Emotional Intelligence and Law Enforcement

Dr. Cathy Greenberg:
 Today, it’s a pleasure to have Assistant Chief Neil Vaughan with us. I’ve been working with our fabulous guest for the better part of a year on emotional intelligence and law enforcement.

We just presented at a national conference for the National Tactical Officers who are looking for ways to increase their performance. Neil is the Assistant Chief of Police for Pembroke Pines Police Department in Broward County, Florida, for those of you who know the area. It is near the Miami. He oversees all operational and administrative aspects of the department.

Neil has 25 years of law enforcement experience and is a distinguished graduate of the 253rd Class of the FBI National Academy and he holds a Master’s degree in Executive Leadership from Liberty University.

He is currently getting a degree in Executive Coaching from the College of Executive Coaching and he’s leveraging his knowledge in understanding of emotional intelligence. He is doing that single-handedly right now in his department by providing developmental training and offering strategies and tactics for his leadership team as well as a host of other leaders seeking to successfully engage what we would call transformational leadership.

In addition, Neil is an executive coach who assists law enforcement professionals to develop their leadership skills making them better people, regardless of what they do and increasing their decision-making abilities and their teamwork.

I am very excited to have my colleague, one of my mentors, and somebody I look to on a daily basis for guidance and insight. Neil Vaughan, welcome to the show.

Neil Vaughan: Thank you very much. It’s truly an honor to be speaking with both of you.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Thank you Neil. Cathy knows you well but I think what will be helpful me and then our audience is that we always want to ask who has been most influential for you in your life and your career. Give us a little history into the make-up of who Neil Vaughan is.

Neil Vaughan: Probably, you don’t hear this a lot, but my wife and my mother are probably two of the most influential people in my life. My wife is just that natural born leader, she has that magnetic personality, and I see her working all of the time and it definitely rubs off.

As a police officer, it’s my job to serve the community. My mother is one of those people that is a selfless server. She is like a saint on earth. So seeing her do that, growing up in that environment of service, really they have definitely influenced my personal life.

Probably from a professional standpoint, the current Chief of Police where I am.  He is definitely one of the finest men that I have ever met. He just provides such a great example of leadership and his actions, and that is Dan Justino.

Those three people I would say have provided the most influence on my leadership ability, ethics, values, and how I go to work each and every day.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Neil, when you think about your career—how long have you been doing this now?

Neil Vaughan: For 25 years.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Twenty-five years and you are still a relatively young man in your 40’s, so let me ask you this. How did you decide that you wanted a career in law enforcement and when you did that, how did it change your life?

Neil Vaughan: Well, my father was a police officer so growing up my whole life that was the only thing I wanted to do. It was a dream come true becoming a police officer. It’s provided great fulfillment for me. Again, as I talk about the service aspect, how we make the world a better place is by serving the community.

I wouldn’t say that it has changed my life in as much as it was just a dream come true.

Dr. Relly Nadler: With your dad being a police officer would he be sharing things that were going on or was it more sometimes it’s not always what you say it’s what you do that has influence. What were some of the key things? At an early age a lot of boys want to be a fireman. For a police officer, what were some of the things that stood out that maybe you saw.

Neil Vaughan: I think personal responsibility is one of the things that he talked about. You are responsible for your own actions and that he was a supervisors; he retired as a lieutenant in a neighboring agency. Seeing him always a leader, leading other people, but holding himself accountable for his actions was very important and to be very independent.

He always put forth the significance of independence in your life; that you don’t do what everybody else does just because the do it. You do the right thing and it’s never the wrong time to do the right thing.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Neil, as you think about the command staff and the officers that have come into your agency over the years, what are some of the key behaviors a good police officer needs for success in this career?

Neil Vaughan: Okay. I would say even before behaviors there would have to be a genuine desire to serve. That as a police officer that is what you are doing. You are serving the community and you are impacting people’s lives in a positive way. Finding law enforcement officers that want to serve others is key.

