Sgt. Marty Tucker thinks millennials have trouble talking to strangers. Tucker, who runs training for the Sheriff’s Office in Spokane, Wa., says new recruits seem inhibited when making face-to-face contacts with members of the public, NPR reports. “They’re so stressed out about making contact that they don’t think about anything else,” he says. “So they get up there, and then they’ll freeze up.” In a job that depends on good communication skills, Tucker says this is a huge problem. Police administrators and trainers have become increasingly vocal about what they see as a major shortcoming of young law enforcement recruits.
“I wouldn’t say they’re a different breed,” says Thom Dworak, a retired police sergeant in suburban Chicago who now works as a police trainer. “But I had a field training class two weeks ago that was primarily older millennials, on the job five to eight years, and they’re even whining about the new ones coming in.” The problem, say trainers like Dworak, is that millennials conduct so much of their social interactions digitally that they don’t have as much experience reading people’s body cues. Dworak says when he was growing up, “if you had problems with your friend, you discussed it in the alley.” Millennials discuss things online; but those online skills don’t help much when dealing with the public out on the street. The Spokane Sheriff’s Office now puts new hires through a kind of remedial people-skills class. Anthony Anderman set up the training, which requires rookies to walk around a shopping mall and a bus station, trying to engage strangers in conversation.