The Five Minute Police Officer (Book Review)

The first five minutes of an interaction between a police officer and a member of the public is crucial. By his/her words, intonation and body language, an officer can influence the other person to be either hostile and uncooperative or helpful and reasonable. The Five Minute Police Officer explores various scenarios, ranging from pesky kids to protesters to people in states of high emotion, to show techniques for cooling things down. Putting it positively, The System is a way of getting other people to want to do, what you want them to do.

The System has five clearly identifiable steps in dealing with difficult people. First step you learn to manage your own natural feelings. Have a positive outlook and remember that dealing with difficult people is your job. Second step you learn to ask the right questions and give feedback. Not only will you be more accurate, you will be defusing the other person’s anger. Third step you learn to empathize on two levels, factual and feelings. If you have done the first three steps, you have built a communications bridge between you and the other person. Step four is how to get people on your side by involving them in the solution to the problem. If you can safely get people into things so that they feel personally involved, you move their energy around so it is with you instead of against you. Step five is to act, but only if the first four steps do not work. What police officers often don’t understand is that if the first four steps are done right, you often don’t have to do Step Five at all. And the steps should only take 5 to 20 minutes.

It is written like a short novel in a light, humorous vein, in which one officer is tasked with the job of teaching good communication skills to another.

The heart of the book is what rough-hewn Tacky Burns (“The Tack”) learns to call simply “The System”. It’s a set of steps designed to lower the confrontational heat. Staff Sergeant Ed Hill, NCO i/c of the Gibsons, B.C. Detachment, said this about the book:

“I have seen Terry Barker’s “System” work time and again, and I have delighted as others watch and listen. A member talking on the phone to a particularly difficult individual tends to attract the attention of all around the office. For those who have read The Five Minute Police Officer it’s of no great surprise to see The System kick in – and, most times, work. The delight comes, however, in watching skeptics as they see and hear it working before their very eyes. That experience alone is usually enough to win over yet another convert.

If you are a first-time reader of Terry Barker, take the time to enjoy this book and prepare yourself to experience the magic and success of ‘The System’.”

Buying Information

Trade Edition (paperback), $20.00, includes postage and handling. In the USA, order from Marie Paoletti at This book is self-published and Marie is the sole distributor in the USA.


Marie Paoletti

Marie Paoletti has been a Mediator for 8 years for Mediation Services, Castro Valley, doing business, community and family mediations. She has been Mediation Trainer for 5 years, teaching both a Professional’s Mediation class and Police Officers Standards and Training (P.O.S.T.) Law Enforcement Mediation Class for the Alameda County Sheriff’s… MORE >

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