A Police Officer’s Creative
Approach to Conflict
Published by Real People Press
Boulder, CO USA
Copyright © 2011 Real People Press
Free use and reproduce as long as you keep the copyright notice and reference to the original book “Sweet Fruit from the Bitter Tree: 61 stories of creative and compassionate ways out of conflict.”
Kindle e-book ISBN: 978-0-911226-50-8
ePub e-book ISBN: 978-0-911226-49-2
Cover: Michael Gardner (center) and Mike Broering a.k.a. “Barney,” 2016
1. Flex Cop
2. The Dork Police: Further Adventures of Flex Cop
For More Information
About Michael Gardner
About Mark Andreas
I’m not a policeman.
I can only imagine the degree of stress and adrenaline that must come with the job—far beyond what I would know on my most difficult days as an author, trainer and coach.
In the United States topics such as excessive use of force, citizen’s rights, and racism have held center stage in the national media. This vital conversation often devolves into a debate about whether we should be doing more or less of what we are already doing. But how about doing something entirely new?
In this unusual booklet, a former Cincinnati police officer with a 30-year police career, details his experience of doing just that. While working on the Cincinnati police force, Michael Gardner was given responsibility for the most volatile cases because he developed such effective—though unconventional—ways of dealing with these dangerous situations. Whatever your life position or profession, these stories offer a wealth of creativity and flexibility we can all draw from. And if you are an officer or police chief I hope the following accounts open up a new realm of choices to increase protection for you and your fellow officers, while simultaneously improving your effectiveness in the communities you serve. As Michael put it:
“I wanted to deal with everyone in the most peaceful way possible. I wanted this for my own protection, both physically and also emotionally…”
How did he do this? Michael’s strategies are out of the box, to say the least. When I first heard them I was amazed at some of the things he was willing to try, and even more amazed and delighted by his results. I hope you are too. I believe Michael’s experiences and insights should be added to the national conversation. See for yourself in the following excerpt from my book Sweet Fruit from the Bitter Tree: 61 stories of creative and compassionate ways out of conflict.
(A story from Sweet Fruit from the Bitter Tree)
My buddy and I were on night shift when the police dispatcher asked us to respond to a domestic call. We came in and here was this guy who had just torn up the apartment. He was standing there in a fighting stance as we came in. Of course it’s absurd that an unarmed guy would really want to take on two armed cops with sticks and mace and guns, but it looked like he might do it anyway. I looked at my partner and he nodded, so we immediately started rearranging the furniture and stretching our muscles like we were preparing for an athletic contest. The man just looked at us and said, “What the fuck are you doing?!”
“Hey, look,” I answered, “You just tore this apartment up. You’ve been fighting for the last ten minutes while we’ve been sitting in our car.”
“We’re not loosened up,” my partner added. “Give us a few minutes to get ready like you are so this can be fair.”
The man looked at us like we were insane, but really our actions only brought to light the ridiculousness of the original situation. His rage was gone; there was no way he was going to try fighting us anymore.
This is the kind of incredible magic that I eventually came to experience fairly often during my time as a policeman. But first, I should tell you how it all began, and the low to which I sank before finding a better way.
In 1973 I got a job as a policeman. My dad was also a cop. He grew up in an orphanage, and in order to get out of the orphanage early he lied and joined the marines, where he got his high school GED. Then he left to join the Cincinnati police department where he had a great police career.
I looked up to my dad a lot. While I was in high school I remember thinking, [Wow, here’s a guy who grew up in an orphanage and had no family to model after. He had to lie to join the marines and then became a cop, but not any old cop, he was a _]homicide[ cop. Yet even with all that he never brought his job home with him._] As a senior in high school I remember giving an impromptu speech where I said if I could be one-tenth the person my dad was, I thought that would be awesome.
My police training was a three-year program with the university of Cincinnati for an associate degree. Most police academies are six months, so this was a much more rigorous training. In 1976 Cincinnati had a big budget crunch, so they laid off about 150 police officers, and I was one of them. I couldn’t even find other police jobs because they were worried that I’d go back to Cincinnati when they were ready to re-hire. In ’79, two Cincinnati police officers were murdered on duty, so the city manager recalled all 150 of us to strengthen the force. I actually replaced one of the murdered officers. I went into work my first day and opened the time book, and scrawled next to this police officer’s name was, “killed in the line of duty, march 6, 1979.” Right under his name, my name was inserted. That was how my police-patrolling career began. A couple months later another police officer was murdered in the line of duty. We had three murders in two months, which was very unusual for a city our size. It wasn’t a good way to start.