As far as behaviors go, to me that all goes back to the use of emotional intelligence. That is what is so significant. When you think of police officers, the number one behavior that you want them demonstrating is integrity. After integrity you talk about professionalism. When you talk about professionalism that encompasses so much of emotional intelligence. Whether it’s self-expression, their impulse control, their stress tolerance, empathy is very important, and of course optimism because they deal with adversity each and every day. To be able to overcome that adversity and stay optimistic is vital to keeping that positive attitude as you serve the community.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Let’s say the impulse control with the officers that you work with; is there any kinds of keys that we can talk about? How do you teach impulse control or is that something that you think is more of a temperament? I guess also, a lot of people that you are dealing with have lack of impulse control that you are serving as a police officer. Any insights on that?

Neil Vaughan: No doubt, and you being an expert in emotional intelligence that you understand that you can certainly teach it and that is why it is so important to find police officers that have a decent level of impulse control before you come in so you can make those good officers great officer—their impulse control. Stress inoculation and training by creating stressful situations: you have officers not have officers have those amygdala hijacks that so often you see.

I think you can train to some extent. It’s about keeping a threshold of getting people in with decent levels of impulse control so you can make them great.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Neil, maybe you can tell us a little bit about how you select. I think that was one of the things that you were saying was around someone that already has some impulse control. So about the selection process and then also once you have some of those key things then the training would be fascinating to hear.

Neil Vaughan: Yes. The selection process is quite in depth. I’ll tell you, police officers first have to take a physical agility test and a swim test and then a written test before they can even apply to a law enforcement agency. Once they do that, then we do a screening process, we do a behavioral personal assessment—a device where police officers will have scenarios brought before them on a computer screen. They will then by however they respond to that particular situation, so you get an idea up front how they would deal with difficult situations, decision-making, again, back to impulse control.

We have recently added the EQi 2.0 Assessment which we believe is a game changer because having that threshold of what we are looking for is important. What we have done is created a group profile in our agency of our top performers and we are utilizing that with our candidates.

In addition to that we do an oral panel, a polygraph, a psychological, a thorough background investigation. Then it has to go through a command review, and oral board and a chief’s interview with medical screening and drug screening.

By the time you become a police officer to go to the academy to learn how to do the job, there’s been significant process and background checks before you even become an officer.

Dr. Relly Nadler: That’s huge. Given that both Cathy and I do the EQi, and it sounds like you also. You said you have a profile? What are some of the competencies that you saw with your outstanding folks, that they are high in?

Neil Vaughan: Obviously, social responsibility. To be a police officer you are going to have that high social responsibility. It gives us an opportunity should someone not have high social responsibility to wonder why they wanted to come into this job. It really helps the background investigators and that’s why the EQi 2.0 is so important for us.

In addition, you highlighted wisely the impulse control. That is very important. Also stress tolerance. We need to make sure that we have people coming into the job that have a good level of stress tolerance and decision making. Unlike so many people in their jobs, you have time, time is on your side. But police work you have issues before you and you have seconds to make a decision. So that decision making, that stress tolerance and impulse control are very important.

Dr. Relly Nadler: For the audience, the decision-making underneath in the EQi has impulse control was one of the key competencies, but also reality testing and problem solving. They all influence each other. Just to reiterate, Neil, you said social responsibility, impulse control, stress tolerance, and then the decision making—a matrix of those three. That’s huge.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: When we look at what hiring was like before the process they use now, what were the distinguishing characteristics that you can identify that have carried through into the emotional intelligence assessment?

Neil Vaughan: Well we really weren’t utilizing emotional intelligence. We didn’t use that language. It’s only recently, thanks to your influence, that we are actually utilizing emotional intelligence in hiring and leadership development.

Prior to that, we were looking at those, but we weren’t using emotional intelligence language. When you look at backgrounds and you had people that continuously got fired, that had issues with their boss, they were very difficult to deal with. Let’s say they would yell at their bosses. Clearly there is an issue of impulse control, we just didn’t call it that.

That background process was very important because the best predictor of future performance is past performance. Now, with emotional intelligence we are able to name it and now we can really delve deeper into it.

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