March 27, 2023

#006 - Training People to Listen Deeply

#006 - Training People to Listen Deeply
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RSS Feed podcast player badge is a Law Enforcement Officer's Lifeline!  Available only to LEO's and their families, this Crisis and Suicide Hotline is staffed 24-7 and today, we have the Training Coordinator with us =, Chuck Stringham

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You don't want some knucklehead picking up that phone because of law enforcement officers, a brother or a sister, their life is at stake. And you want really trained, well trained people manning cop line. Because cops are calling when they're in crisis. They need somebody good. You need to come right away, there's a man with a gun. Receiving an emergency signal from 524 George. All available units roll Code.. Welcome to the De-Escalation Conversations Podcast. Today, I'm truly honored to have a man that I've gotten to know and have tons of respect for, for many different reasons that I'll share during this interview. Chuck Stringham is a retired 34 year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department in retirement check was looking for a way to get back to the profession that supported him for 34 years. And then January 2020, he found a Cop Line recruitment email from his retirement group email blast, you went to the website, he applied to be a listener. He went to listener training in June of 2020. And the rest, as they say is history. Chuck is now the Cop Line training coordinator. And what I would like to start this conversation off with is Chuck, tell us about Cop Line and what it is that you do as the Training Coordinator. Thanks, Kerry. Thanks for having me. First of all Cop Line is a 24-7 confidential crisis line for active or retired law enforcement officers. And also their families can call in when they do call, they'll get a retired officer who has attended training to answer their call. And then once again, everything is confidential. And we try and help them work through their problems. That's awesome. So if they're if an officer either active or retired or their family is in crisis, they can pick up the phone. And just give Copline a call. And what kind of I'm trying to think of the plural for crisises, crises? Would an officer typically call Cop Line for it? Is there any kind of limitations or parameters around that? There's no limitations, basically, probably about 93 94% of our calls are just never a bad day. And I want to get something off my chest. They want to talk to somebody who's been in the trenches, which is why and we all have to be retired to be listeners that a small percentage of callers are a little bit more escalated. They've had a family fight or an argument with their sergeant or just something that has gone beyond the normal better day. No final percentage of callers are the ones who intend they were called a Cop Line to be their last. That means they're in real crisis in they're really thinking about suicide. So it works not just at a low level crisis I've had a bad day but all the way up through I'm ready to pull the trigger or I'm ready I'm ready to put my plan into actions. Exactly. What can people expect if I'm an if I'm an officer and I'm calling up what's this call going to be like if I'm if I have let's say I'm experiencing a prolonged IA internal affairs investigation and it's just tearing me apart I may be having think I'm out of this I might lose my job and I call Cop Line. What's What's that experience going to be like for first thing they get is an officer who is most likely been through or know somebody that's been through what they're going through. So once we get past the I answer the calls, a Cop Line, this is Chuck what's going on? And that gives them an opportunity to chillin to me what the what's going on in your life. Once we get past the couple of minutes, then they can start detailing their crisis once again. going on with them. And as you say, if it's an IA investigation, I can ask them questions like, Do you have anybody that you know that's going through it that can help you navigate what's going on. Or I can say something like, Hey, I've been through one. I don't know what your department rules and regulations are. But I can tell you that it can be tough. So we can go from trying to get them to understand somebody that's in their life that can help them. And then maybe I can add some information from my life that helps them hopefully navigate what's going on. That makes sense now, for 22 years, I was on the Peer Support Team San Diego Police, I retired after a 30 year career for 22 of those years. I know that our criteria for the Peer Support Team was that somebody had to have died as a direct result of your actions. And the officers on the department knew what the criteria was. So they knew that when we showed up at a scene we'd been in the vast majority of times for our call outs was officer involved shootings. So when we showed up to an O is, as you said, they knew we'd been in the trenches with them. What is the pipeline do to help ensure that the listeners, the folks that are answering the phone for Cop Line, when an officer calls in have been in the trenches? What's the what kind of criteria do you have for that if a person's interested in becoming a Cop Line listener, they have to go to the website. They read that Cop and fill out a volunteer questionnaire. And that questionnaire really details their experience as law enforcement officer, we'd like to have them have at least 10 years of good solid police experience. That includes work in the field, in any other things, you can work the jails, they can work the courts, they can be a traffic officer, but we want to have a