female officers have), probably because I grew up "one of the guys". It took me *forever* to figure out that that is what other women were doing and even longer to become effective at helping those I mentored get over it. I would imagine that men are generally even more confused by this than I was, and I was pretty darn confused.

2) Yes. Yes. Yes. As I've been looking at getting back into emergency management, the one thing that most holds me back is the fear of ending up beholden to whatever agency or organization credentials me, and being hamstrung by their politics when I just want to do the effective thing. Being without a master, while it's meant rarely having much in the way of resources at my disposal, has maintained my ability to do the right thing even when that wasn't the thing a bureaucrat was comfortable with. Unfortunately, I now live in a more urban area where things are more heavily regulated; I may have to suck up the politics and get credentialed to be allowed to help at all.

3) I already do this, in the form of sessions at nerdcons (technology and/or scifi and/or gaming conventions) developed for those interested in self-defense or who need that extra nudge to get them studying martial arts in some ongoing program near them. I've taught the social stuff primarily (it's very much needed in these communities, and easier to teach in useful amounts given the format), and enough of the hands-on stuff to get rid of the fear some walk in with, and get more than a few people hooked.

Deborah Clem said...


Ah! An even touchier subject! Yes, I know exactly what you are talking about, and yes, for many women, it does come across as harassment. Actually, I have experienced this.

Story: I was assigned to my division's (male dominated) narcotics team several years ago. I was soooo excited and wanted to jump in and hit the ground running. The team was small, so I thought, okay, I need to PERFORM because being new is not going to be an excuse to not bring something to the table. What I thought was an enthusiastic attitude and good ideas for contacting bad guys, was perceived as arrogance, snottiness, and well, NOT enthusiasm. I am an easy going person and pretty much get along with everyone, so to have this uneveness in my life was terribly annoying. Doubly annoying- these were all guys that I knew already and got along with before being assigned to the team.

Many many many months of a frustrating work environment landed me in the chair of one our department's shrinks. I told him this whole story, I told him how I was so confused, how is this possible? I go to work everyday WANTING to work, and each day becomes more twisted than the previous.

So, he told me HIS story. Years ago he was part of a research group and was the only male. He got along with all the women and never had an issue. Well, after several months, a new woman entered the group. He told me he noticed she jumped right in (ground running) with her ideas and opinions, and he remembered being offended, and thinking, who does this lady think she is? etc... But it was clear to him, the women in the group were happy with her and welcomed her input. He realized, ahhhhh, we really do work differently.

He suggested that men work in a "hierarchy" method, but women work in "group" method. So my hard working attitude failed me for the first time in my life. Men approach a team and know they will need to work upwards to gain respect. Women approach a team and know they will need to contribute immediately to gain respect.

Fast forward to last year, I volunteered for and was chosen for my division's bike team (the Gaslamp Quarter Bike Team in San Diego), which was all male at the time. I thought, okay, I'll approach this differently...I will keep my work ethic, but I'll spend the first month in a "following" mode and kind of...carve my niche? I guess?...Does that make sense?

Fast forward to present day, this team is one of the best squads I have ever worked on, and some of the funnest, craziest work on our department. My new approach served me well, as the men on the team when I first arrived there were pretty young and brash. I worked my way up, they way they all did, and gained their respect.

So, yes. A class would be good.

Jim said...

The truth is that some guys need that class on fitting in, too... and that just about every instructor I've had that was worthwhile about job success were the ones who had to figure it out, and worked it out by trial and a whole lot of error. That might be a reflection of me, but I really think it's an aspect of the same thing that makes a talented athlete a lousy coach. If it came easily and naturally to you -- it wasn't something that you thought about or understood.

Rory said...

Dagney- Exactly. Once you see the differences, you can make informed choices. But you have to be taught, which means (and this ties in with Jim's point) that you need a teacher who can consciously see it. I agree with Jim, 'naturals' almost never make good teachers.

Old Bull Lee said...

"Tactical guys perceive a status check as punishment"

Rory, would you mind elaborating on that one?

I'm a nerd who has recently become involved in doing volunteer work with some tactical-ish guys.

Deborah Clem said...

Rory- To add to the complication, advising women, well the type of women, who have chosen law enforcement, to NOT "jump in" and take the bull by the horns could be, probably would be, taken as extremely sexist. Most people (I used to be one of them) just don't realize how differently men and women work/process/learn. Plus, we are speaking in fairly general terms. I mean, I never played team sports growing up. It's possible women who play team sports would be more aware of these differences? Maybe? Or are women's team sports run differently than men's?

Perhaps......the class could start in a forum including women AND men, in which the fundamental differences are discussed. The mere presentation of the subject matter would be unique for most people. Then you could break off into gender-based groups (which, these days, could be difficult in itself). What if the class was a chance for men and women to examine their processes, with the goal of using the learned information to work with each other more efficiently?

We had a class on race relations in my academy that was run similarly. We broke off into racial/ethnic groups, discussed our race's/ethnicity's unique elements, and then shared with everyone. The class began with a certain amount of eye-rolling and skepticism of course, but then turned into a decent learning session, when we all realized the wide variance in our experiences. This was a powerful tool, especially here in San Diego. The City Heights area has over 80 cultures.

Rory said...

Lee--Notice that good officers get called into the LT's office more than bad officers? Because it is a closed door session (praise in public, punish in private) we assume that it is a punishment. In reality, a LTs job is not to get the job done or facilitate the job but to protect the organization and manage change. So when you do a good job and get called into the office, the LT considers it a status check and we perceive a punishment.

Dagney-- One of the keys is never to tell a student what to do. Show them the differences, make them make sense, and the student is almost always smart enough to work things out for her or himself.

Tiff said...

Great stuff -- glad to hear perspectives from the ladies in the ranks. Consolidating information like this is a current endeavor of mine, so I'll probably be messaging people soon.

That being said, a succinct conclusion came to mind today: Women bond in order to accomplish a mission; men bond because a mission has been accomplished.

Jeffrey Deutsch said...

Interesting points, especially in regard to hierarchy. Women may well want to start contributing as quickly as possible.

On the other hand, in my experience female bosses can be at least as touchy as some male bosses about perceived disrespect from subordinates.

Can someone here tell me what a status check is in this context, and how it can be mistaken for a punishment? I'm having trouble understanding how you can feel you're being punished if the boss just wants to know how things are going or how your project went. Thank you!