If anyone embodies the character traits of effective community policing, it is Keith Pool. Pool, 55, started with Sheffield Lake's Police Department Sept. 9.
However, he is no rookie. He served on neighboring Sheffield Village's force for 18 years, the last eight as resource officer at Brookside High School, attended by about 1,000 Sheffield Lake teens. He also lives in the city.
“Becoming a police officer was my goal, but working with kids and people is my passion,” Pool said.
He acknowledges he can use many tools to do his job, but the one he opts for when possible is to offer help. “I gotta do my job, but I will try to help.” he said.
“If you're not giving me a reason to arrest you, then let's try to work things out to help you. Arresting you is not helping you. The law is written for those who cannot be helped.”
Pool said he believes that listening skills are a top requirement for being a good cop – whether in a school or in the community. He also acknowledges that it is not always easy to listen when someone's voice is raised at you, calling you names and causing situations to become highly escalated.
“You bring them down by not yelling like they are yelling at you.” Pool said. “You talk them down so you can talk. It's about understanding.”
He said he learned the value of listening – and respect – while working at the Lorain County Jail while he was in his 20s. “It taught me how to approach people and how to talk to people.”
“I just watched and saw how they treated other people.” He laughed when he added, “I could have been scared away from it (law enforcement), but it taught me how to respect and gain respect.”
Pool will also parlay the experiences he's had working with local teens in his work with community members.
He's proud that many parents thanked him for the way he helped their kids.
“I'm glad I left that impression,” he said, adding that kids can teach you a lot about life, despite their bad behavior. “Something small can get worked out,” he said, adding that kids need someone to listen to them.
“Don't do all the talking; let them do the talking. Find out what's going on in their lives. They have a lot going on,” he said.
He believes this is the way to work out small things before they escalate.
Pool also believes that he and fellow officers find their work today more challenging because tight municipal budgets do not provide sufficient funding for vitally needed training. He asks how a police officer can approach somebody with post-traumatic stress disorder, as an example, when they have never been trained on what it is and how to handle a situation involving someone who has it.
So, he will continue to rely on what he knows will work by using his people skills. “You must be a 'people person' in this line of work,” he said. “You gotta love what you do.”
Contact freelance writer Michele Murphy at email@example.com.