Lessons on Compassionate Policing from Joe Smarro of the HBO documentary ERNIE & JOE: CRISIS COPS

Lessons on Compassionate Policing from Joe Smarro of the HBO documentary ERNIE & JOE: CRISIS COPS
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1 Module 1
Recorded on: 2021-10-19
Unit 1 Presentation Materials: Lessons on Compassionate Policing
Unit 2 Transcript: Lessons on Compassionate Policing
Unit 3 Workbook: Lessons on Compassionate Policing
Unit 4 Recording: Lessons on Compassionate Policing

Compassionate policing is a mindset and culture that must be adopted across law enforcement agencies to be fully effective in the community. Not only does it provide community members with the support to get them the help they need, but at the same time, ensures officers are trained and well-equipped to deal with the demands of their roles.

Joe Smarro leads this session to understand what it entails to revolutionize policing for the benefit of the community, the agency, and the officers themselves. Joe is the founder and CEO of SolutionPoint+, a national training and consulting firm that focuses on cultivating mental wellness. He is a decorated combat veteran from the United States Marine Corps and served the San Antonio Police Department as one of the original members of its trail-blazing Mental Health Unit. Joe is also famous for the HBO documentary, ERNIE & JOE: CRISIS COPS, his TEDx Talk I See You, and other media features.

Specifics of his discussion include:

  • The role of the documentary Ernie and Joe: Crisis Cops in telling stories of compassion in the policing profession.
  • The identity crisis of the profession brought about by public scrutiny, competing narratives, and lack of appropriate training.
  • The training imbalance: The amount of training on firearms vs. communication and de-escalation and the amount of time police officers actually get to use these skills.
  • The skills that law enforcement should be equipped with: Communication skills and basic understanding of behavioral science to start to better predict human behavior.
  • The inevitable trauma in the job starting from the academy to the field and the need for better training and resources to manage the trauma they actually need to deal with on their job.
  • The disconnect between the officers’ experience and those of the people that they serve which creates challenges in their engagement and interactions.
  • The mental health stigma in law enforcement and the deeply ingrained culture of fear, shame, suppression, and lack of trust that that prevents officers from getting the help they need.
  • The need to share stories of human suffering – both from the community and the law enforcement front – to kickstart the conversation surrounding compassionate policing.
  • The importance of Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Training to facilitate communication and connection between law enforcement and the people they respond to.
  • Why CIT should be made mandatory just based on the fact that it helps understand human behavior and provides confidence to deal with crisis – be it with ourselves or others.
  • The desired outcome of CIT which is driving behavior change in the officers to be excited again to do their job by providing them with the needed skills and tools to do it properly.
  • Maximizing Mental Health Units by ensuring that both the law enforcement and clinicians are trained and equipped to best respond to calls safely.
  • Integrating self-care, wellness, resiliency, emotional intelligence, and de-escalation skills into law enforcement training.
  • The need for officers to not solely base their identity around their jobs and recognize that…
    • We must be person-focused, aiming to connect before correcting when we respond to calls.
    • We must practice ownership and accountability of how our reactions and response impact others.
    • Empathy and patience help others and ourselves to deal with situations better.

Inquiries and points raised during the Q&A were about…

  • Challenges in getting management’s buy-in to take part in efforts towards compassionate policing.
  • Training for de-escalation for minors.
  • CIT training for anyone that’s part of the sequential intercept model.
  • Bridging gaps between different partner agencies by simply listening.
  • Insights on the new 988 mental health emergency hotline.



Special Offer for US Law Enforcement/Public Safety Audience Members:

Want to watch the documentary before you attend the webinar?

If you are a member of a US law enforcement or public safety agency, you may register for unlimited free streaming of the Emmy award-winning HBO documentary ERNIE & JOE: CRISIS COPS (95 and 25-minute versions) through May 2022. We encourage those who register to use the film within their departments:

  • In CIT trainings
  • In training academies
  • As a mental health crisis response skill-building and/or officer wellness event for agency personnel
  • With the larger community, which could include one’s local National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) chapter and/or other local behavioral health organizations

Register here. Code: EJCC-LE.

More information may be found at: www.ernieandjoethefilm.com. For those not in law enforcement/public safety, the film is available on HBO.

Flyer for Agency Use



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Resources and Handouts


Audience Comments

  • “It is very clear Joe is incredibly passionate, I could feel it through my screen. I am a co-chair of a Personal Development, Self-Care, & Wellness subcommittee for my State and we just started over the summer. It’s very obvious how much this is needed in all forms but especially for first responders. I will be asking our Wellness Coordinator about these items. All of this is valuable, there wasn’t one thing more important than another. Thank you!” — Brittany
  • “Joe was wonderful! My favorite webinar so far. Thank you for sharing your personal story.”– Margaret
  • “This should be mandatory for all police departments all over the united states to watch.” — Migdalia
  • “Joe’s approach to policing and response to individuals with special needs is on point. All police Chiefs in the USA should be required to hear his presentation and view the documentary.” — Anna
  • “One of the best webinars I have attended. So much truth of our failures as law enforcement and society to deal with mental health issues. Would have loved to have this class when I was in corrections. Should be mandatory in all public safety service agencies.” — Dan
  • “I love Joe’s insights on ways to improve policing. I found it very interesting when he was talking about entry requirements and he gave the example of a bachelors degree or, in lieu, two years of college and two years in the social services. It struck me that the “in lieu” typically is two years of college and two years of military. Adding social services makes so much sense and is probably the direction we need to go today. Also, I love Empathy + Patience = Super Power. Great job Joe (and Christina)!” — Gary
  • “His passion is contagious. Can we clone him about 800 times and sprinkle him across America?” — Michael




About the National Policing Institute: Formerly known as the National Police Foundation, the National Policing Institute’s mission is to pursue excellence in policing through innovation and science. It is the oldest nationally-known, non-profit, non-partisan, and non-membership-driven organization dedicated to improving America’s most noble profession – policing.

The National Policing Institute has been on the cutting edge of police innovation for over 50 years since it was established by the Ford Foundation as a result of the President’s Commission on the Challenge of Crime in a Free Society (1967) and the related conclusions of the Kerner and Eisenhower Commissions, taking place during the same era.



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