(PHOTO AND STORY: KHQ.COM)
With a lot of recent attention on officer involved shootings and in some cases the shooting of police, it's easy to forget the majority of what law enforcement does is talk to people. In an age where social media dominates the way we communicate, the Spokane County Sheriff's Office is leading the way with a brand new training aimed at teaching new recruits how to talk to people.
At River Park Square Mall in Spokane, Deputy Mitch Othmer is following instructions to start random conversations with strangers. KHQ tagged along, hiding our cameras so they wouldn't influence the interactions.
"Most of the time they're pretty open and willing to talk," Deputy Othermer said. "A couple of times they're in a hurry and not willing to talk."
Tony Anderman, an Instructional Systems Designer for the sheriff's office, watches from a distance, reviewing Deputy Othmer's ability to read body language -- other people's as well as his own.
"He's got his hands in his pocket. I'm sure he's watching his hands but at the same time he's relaxed about giving clues that he's interested," Anderman notes.
You might think talking to someone isn't something that would need to be taught, but Anderman says you'd be surprised.
"We're seeing a difference when we see younger generations come out of universities and colleges. You have some that can talk; They can go up to anyone and talk, and we have others that can't."
It's for that reason that the Spokane County Sheriff's Office hired Anderman to set up this training: showing rookies how to strategically adapt to any scenario.
Anderman pulls Deputy Othermer aside after each interaction to give him feedback on things like eye contact, hand gestures and facial expressions.
"I grew up more of a quiet guy so this was something definitely new. This helped build my confidence," Deputy Othmer said.
And it's building trust in the community too.
It's a tool all law enforcement need to have on their belts, regardless of generational gaps.
The training is nationally certified and has already generated a lot of interest from law enforcement agencies across the country, including airport security.