generally well rounded 10 year experience. And use the officer who spends 10 years in the field. They get a well rounded sense of what's going on in police work in in their communities. And they've responded to a lot of things that would help them develop the abilities to help our callers if that makes sense. So 10 years on the job. And they have to have been might the source just broke? But basically, they can't have been fired for misconduct or anything. They have to have retired Oh, good standing. Is that the term? Yes, we want them to have retired a good stand, not retiring in lieu of termination or lieu of discipline. We want them to be someone who had a really good solid police career. Okay, and so after let's say somebody goes to the website, they fill out the application form. As the training coordinator, tell me, what's that training going to look like for a listener or listener candidate. Let me jump into the process for you as far as the questionnaire. Once the questionnaire is finished, and, and submitted, then the director of Cop Line Stephanie Samuel, she will make a phone call to the person who just submitted their questionnaire because she wants to vet that person and give the person the opportunity to vet Cop Line, make sure that it's a good fit for both sides. If it is a good fit for both sides, then that person will be recommended to our volunteer coordinator. He then makes the calls to all the people who have been vetted through the questionnaire when a class comes up, like hey, do you want to go to this class in Texas? Do you want to go this class in California, you want to go this class in New Jersey. So that's how it gets started. As the training coordinator, I trained I coordinate the classes from the standpoint getting in touch with the students prior to the class. Sending them paperwork that they need to have and following up with them with their needs them schedules and basically be in that contact person for them when they prior to going into class and then when they actually reach them. Try and greet them. Let them know what's going on and then get them situated before the class get started. That's got to be like herding cats sometimes. It can be but I find dealing with law enforcement professionals even in retirement They still pretty, have pretty much have a good sense of taking care of themselves. That's a good thing in in a Cop Line class, how many instructors are roleplay? Evaluators? Are you also coordinating behind the scenes on average, I usually coordinated about 12. listeners. And we have psychologist, and we have one person who's been a lifelong member of the training cadre at Suicide Prevention Center of Los Angeles, my coordinator, about 12 people to help us out, because Sure, the training runs smoothly, and making sure that everybody is well taken care of during the training. While that's along with all the participants, too, so that's a lot of people that you're hurting cat. Let me ask you this. Why don't you share with us a little bit about the training, because I know is, if I'm calling Cop Line beyond at least 10 years on the job, well rounded career retired in good standing, I want to know that this listener is well trained. So tell me a little bit about what this train looks like you mentioned, Texas and California. Tell us how many times these trainings take place in a year? And what does that training look like? We try to have at least three trainings a year, one East Coast, one West Coast and somewhere in the middle of the country. Just for this year, perhaps we had the train in California, the one that you attended. And then we have a training in Texas coming up in May. And then we have a training in Florida coming up in November of this year. So like I said, we try to have three trainings here. And one thing that is hard to get through to the new students is that they spend a lifetime in their career, learning how to solve problems, they go to a house or some sea. And they have a limited amount of time to get the information, digest that through their experience, and then come up with some kind of solution or suggestion to help the person that they're dealing with, get through their problems. And when you come to Complan training, we really want you to strip away that we want you to be focused more on listening, and trying to understand what the person is going through, before you even try to offer any kind of suggestion for help. So that could take two to three to five minutes just to get the person feeling comfortable talking with the listener. And so once that report is established, and a lot of the training is designed on helping the new listeners understand how to build rapport, because if you don't have rapport, they can care less what you're going to talk about. So when you establish rapport with the person, then you're on that same wavelength, to where they're now in tune with you and you are with them. And you can work your way through the crisis, and eventually help them come up with a solution. Not telling them what you think they need to do. Get them to have the solution coming from them. Let's start certainly having a solution come from them. I would think one of the biggest benefits is that that's a solution that's likely to work for them versus a listener giving them a solution that for any number of reasons might not be the right one for that person. But if they're coming up with that it's more likely to be effective. Am I right, in that? You're absolutely right, because what works for me, may not work for you. And so if I get you to buy into something that you've tried or that you're going to try or that you have tried calling from you, you're more bound to stay with that type of a problem. That makes sense. Do you have