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Traffic Cop Gives Tickets but Avoids Complaints

By the very nature of the business, L.A. County traffic cops receive plenty of complaints about their work. After all, most motorists don't think they deserve a ticket. Each complaint gets documented and placed in the officer's personnel file.

But, surprisingly, over the past 20 years, L.A. Sheriff's Deputy Elton Simmons has made over 25,000 traffic stops and cited thousands of motorists with traffic violations without a single complaint on his record. When his supervisor Captain Pat Maxwell started looking through Simmons' file, he was stunned. Maxwell found plenty of commendations but not a single complaint.

It was such a shocking story that a CBS News crew was assigned to follow Simmons in an attempt to learn his secret. First, they noticed Simmons' "pitch-perfect mix of authority and diplomacy" without a trace of arrogance or self-righteousness. Of course Simmons still hands out plenty of tickets; they just don't come with the standard guilt trip.

Here's how Simmons described his approach: "I'm here with you. I'm not up here" (he motions his arm up towards the sky). One thing I hate is to be looked down on—I can't stand it—so I'm not going to look down at you."

A driver who got a ticket from Simmons agreed. The driver said, "You know what it is, it's his smile. How could you be mad at that guy?"

"Apparently, you can't," concluded the CBS News team. "Time after time, ticket after ticket, we saw Officer Simmons melt away a polar ice cap of preconceptions. And his boss [claims] there's a lesson in there for hard-nosed cops everywhere."

Preaching Angles: Communication, Gentleness, Leadership—It's possible to make hard truths more winsome when we communicate with gentleness rather than self-righteousness and harshness.

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