Fine Art, Fine Tuning Situation Awareness and Training Cops to See


A very interesting and thought provoking article “Teaching Cops to See” The class taught by Amy Herman, not a cop but a historian, lawyer and lover of fine art who saw a need for cops to actually get some training on developing their awareness.

Early one morning a bunch of New York City police officers, guns concealed, trooped into the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Inside a conference room, Amy Herman, a tall 43-year-old art historian and lawyer, apologized that she hadn’t been able to provide the customary stimulant. “I usually try to give you coffee with plenty of sugar to make you talk more,” she said.

The officers, all captains or higher in rank, were attending “The Art of Perception,” a course designed to fine-tune their attention to visual details, some of which might prove critical in solving or preventing a crime. Herman laid out the ground rules. “First, there are two words that are not allowed—’obviously’ and ‘clearly’—since what’s obvious to you may not be obvious to someone else. Second, no reading of labels. For purposes of this exercise, we are not focusing on who the artist was, the title of the work or even when it was created. Third, I want hands back, no pointing. If you want to communicate something, you have to say, ‘Up in the left-hand corner, you can see…’ “

My thought is the methodology Amy Herman is utilizing may have a very positive effect on creating and nurturing  cops to see the bigger picture in complex dynamic encounters. The workshop helps cops focus on the subtle and obvious details allowing them to understand the bigger picture of what may be going on.

One of Herman’s graduates, Lt. Dan Hollywood, whose last name seems well-suited to his Jimmy Stewart-like demeanor, said her pointers have helped snag pickpockets, handbag snatchers and shoplifters who prowl the Times Square area. Hollywood coordinates the Grand Larceny Task Force of 24 plainclothes officers. “Instead of telling my people that the guy who keeps looking into one parked car after another is dressed in black,” he explained, “I might say he’s wearing a black wool hat, a black leather coat with black fur trim, a black hoodie sweatshirt and Timberlands.”

Be sure to check out this article “Training Cops to See” it is sure to get you thinking and if you practice the concepts, maybe just maybe we  will earn the title “trained observer!”

2 thoughts on “Fine Art, Fine Tuning Situation Awareness and Training Cops to See

  1. I thought the group may find this article of interest. Its unique way of training and its unique and i might add refreshing that cops would find go outside their ranks to train in the area of situation awareness. I thought the article very much reflects the eclectic views we expose here and i feel you cna see the clear benefit and results of mixing things up just a bit and looking at things from various perspectives.

  2. I can’t even believe this idea got cleared, with other, less unconventional methods of training coming up against difficulties. Looks like a good sign.

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