The traditional police training of the time was all fear-driven. The idea was to make criminals more afraid of us than we were of them. The focus was always on tactical use of weaponry. The traditional thinking was, if we get a bigger gun, a bigger stick, maybe we can save more people. I was caught up in that fear thinking because that was all that was taught.
About a year and a half later I was transferred to another part of town. We were working patrol one night and an undercover cop had arrested a 23-year-old kid for stealing a truck. The uniformed police have to do the transport, so we picked him up and brought him to the police station. While we were doing the paperwork to transport the car thief to jail, someone yells. “Get the key, he’s hung himself!”
The stations at those times had little holding cells with bars in them. It was common procedure to take the person’s belt, socks, and shoelaces, but this young man had on a windbreaker jacket. The arresting officers hadn’t taken his jacket from him because he didn’t have a shirt on underneath and they just didn’t think of it. He had tied the windbreaker up into the ceiling bars and hung himself.
I ran and got the key and rushed in there, lifting him up to take the pressure off his neck. Then my partner cut his jacket and I cradled his head as we laid him on the floor to start CPR. When we took him down he was lifeless, and even though I had been taught CPR, I’d never had to do it before. I started doing the 15 chest compressions and he was doing the two breaths and finally I said, “I feel a heartbeat, I feel a heartbeat.”
A third officer standing around said, “No, that’s only your own palm beat.” I was sweating. The incredible physical exertion it took to continue CPR was just unbelievable.
“You’re not going to save him,” I heard, but after a couple attempts the young man started breathing on his own and the paramedics arrived. The Lieutenant was saying, “Man, he owes you one. You guys saved his life!”
I’m not religious but I am a spiritual person. I remember going into the bathroom to wash my hands and I looked upward and I said, “Thanks, whoever you are up there, thanks.” What an incredible feeling it was to bring a heart back under my own hands. I felt so high to know that I’d brought somebody back to life. It didn’t matter that he was a so-called criminal. He was a human being.
I got out of the bathroom and I saw the paramedics still had him on a stretcher. I thought, What’s going on, why haven’t they left yet? Then he vomited brown bile and it didn’t look good. Finally they transferred him to the university hospital.
About three hours later we got a call from the hospital letting us know he’d died anyway. The doctor had made a comment that maybe we’d let his neck break when we cut him down, implying that we just sawed the jacket and let him drop, when I had been carefully cradling his head the whole time. That accusation hurt. We had been so careful and we worked so hard to save him and now they were saying we might have caused his death.
The hanging happened at one in the morning. At five in the morning we got a call about unknown trouble. We showed up at the place and couldn’t get in, so because of the nature of the call we forced our way in. (As a cop you have a right to break in under emergency circumstances if you think something dangerous could be going on). An intoxicated man was lying passed-out on the couch with a loaded shotgun. He turned out to be a friend of the man who’d hung himself. We learned later that he was planning on shooting a cop for killing his buddy. Fortunately he’d passed out or that cop might have been me.
Four months later I got a subpoena to the anti-police civilian review board. I was the target subject witness of the hanging death of Gary Downing for using improper procedure. I was so crushed. I had only been trying to save this guy’s life. What’s more, the civilian review board was headed by a convicted bank-robber who did 25 years in an Ohio prison. Now, I believe that when people pay their dues, they pay their dues, but you don’t hire a pedophile as a teacher, you don’t get a bank-robber working a bank, and you don’t have a 25-year guy investigate cops.
To make a long story short, the man heading the civilian review board ended up being very sympathetic once he heard the whole story. Finally he said, “Wow, you deserved commendation for what you tried.” Well at that point simply understanding the truth wasn’t going to make up for being hounded and accused for four months. In fact it almost made me more upset. They had just ruined four months of my life only to say, “Oh, you did the right thing; you deserved commendation.”
