Former officer wants to inspire behavior changes

CHARLESTON, Ill. - CHARLESTON -- A former Eastern Illinois University officer is trying to encourage others to take their work one step further. Police already interview people after a crime. But what if they use the time to motivate that person to change their behavior? He says this could be another learning experience for officers and students on college campuses.

Dave Closson came up with this idea a few years ago. He served in Iraq. He says when the civilians realized they were there to help, their response changed. And they were more willing to get involved. He says he's also seen that while working with college students and he wants to share what he's learned.

College experiences can shape the direction you take in life. Closson came to EIU for classes but also worked for campus police.

"It was a mixture of fun times and stressful times," said Closson. "The best part about it though was when you could get out and interact with the students."

"I've seen them on 7th Street and 1st Street and that's about it," said Abby Staples, who is a sophomore at EIU.

Even though students say they don't see officers on a regular basis, they're out there. Closson says he knows some of the interactions that happen aren't always positive, but he wants to help fix that.

"It used to be you could just show up and write a ticket and be on your way," said Closson. "Now as things have changed, you need to have that balance between being community oriented and also there to step up and enforce the laws when you need to."

Closson calls his technique "motivational interviewing." He says officers should ask open ended questions and offer affirmation.

"Out here, it's a lot easier," said Closson. "The students are more relaxed and they're open to talk. They realize it's not a one-way communication. The conversation's about them."

"I think it would make a big difference if they came on campus and tried to make positive interactions because everyone has bad connotation of them," said Staples. "I think it'd be a lot nicer if they were on campus just walking and saying hi to students."

Closson says each case is different, but being proactive can help college students set their sights on the future. With a focus on better behavior, he says he hopes students move forward in a positive direction.

Closson wrote a book about motivational interviewing. He'll be heading to Florida this week to talk with other campus officers across the country about how to use the technique. To find out more about it, click here.


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