Seminary 101: how to talk to cops

I’ll admit that I don’t really have a lot of experience talking to police officers. I’ve called them a few times and reported on issues – but really, my experience with uniformed or uncover police officers is rather limited beyond complaining about my neighbors. But I’m starting to realize that how to talk to cops, especially when reporting a crime or a situation that might lead to a crime is an actual skill that pastors and seminarians need to develop. My internship has led me to talking to cops more than once, and learning how to effectively communicate with them is something I’m realizing I need to work more on – because, if I don’t, that’s just going to cause problems in the future.

Today, at my internship site, near the end of the day, a cop walked in and asked if we called the police about a disturbance. I hadn’t but directed the officer to meet with the staff of the other church in our building. Turns out that they did call the cops; a man who participated in their sandwich line became belligerent and made threats towards the church, staff, and other patrons of the sandwich line. I escorted the cop to the other staff and stood there why they told their story. Many voices spoke at once and they, I think, made the mistake of telling the story from the beginning. They buried the lede. By the time the conversation finally got to the actual moment of belligerency (well, moments – the guy was a jerk), it was too late. he officer had too much information to file the initial report and not the right kind of information as well. The details are important – and the details make a story more real in the retelling – but it doesn’t help in this kind of situation. Short and sweet, direct and truthful, tactful and polite; that, I think, is how one should talk to a police officer during a difficult conversation. Am I mistaken? Is there a better strategy for clergy folks to talk to law enforcement?