I was still hurt and angry. We had tried to save this kid’s life, and instead the doctor suggested we killed him, his friend tried to kill one of us, and the civilian review board had been at our throats for four months. We even met with the young man’s mother at the Catholic Church to tell her we tried our best to save her son, but nothing changed. Just because the review board finally saw the truth didn’t take away the feeling that everyone was out to get us for doing the right thing.
My wife says I had turned into a zombie during those four months. I still went to work each day, but I didn’t want to go out with people any more, or attend family events. By July 1983 I had been in the police over five years since my second hiring, and I was still stuck in this negative loop. I was starting to think there were only two kinds of people in this world: cops and bad guys. I was loosing my sense of right and wrong, and I was losing hope. A job I started out feeling very, very proud of, I was now dreading to go to every day. I knew I was stuck, but I didn’t know how to change. It seemed that most of the other people I spoke to on the job were stuck too.
The traditional police training got a person comfortable around negativity. The unspoken rationale was that you wanted people to talk bad to you at a traffic stop because then you didn’t feel guilty giving them a ticket. A common joke was we wanted the guy to wave at us with one finger as we pulled him over. I sought out negativity and was “rewarded” by looking for the wrong in people. I found myself feeling comfortable when things were negative because it was my justification for being miserable.
Then I went to a convention in San Francisco, and had the tremendous fortune to attend Donald E. Dossey’s seminar Keying in Success. In the seminar he gave me an introduction to a form of communication and personal growth called Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). As a result I went back to my police job with a new flexibility that would change my life.
What I wanted on the job was the chameleon-like ability to adapt to what needed to be done without losing myself in the process. The traditional police teaching was very simplistic and reactionary, based on what the marines had developed in World War II by associating a color with a state of readiness. There were three states: yellow meant cautious, orange meant alert, and red meant alarmed. I realized I wanted a color chart that was gold, orange and red. I wanted to play off the golden rule rather than yellow which is associated with cowardice. I even developed a half-moon chart, making the first color gold instead of yellow. Starting with gold I would be the nicest guy in the world while still being realistic that there are some violent people out there. I wanted to deal with everyone in the most peaceful way possible. I wanted this for my own protection, both physically and also emotionally, so that doing police work would no longer change me. Any benefits the other person gained would be an extra bonus.
My new chart was like a thermostat rather than the thermometer of the marines. I wanted to use my language and demeanor to guide my interactions with people, rather than resort to the traditional reactionary escalation of force that would negatively affect me as well as the other person. If I could achieve this, then at the end of the day it would be easy to come home and toss ball with my kids, take my wife out to dinner, and not get into my previous belief that the world was going to hell.
I continued to study with Dr. Dossey and I bought every book I could find on NLP. Finally I told my wife, “When I go in to work, I’m going to go as a researcher.”
“What do you mean?” She asked.
“Well, I’m going to try this stuff out.”
I even had a meeting with the police chief and he was convinced before I’d even tried anything out. “Wow,” he said, “We need to have you go to the police academy to teach this.”
“No,” I said. “I need to prove this works on the street. I don’t have the credibility to claim to teach this without applying it first.”
So I went into the inner city area of town on permanent night shift, and I put a little recorder on myself, because I wanted to see if my new skills would really work. I was very blessed to have a guy named Mike Broering as my partner. I called him Barney, because he looked like Barney from the Flintstones. I said, “Barn, I need your help. I’m not going to be one-tenth the person my dad was if I continue this negativity. I want to try some things out with you, will you trust me to go along with it?” He was terrific. He knew nothing of this communication stuff I’d learned, but nonetheless he was up for trying it out.
The typical approach to traffic stops during night shift was to use floodlights—which are actually aircraft landing lights—to light up the car. It’s good for safety, but it’s intimidating to the person being stopped. We were also never taught to greet people, just a cold, “license and registration.” Well that wasn’t a conversation; it was a confrontation, especially after barraging a driver with intense floodlights.
My goals with every encounter were to get into communication rather than confrontation. I thought, We truly are only enforcing traffic laws because we want to save people’s lives, so why can’t that come across? I went into every situation with a gold state of readiness, not a yellow, orange, or red one.
During our night shift we’d still put the floodlights on for safety; then one of us would approach the driver. I began by saying, “Good evening sir, I appreciate you pulling over so quickly.” It might have taken him three miles to pull over, but I wanted to embed the idea that he was appreciated. Most people don’t attack those who appreciate them.