callers that have substance abuse problems? They're finding themselves drinking a lot more. Or maybe they were on a IOD and injured on duty. And they've been prescribed that pain medication that they realize, hey, this is becoming more dependent on this than I even realized. Do you have callers that call in with those kinds of issues? We do We have a good number of callers that after you give them the greeting, complain, this is Chuck what's going on? While them are crying, you can hear the clinking of ice in the glass. So you know right away that there's something going on that is a lot deeper than just the normal, I've had a bad day. So yes, we do have that. And then we have some officers will admit to getting addicted on their legally prescribed painkillers. And it's just gone too far. And we try to help them work through that. And even if they don't have a resource that they are comfortable with, we have Kotlin has over 1500 embedded resources that work directly with cops. So they understand what they go through day to day. And we can help them get connected with some of those resources. If that's what we're there. At that moment. A lot of times they're not. And so they'll say, I'm not ready for a resource like that. Can I call back? If and when I'm ready. And we obviously tell them yes, they can call back. And the crystals researches at a later time. That makes sense. I think one of the cool things is the fact that if somebody's just looking for a resource in their local area, and they don't want to ask somebody at their job, because they don't trust whatever psychological services are available to them that they're truly be confidential. Or they just don't want to draw attention so that they can call cop line and ask for those resources. That's pretty neat. Yeah, if you're in an agency that has a robust peer support, or a robust Support Services Bureau, or something similar to that, you're really lucky because the majority of departments across the country, they don't have that, in in the smaller agencies, if they do have it. They don't trust him. Because many times the meeting that officer has with a peer support or with a EAP in place Assistance Program, provider, the information gets back to the department in some way in some fashion. So there's the confidentiality is blown out the door. So as a Kotlin listener, that can be guaranteed that it's confidential. And the resources that we refer them to, they are confidential as well. Nobody is going to meet with one of our therapists that we recommend, and then have them turn around and talk to their chief of police or their shift sergeant or their shifting tenant. Because you're right, they don't trust him. And if we want to make sure that trust carries over between the listener and the caller, and within your resource that we provide. It's interesting that the trust word because there's cops, one of the first things I learned very early in my career is everybody lies to us. And we eat when you feel like you can't trust anybody that you're working with, or dealing with the fact that you now have a resource Cop Line that you can trust. That's pretty special. That's pretty cool. Let me ask you this. A lot of people experience situations that require de escalation, calming people down. And what tools have you found that are effective when you need to talk, somebody asked the ledge, maybe it's calling on calling into Cop Line. Like I said before, we use active listening a lot. And what that means is I listen more and talk less. And so sometimes just allowing the person to vent to me, or to any listener that's on the line goes a long way toward helping them to relieve some of the pressure that they're experiencing, from the most minor situation to the most aggravated situation. So in my mind, time, breathing, allowing them to process what's going on in a mountainous fashion, in a confidential fashion. Again, where I'm not going to provide I'm not going to be judging what they're telling me. I'm not going to be forcing my solutions down their throat. I'm really focused on hearing them not inserting my story into their problem and making sure they know it's a safe place so that they can get what's in their head and off their chest, so that they can get some breathing room so to speak, to help figure out what's what the next step is. And that whole listening without judgment truly without judgment, and I love what you said. It's given him some space to it's interesting, I thought just occurred to me. I was thinking back a few months ago, I had a really bad cold. And somebody asked me if I had taken any vitamin C to help kick it. And I know all this stuff, I am, I'm a, I still maintain my EMT certification. Before I became a cop, I was a firefighter, I was an EMT, I was an ER Tech, I used to teach first aid and CPR at the Academy for eons and advanced officer training. So I really well versed in medical field. But here I was, I was the one that was sick. And I forgot something as simple and basic as a supplement like vitamin C, and this thought, popped into my head, sometimes even when we know what we need to do. Because our brain has shifted into survival state and the thinking part of our brain, the prefrontal cortex, the front of our brain, that logical rational part of our brain is shut down. These thoughts don't occur to us. And so as being able to call cop line and have somebody talk through it with you, to help you go, Oh, I know that I just forgot about I didn't think about that. Or I didn't think about that applying to my situation. That's really this like somebody saying, hey, Kerr, did you take some vitamin C yet? Hey, I see a parallel there. Is that what you found working top line that sometimes the cops, they know this