Police Psychology | Get Thee to a Conference
by Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP
My first experience with a professional conference came when I was 35 years old. My partner and I had started a newsletter for mental health of police officers in the late 80’s. In an attempt to get it out to the public, we had contacted Clint Van Sandt of the FBI Behavioral Sciences Unit. We went down to see him and we were ushered over to Dr. James Reese. He was running a program inviting the top police psychologists to stay at the FBI Academy and he invited me to join. It opened up my world to about fifty police psychologists. Fifty people doing what I did, but also something different. That different was what I needed to know. I remember I made a presentation that day about Keeping It Simple as a law enforcement officer. I quoted some great persons in history like Aristotle, Einstein and Dante who all told you to simplify. Then I said “we have to go with the modern greats” and I went around the room and quoted the psychologists who spoke before me. Got everyone’s attention on that one, and it started my work with the FBI and many other departments since.
Every time I go to a conference I learn something highly useful. Something I can use as a therapist or as a consultant. Something I can use as a speaker is a special treat. Cops conferences are fascinating. How else do you learn about the Boston Marathon bombing or the demonstration in Chinatown in Singapore? Do you know the best hot spring in the world is the Blue Lagoon in Iceland? I went there because of an invite from a conference. I got paid to go to Brussels for dinner by a European agency because someone heard me at a conference and wanted the staff to meet me. I asked very perplexed what they wanted me to do, and they said you’ve already done it. We just wanted to know we can call on you if you’re needed. Score a free trip, a consulting fee and a good dinner.
In 1999, I threw a conference for the Society for Police and Criminal Psychology with my partner in New York. It was pretty easy. Then in 2004 I threw a conference with Ricccardo Fenici overlooking the Vatican in Rome for the same group. I was elected the first Executive Director of the group and have been part of throwing conferences until last year when I started this newsletter. I guess a newsletter started and ended me on the conference circuit. Gee, I guess I am back where I started and sixty-years old next month.
What I like about conferences is you get to taste the flavor of the local culture. I am going to a conference in Singapore next month, the ACCOP – Asian Conference of Criminal and Operations Psychology. Every three years I go to speak, but I love just listening also. Talk about a great learning experience. A new look on terrorism, presentations that blow your mind, the greatest food in the world and really awesomely attractive women (no touch, but I still look) and probably good looking men also. I smile the whole time (sweat the whole time too). I get a suit made, shirts, buy cool junk they don’t have in my country and my tradition every three years is to taste the most awful single food in the world – the durian. It is a fruit that smells like rotting flesh that they eat over there. It doesn’t taste much better.
I remember Jello shots in New Orleans, actually I don’t remember them that well. I was young so give me a break. I was with the International Association of the Chiefs of Police. What a great learning conference, a great expo center where everyone comes to display the latest goods, and a real sense of what it is like to be in Blue. They have parties or hospitality suites for every major department or law enforcement agency. I used to love going from suite to suite, meeting people, eating and drinking, and really talking to many of the people you read about and eventually people I knew.
Talk about hospitality suites, the Society for Police and Criminal Psychology has awesome conferences in psychology (www.policepsychology.org) and really great hospitality suites. I know I used to help run them (both the conference and the suite). You would hear the latest in presentations from around the world and only 20 minutes each. Then you talk to the person and learn more. It is great. And every year they have a banquet to match the place where the conference is being held. Last year it was gourmet southern in Atlanta. This year it is a hoedown Austin Barbecue, in Texas of course. By the time you leave you know all 150-200 participants, from psychologists to police chiefs to patrol officers. I think everyone in law enforcement should go to that conference at least once. (In September this year, go to the website to find out more).
I spend a lot of time in conferences with cops as I used to be a motivational speaker at many. Hostage negotiation conferences, terrorism conferences, Christmas conferences, hell I even spoke at a technology conference, and foreign conferences are my favorite. I learn something every time. I want someday to go with my union guys. They go to union conferences in Hawaii and Puerto Rico and they just love them. Conferences happen all over the world. And if you are going to work in this profession, learn to go for one. Apply for the time and possibly money and go to a conference to help yourself develop. It is a great thing and you will be forever changed. Then come back and write on it in a blog or something. You’ll thank me for it.
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