That was how we started out.
The idea was to thank people up front for being courteous, and bring that side of them out. I remember going back to the car and saying, “Barn, this is unbelievable. I’m not feeling the old distrust and I’m not walking up tense anymore.” Even if someone was up to no good I felt better able to deal with them. I didn’t shut down into tunnel vision the way I often had before, when expecting the worst.
Next I thought, I’m going to add the idea that it’s a safe spot. At the next traffic stop whoever’s turn it was would say, “Good evening ma’am, I appreciate you pulling over in a safe spot.” Now if they’re up to no good, we’ve just suggested that this is a safe spot, so maybe it’s not worth trying anything.
Then it evolved and we always used the word “we” instead of “I” to imply that there were at least two of us there. I did this even when I was by myself, because at night with the floodlights on no one could see into the cop car.
Sometimes we would ease the tension by saying. “I’m not going to use that line everybody else does of ‘I’m just doing my job.’ “ The admission lowered our defensiveness and invited the driver to do so as well. Yet at the same time the message remained that in fact we were doing our job. We didn’t say it, but we still said it.
Communication rather than confrontation created an amazing shift. We stopped more people but issued fewer tickets, since most people were polite and the stop was all they needed to remind them to be safe. When we did give a citation at least six out of ten times the first words out of the driver’s mouth as they signed the ticket was, “I know you guys are just doing your job, and I appreciate that.” They were feeding back what we had said to them. Over and over again I was hearing words come out of the violator’s mouth that I had never heard at traffic stops before. People said they appreciated us, they shook our hands, and they told us to “be careful.”
We were two white cops in the inner city of a predominantly black neighborhood, and it always upsets me when people think conflict will naturally arise in such situations. Because of our new ways of communicating we were showing people that there were a lot more similarities between us than differences. I was so grateful for what I had learned, and what I was still learning. Finally I was becoming the peace officer I knew my dad would be proud of. And this was just the beginning…
Further Adventures of Flex Cop
(A story from Sweet Fruit from the Bitter Tree)
Everyone in the field knows that the most dangerous part of police work is handling domestic disputes. Roughly one third of the police officer assaults and killings in this country occur during domestic disputes. A cop may go in to arrest the attacker and suddenly the spouse turns on him with the frying pan when she sees he’s making an arrest. There’s no telling who may be a problem, and people are much more likely to fight to defend their homes against intruders.
A lot of the calls we got on night shift were domestic violence runs. Cops hate making domestic runs because they’re so dangerous, but for research purposes my partner and I asked other cops, “Do you mind if we start taking over your domestic runs so we can experiment with defusing hostile situations?” Of course we got no objections.
Traditionally, police officers are limited to only four choices for controlling situations—visual and verbal persuasion, chemical irritant, impact weapon, and deadly force. In training, most emphasis was on weaponry defense, without nearly enough on visual and verbal defense. My partner and I saw the need to stretch our flexibility to hundreds of choices in this uncharted territory.
The traditional approach in police work for a domestic run was to show up at an apartment and bang on the door using a raid-type knock with the police night stick, BAM BAM BAM BAM! I even hate it when the UPS or mail carrier bangs on my door to give me something I want, so I tried to imagine how someone already in emotional distress would be angered even more with a raid-type bang on their door. To be less intrusive and confrontational we started showing up and doing the “shave and haircut” knock, a very light “Rap ta-ta tap tap, tap tap.” Even if the people inside didn’t catch on to the jingle, it was a less invasive knock, and its association with a harmless advertisement was more to relax us than the people inside. It kept us at a condition orange—alert, but not the red of alarmed. We would even joke sometimes going into an apartment, “Hey let’s be condition purple.” What we were really saying was, “Hey let’s not get red, because if we go in there red, we’re going to have a fight.”
The usual question police were trained to ask when entering a home was, “What’s the problem here?” Well, if you enter after a loud raid-type knock and ask them, “What’s the problem here?” They’ll give you a problem, usually several. They may tell you their problems from twenty years ago.
Instead we’d ask something like, “What have you decided to do between the time you called us and the time we got here?” That put them in solution mode. Other times we’d ask people to step out into the hallway so they wouldn’t feel the need to defend their turf. We also purposely wore our hats when we approached, so when we did enter their house or apartment we could take them off as a sign of respect.