stuff, but they just forgot about it, or didn't think of it? Yeah, exactly. Sometimes the stress, and even PTSD that's undiagnosed. That can really affect a person's ability to think clearly. Especially when they're in the moment. And they're really experiencing the effects of stress. And you're right. They know a lot of times what they need to do, but sometimes they just forget, or they just have a million other things going through their mind. And all it takes is one suggestion from a listener that will stay with that cobweb and say, Oh, I do have that in my life. I do have a pastor, I do have my brother who's really good. Partner, I do have my wife, I trust her. I do have a sergeant that I really get along with. So they have that resource in their life. And they just had temporarily, like you said forgotten about it, because they're so entrenched in what's in front of them. Trying to deal with it. They forget the basics. Yeah. Can like he can't see the forest for the trees. Exactly. Yeah. Cool. I want to dive into a couple different things. Shifting gears just a little bit. How does Copline even get funded? Who pays for this? You do? I know that the listeners are volunteers, but there's got to be some hard costs that how does that all get paid? Glad you asked. First of all, everybody is a volunteer. Nobody takes a salary. Even our attorneys and our accountants, they all do it for our fundraising. We have three or four fundraisers a year golf tournaments, Midnight runs what anybody else thought thinks up to do? I think, you know, my class, I had those lapel pins made that I was making available to the students and all those proceeds 100% Go back to Cop Line. So I'm able to, you know, when I make off of those, including when I spent on it back to Cop Line. We have some very generous donors. A couple that give high amounts and then we really survive on the smaller donations of people that know of our service. I'm sure some of our listeners donate some of their money as I do. So it's, we really have a shoestring budget, our website, our materials, printing, our materials, mailing out The materials for the class that's really our biggest expenses, and the 800 number that callers call in. So it's really a streamline budget. And we'd like to do more. But we rely on those general done the generosity of the public and listeners in just making sure that we have enough money to survive. Got it? So I'm hearing you say is if somebody had 20 bucks, that they're going to donate somewhere, or spend on coffee that they can go without, they could donate 20 bucks to Cop Line. And 100% of that is going to go toward supporting Cop Line, it doesn't get diverted off into somebody's pocket. No, the host of our website is they do it 100% For free. Wow. And you know how some, if you donate on some websites, they'll take in a processing fee. The company that helps us doesn't take any processing fee 100% of what you give goes directly to Copline functions. So let you're absolutely right. If someone has 20 bucks or 200 bucks, and we're, we've had up to $50,000 donated, they can either send a check to the address on the website, or we have a donation button that they can do electronically from the comfort of their own home. That's cool. Okay, and for anyone who is driving right now, and you're thinking, Wait a second, Chuck gave me that website at the beginning, I don't remember what it is no stress in the show notes. If you're watching this on a video platform, you'll see it there. Look in the shownotes, you'll see the website that you can go to and you can donate and I love the fact that the payment processor isn't even taking a percentage. That's really unusual. That's pretty darn cool. So we talked a little bit about this. But if someone wants to volunteer, they said, they're listening this podcast and they're, or they're seeing us on Youtube or Facebook or Instagram. And they say, Hey, I really one volunteer days, go to the website. Correct. And then find the link from there about volunteering. Yes, and you hit on the volunteer button. It will take you to questionnaire, like I explained before, and the questioner is very lengthy and detailed. And you really need to be as honest as you can on that questionnaire. Because when our director Stephanie Samuels gets the completed questionnaires, she'll call you. And she's gonna challenge you on the things that you put in there just to make sure that again, like I said, You're a fit for Copline, and Copline is a fit for you. And then we do require ask that you once you get through the training that you commit to to eight hour shifts a month. Another thing is that the training is completely on your dime. Meaning that you know, the cost for travel if you're traveling from the bar to the training, which really gives a commitment on behalf of the listener. Because if they're willing to pay for their flight in their hotel, and subsistence for the five days of the training 40 hours. That's a big commitment. And so we appreciate that we understand that. So we hope that they really think long and hard about whether or not this is for them, because there is an expenditure on their part to come to the training. Yeah, and depending where they are, and it's great that you have the training on both coasts and in the middle, because that way, it lessens that expense, but the same time 40 hours of training, all in person, none of its unzoom No, and there's no guarantee you're going to make it through the training is there. There is not because sometimes a student will come in, and after a day or two, they'll realize this wasn't for me, which is fine. Or that they'll get through the training and there is some kind of a disconnect where it just doesn't sit. So there'll be a conversation