It’s Time to Think CLEAR About Officer/Citizen Encounters

Police interactions with citizens are in the national spotlight. What previously wouldn’t have made the local paper, now makes national news and the presence of video during these encounters has become the norm. Not since the early 90’s, in the aftermath of the Rodney King incident, has there been such intense focus and scrutiny on officer performance and training. In response to the national call for increased training, my training partners and I wanted to create an approach that can be easily taught and applied during officer/citizen encounters, with an emphasis on increasing officer safety while simultaneously improving the quality of contacts we have with our citizens. The goal of increasing officer safety does not have to come at the detriment of the quality of contacts with the citizens. We can improve both!

My friend and mentor Brian Willis has taught me that there is nothing “new” in law enforcement training. Yes; there is new technology and there are new techniques, but training principles have remained basically the same since the beginning of time. Information is repackaged and sold as “new” but it’s really not “new”. That’s the case with our Think CLEAR™ Approach to Law Enforcement Professionalism. We don’t claim to have discovered anything new, but we believe it’s a useful approach that can be implemented in day to day interactions. The Think CLEAR™ is an approach, not a rigid framework, system, or checklist. It’s a philosophy on how to engage citizens and we believe it will be useful to law enforcement officers nationwide.

The concept started during a conversation I was having with my training partner Phil Carlson. We were on a long road trip through rural Minnesota and we were talking about what gets cops into trouble. We listed the typical things such as bad attitude, poor tactics, rushing through calls, and a laundry list of other things. The more we talked, we realized what gets cops into trouble can be broken down into five broad categories. We theorized, if we address these five categories in training, we can improve officer performance, make officers safer, and increase the overall quality of contacts with citizens. Basically…it’s a win/win/win situation.

Together with my training partners, we developed the Think CLEAR™ Approach to Law Enforcement Professionalism, which consists of the five following categories of officer performance: Communication, Legal Authority, Emotional Intelligence, Adaptive Decision Making, and Respect Unconditionally. It is both tactical and philosophical. Performing well in each of these categories brings us closer to our ultimate goal of increasing officer safety while simultaneously increasing the quality of contacts with citizens. This is not a “touchy-feely” approach to law enforcement contacts. The goal isn’t to make everyone “feel good”. The goal is to increase both officer safety and public safety.

In the coming blog posts, we will examine each of the categories of the Think CLEAR™ approach and provide practical ways of enhancing performance in each category. We will use a recent case study of a Social Circle, GA Police Officer ( as a backdrop to our discussions, to explore how using this approach may have changed the outcome for the involved officer.

Stay Safe,

John Bostain

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