My partner and I became known to our fellow officers as the Dork Police, because no one knew what crazy thing we were going to do next. They were equally amazed at our success in non-violent control of tense situations. We experimented daily with ways of startling subjects into confusion in order to interrupt their dangerous mental patterns and provide a space for something more positive.
For example, we would sometimes approach potentially dangerous domestic disputes with our jackets purposely buttoned improperly, or with our caps pulled down so our ears stuck out. Other times we’d say “no” when we were nodding our heads up and down. Unless the combatants were too intoxicated or high to observe this odd behavior, they stopped, at least temporarily. They couldn’t help responding to what they saw. Then it was hard for them to pick up their fight where they had left off.
Sometimes we’d walk into a shouting match between a couple, and we’d just run over and switch the channel on the TV set. If one of them said, “Hey, what the hell are you doing?” We’d say cheerfully, “Hey, you’re not going to listen to us anyway, so we’re going to watch some TV.”
All we were trying to do was get them to refocus out of their anger and onto something else. We would do anything to create a change. Once that was accomplished, we’d offer suggestions for where couples could go for longer-term help.
Using humor was particularly useful when performing routine, uncomfortable tasks like patting down or frisking a suspect. While maintaining physical control, we would like to say, “You don’t have any hand grenades, swords, or bazookas hidden on you, do you?” Subjects generally laughed it off. Now and then, one would disclose that he had a knife or razor.
When couples were screaming at each other we’d start sniffing and shouting out. “Oh, do you smell gas? Where’s your stove? There must be a burner on!” While the fight was temporarily stopped, my partner and I would go to the kitchen and pretend to check the stove for gas leaks. After a few minutes of sniffing the stove and kitchen area, we would advise the people that everything was OK, then ask “What else can we help you with?” The response was amazing. Often they said, “Nothing, officer…” If the argument did begin again, all my partner and I had to do was to sniff with a concerned look on our faces. With this pattern interruption, the subjects’ personal fighting became secondary to the threat of a gas explosion in their home. They may even start getting an unconscious connection of, Every time I start getting nasty there’s danger, maybe I should try something else.
Other times, we would enter a residence and be greeted by someone standing in a fighting position and shouting, “You two think you can take me? Come on!” We would mirror his stance, but hold our palms up instead of making fists, saying, “No way. We heard how tough you are. We can’t beat you, we’d have to call ten more guys in here.” If that statement had any effect, we would follow up with, “Why don’t we talk first, then you can kick our butts.” On several occasions the potentially violent subject changed his mind. And if he didn’t respond to our initial statement, that signaled us to try something else. Initially it was hard for us to give this kind of “pull” statement when a violent subject “pushed” us verbally. We instinctively wanted to “push” back with an “attack” statement. Yet the patience of our “pull” statement always minimized the force of our arrest.
One time we had a husband and wife close to killing each other. They were shouting countless obscenities at each other, and their hand gestures were disjointed and out of sync with the tone and tempo of their verbal language. I remembered the metaphor of an orchestra conductor—when people talk in rhythm with their gestures it tends to be good venting; letting their anger come out verbally rather than physically. But when their gestures are short, choppy, stab-like motions, disconnected from their language, it is likely that they’re about to explode physically. This couple was actually making verbal threats like, “I’m going to kill you, you son of a bitch!” “You’re dead, mother-fucker!”
In a flash I said, “In all my years of police work, I’ve never seen somebody able to express their anger like you can! I appreciate that, because sometimes things really piss me off and I wish I could express my anger like you are!” I was empathizing with them to bring their attention to me and to the importance of what they were feeling, and away from a fight.
Another time we came into an argument with the woman yelling and screaming at her husband. I said to her, “I bet you don’t talk to the mailman this way, do you?”
“What? Of course not!”
“And I bet you don’t talk to your car mechanic that way, do you?”
“No, of course not!”
“Well the reason you talk to your husband like that is obviously because you care a whole lot more about what he says than what the mailman or the mechanic says.”
“Yeah, well I guess so.”