at the end of the training with someone who is not quite the right fit. And then that's between the director and them. But yeah, you're right. Some people don't make it through. Wow, sounds like a really intense process, but at the same time, gosh, if so, Maybe calling in and there. To use the standard phrase, I always use non on the end of their gun, you don't want some knucklehead picking up that phone because of law enforcement officers, a brother or a sister, their life is at stake. And you want really trained, well trained people manning Cop Line. Because cops are calling when they're in crisis, they need somebody good. Exactly, you want to make sure that the person on the other end of the line has received some training and have the ability to at least acknowledge your pain that you're going through, and do whatever they can to help you work through that issue. And if the caller will sense that the listener really just doesn't have it, then we've lost that person. And you don't know what information will get out about Cop Line, just from that one bad meeting between the caller and the listener. So yes, we do want to make sure that the listeners complete the 40 hours, and they we put them through role playing. So we actually get a chance to see how they would react in roleplay. It's tough. But it is a good assessment on somebody's ability to take what's being taught in class and put it together in a scenario situation. So we want to make sure that they have the ability to, to the competition. That's really awesome. It's great, because you have been in the training, not only is it intense with 40 hours, but the students are being evaluated every stage that they go through both the receiving lecture then doing the roleplay scenarios, which are all evaluated, resulting in pass or fail. Even if somebody's put forward the time effort and money to come to the train doesn't mean they'll make it through. And that just really shows how, how discerning the training team is. And that comes right back to you as a training coordinator. So kudos to you for keeping those high standards. Thank you. And I do think that we do owe it to our callers to make sure that when they pick up that phone number one, we answer the call. And number two, we have the skill and ability to help them with their issues. Very cool. Very cool. Just one last or almost last question. Do you need more Copline volunteers as listeners? Absolutely we do. Right now we have with the last facet graduated, we have over one 135, maybe 140. Listeners, we do have some listeners that just started with CopLine. And they are starting to feel the burden of doing that continually. So we do not have to we do need to have a continuous line of replacements coming in so that everybody is not stretched too far. When they're signing up for their shifts. So yes, we do. We'd like to get up to over 200 listeners so that maybe the commitment is only once a once a month. But I think the the reality is, once a listener, get the taste of helping another officer. We can't keep them off the lines for the first couple of months, which is a problem in itself because other people don't get the job and shift that that enthusiasm to help a fellow law enforcement officers are so that we don't lose another brother or sister in blue. It's a great feeling at the end of a call when the caller says, Hey, I feel better having talked to you. And there's no greater compliment on the listeners ability to help the caller than having that being said to you. Again, we do want to have as many listeners as we can, which makes perfect sense. So folks, if you're a retired law enforcement officer, then by all means, hop over to Cop and click on that volunteer button. Shoot, click on the donate button whether you're active or retired, and anyone active or retired in law enforcement or your families can call Cop Line. When you're in crisis. Don't let it get too far before you call. Chuck, thank you for being here. I absolutely love what you're doing with Cop Line, thank you for all of your extra work above and beyond being a listener yourself on the lines, but also being the training coordinator. And the boatload of work that comes along with that your efforts truly are appreciated because the top line training would not be as good as it is, if you weren't there in the high standards that are being said, you're definitely have an impact in this world. So thank you for all that you do. I appreciate you highlighting Cop Line and what we do, we want to get the word out. Because in this country, there isn't a lot of resources available for officers and Copline is one of the best resources available for that officer, retired or active or their family members that are having a bad day, and just need to get something off their chest or if they're at the end of their rope. And they're sitting in the station parking lot with a gun in their lap in there ready to end it. Again, thank you, Kerry for allowing this message to go out and hope it reaches people and we will get more listeners and to maybe someone will be able to donate to us. That'd be awesome. So listeners, Cop Get over there, volunteer if you're eligible, and everybody can donate. And again, the fact that 100% of your donation goes to benefit top line, none of it gets eaten up by administrative costs. Because everybody's volunteer and including the payment processor. That's just awesome. Chuck, thanks so much for being here. listeners. I look forward to our next episode on de escalation conversations. Be sure to tune in every Monday, every Monday at 6am Pacific for a new episode. And check out if you're just finding us make sure that you check out our past episodes as well in the archive. Until next time, please stay safe