My questions first took her attention away from her emotions and what she was mad about. Then I offered her a new meaning for her outburst—it was because she cared about her husband. After about 15-20 minutes of me telling them how frustrated I was at not being able to express my feelings the way they could, they started counseling me. Soon it was apparent by the way they were sitting next to each other and looking at each other that they were eager to be left alone. I think we reframed their anger toward each other to such an extent that they wanted us gone so they could make up!
Once we came into a heated dispute and I said to the man, “Hey, you don’t work for the city, do you?”
“That car out there with the lights on, that’s not your car, is it?”
“You don’t want us here, do you?”
“You’ll be happy when we leave here, won’t you?”
This way I matched him and let him express himself. He was in the mood to disagree, so I started with questions all of which let him say “No.” Then I shifted to a “Yes” question, leading him to a more positive place and getting his implicit agreement that when we left he’d be happy. It might sound like a small thing, but it made a huge difference. Now we were on the same page and he was more relaxed—no longer disagreeing with everything we said.
We’d also do a thing I called “word salad.” I never did it in a disrespectful way, but when people get violent they’re behaving worse than childish. Sometimes I’d say, “What you’re saying here sounds like a phonological ambiguity to me, so rather than jeopardize any other litigation circumstances why don’t you just take a walk and let things cool off?”
They got so confused by the first part of my sentence, they would jump on the first thing that made sense, usually responding. “I’ll just take a walk and cool off a bit.”
I’d say, “Great, I appreciate that.”
Often we would use many of these different tactics one after the other, until we found what worked. By systematically attempting to stop violence by using our appearance or words, we put ourselves in a position where we would be much more justified—both emotionally and legally—if we ended up having to resort to a higher degree of force. Yet in all these experiments on permanent night shift, and during my thirty-year police career, I never fired my gun. I had to use mace on a person only once, simply because the man was so intoxicated I couldn’t communicate with him. We had tried many things, but he just wasn’t there because of the alcohol. He had a little paring knife that he wouldn’t drop. Technically I could have shot him, but I had been relaxed and aware enough to keep a table between us, so I was able to subdue him with the mace.
As amazing as these techniques were for defusing violence in the moment, our biggest success was that we stopped getting return calls from the places we visited. Before we started using these techniques, it was common to get calls from the same location two or three times a night. Sometimes my partner and I would spend 15 or 30 minutes out on a call, and we’d get in trouble from our supervisor because he wanted us in and out. If they didn’t straighten up right away he wanted us to simply arrest them. But we knew we could save time in the long run by coming to a peaceful resolution.
Probably our most interesting encounter came in June of 1984. My partner and I were patrolling our beat on a Saturday afternoon, when the dispatcher’s voice crackled over our radio:
“Car 405, Car 405, respond to 755 East McMillan Street, reference a man with a gun. The only description we have is he’s male, black, and his last name is Large. He threatened to kill a person and stated he would kill the police. Car 405.”
We replied, “Car 405, OK.”
Our sergeant came on the air with, “Car 422, advise Car 405 to wait for my arrival before they approach the address. I’ll respond with a taser gun.”
Unfortunately for us, my partner and I happened to be on the one-way McMillan Street heading for that very address when the dispatch came out. Other police units were coming over the air advising that they would also respond. Since we were so close already, we parked near the location and advised our dispatcher that we were on the scene. Needless to say, our adrenaline was pumping. We often got calls where the details sounded frightening, but this one was different. We were afraid. As we approached an alley between two buildings, we observed a man in an army coat arguing with a woman. Without thinking, I blurted out, “Anyone here order a large pizza?”
The male subject turned and looked at me with a puzzled expression. Even my partner was looking at me funny. I could see the man’s hands were empty. He said, “My name is Large…”
With that we knew who he was. We quickly handcuffed him and put him in the back seat of our car. Fortunately, he did not have a gun—something we did not know until after we had him under control. It turned out that he was a walk-away mental patient from the Veteran’s Hospital Psychiatric Unit. He had been walking around threatening to kill people, hoping to force the police to kill him. Who knows what might have happened if Mr. Large hadn’t been caught off guard. I sincerely believe that on this particular day the flexibility that I’d learned saved the life of a mentally disturbed veteran—and perhaps my life as well.
My partner, himself a Vietnam veteran, was able to chat with Mr. Large on the way to the Veteran’s Hospital. Upon our arrival, the hospital staff was shocked that we didn’t have to struggle with Mr. Large. I can’t thank the people enough who taught me how to use these skills. Even though we may have been justified legally with some tactical force, we could never have lived with ourselves if we had hurt Mr. Large.
Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to measure what doesn’t happen, but I can say confidently that I was involved in hundreds of peaceful resolutions that would have ended up in arrests or fights had we used traditional police procedure. Ever since my eyes were opened to what is possible, I’ve been studying and researching how police officers everywhere can increase their choices by using visual and verbal persuasion to prevent, or at least minimize, their use of force in violent situations. Believe me, police officers all over this country need new tools for accomplishing their duties. They are hungry for positive education that will enhance their control over themselves and others. No group of professionals needs flexibility more than police officers.
The Dork Police: Michael Gardner (left) and Mike Broering a.k.a. “Barney” during a USA Today TV shoot in 1988.
Mike Broering a.k.a. “Barney” wearing Michael Gardner’s hat during a USA Today TV shoot in 1988.
Michael Gardner in Sergeant’s Uniform receiving Officer of the Year Award, with wife Debbie Gardner and daughter, 1990.
These stories were excerpted from the book Sweet Fruit from the Bitter Tree: 61 stories of creative and compassionate ways out of conflict, available on Amazon as an ebook or trade paperback.
Michael Gardner’s stories show that more flexible ways to respond to violence can be extraordinarily useful for those who are in a position of power (i.e. carrying a weapon) and want more proactive and effective ways to assess a situation and maintain safety. Find out more at Michael’s police training website www.reasonableuseofforce.com. The strategies you use will, of course, depend on which end of the gun you are on. If you found these stories inspiring, I hope you check out the full book of true stories illustrating real-life conflict resolution.
Michael Gardner is retired from the Warren County (OH) Sheriff’s Office where he served as the Training Commander. He also served 27 years with the Cincinnati (OH) Police Department, seven as a training sergeant. Michael has served as an expert witness in State and Federal Courts on use of force and deadly force cases, and was invited to the White House Conference on School Safety after the Amish School Shooting. He has trained law enforcement and civilians around the world on personal safety. Contact Michael through his website www.reasonableuseofforce.com where you can learn when and how to use force tactically, ethically and legally.
Mark Andreas lives in Boulder CO, where he runs a private practice offering NLP Change Coaching to individuals around the world. Meeting both in-person and over Skype, Mark helps people resolve limitations and achieve life-goals using NLP and other methods for personal transformation and development (www.markandreas.com). Mark trains NLP in the United States and Europe, and is Author of the books “Sweet Fruit from the Bitter Tree: 61 stories of creative and compassionate ways out of conflict,” and “Waltzing with Wolverines: finding connection and cooperation with troubled teens.” Contact Mark through his website www.markandreas.com.
(A story from Sweet Fruit from the Bitter Tree)
I was awakened late one night by a man kicking open the door to my bedroom. The house was empty. The phone was downstairs. He was somewhat verbally abusive as he walked over to my bed. I could not find his eyes in the darkness but could see the outline of his form. As I lay there, feeling a fear and vulnerability I had never before experienced, several thoughts rushed through my head: First, the uselessness of screaming. Second, the fallacy of thinking safety depends on having a gun hidden under one’s pillow. Somehow I could not imagine this man standing patiently while I reached under my pillow for my gun.
I believe the third thought saved my life…
Read this and 60 other short stories about how real people responded to conflict and violence in unusual and creative ways. Some funny, some heart opening, some startling or surprising, these stories cover the full spectrum of life—from the conflicts we face in our daily lives to the intensity of war and threats of extreme violence. The solutions each person finds are unique—no two are exactly the same. Why say more when you can visit Amazon.com to read the first three stories on Amazon’s Look Inside feature.
In this unusual booklet, a former Cincinnati police officer with a 30-year police career, details his experience of using totally outside-the-box approaches to managing and resolving conflict. While working on the Cincinnati police force, Mr. Gardner was given responsibility for the most volatile cases because he developed such effective—though unconventional—ways of dealing with these dangerous situations. Whatever your life position or profession, these stories offer a wealth of creativity and flexibility we can all draw from. And if you are an officer or police chief, the following accounts open up a new realm of choices to increase protection for you and your fellow officers while simultaneously improving your effectiveness in the communities you serve.