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There are a lot of ways to effectively communicate no matter what situation you

may be
in. In this paper we will discuss the process of verbal and nonverbal communication
and the
components associated to each one of these. The differences between listening and
hearing will
also be touched upon. The formal and informal channels of communication in
Criminal justice
organizations. We will also look into the different barriers to effective
communication in
criminal justice organizations. Strategies that may be implemented to overcome
barriers in criminal justice organizations.

Communication is the act or process of using words, sounds, signs, or

behaviors to
Express or exchange information or to express your ideas, thoughts, feelings, etc.,
to someone
Else. ("Merriam-Webster", 2015). Communication in any criminal justice setting
involves both
verbal and non-verbal communication, whether it be inside the organization itself or
outside in
the community. In order for a law enforcement agency to function properly both
forms of
communication are critical.
Verbal communication is all about the spoken word, whether it be face-toface, over a
telephone, via a radio or any other social media outlets. Officers must be able to
with their fellow officers and superiors, and also the people in their community.
There are two
main components to ensure proper verbal communication, that being the content of
the message
and word usage. When an officer is communicating with a victim, suspect, or any
other person

for that matter they need to ensure that they are communicating on the level of
that person. This
ensures that the officer is completely understood.
Non-verbal communication includes written communication as well as body
your gestures, how you act and dress and even your scent. Police reports are a
great example of
non-verbal communication, this is what prosecutors will use to issue a criminal
complaint. When
an officer is called to testify in court they will often re-read these reports to refresh
their memory
because the majority of court dates are months down the road. Probation officers
will use these
reports when deciding what punishment they should give that person. When it
comes to body
language this can tell an officer a lot about the person that they are talking to. If the
person seems
nervous about what the officer is asking they might be lying or trying to hide
something. This
will allow the officer to ask further questions to find out the truth. With that said,
verbal and nonverbal communication is very important in the law enforcement industry and should
never be
taken lightly.
There are many differences when it comes to listening and hearing in
The communication process starts with hearing, your ears pick up the sound waves
and transmit
them to your brain. Therefore listening comes after hearing and in order to be
skilled enough it
must be an active process. The person hearing the message will evaluate what they
have heard
and then they will respond to the sender in whatever way they see fit. There are
several barriers
to effective listening however. If a topic is boring or uninteresting to the listener
they may not

pay attention to the sender. If an officer is excited or stressed, this may interfere
with the
information process. Distractions can also make listening hard, this could include
conversations or the environment that you are in. When a person is listening they
have to make
sure they are concentrating on what is being said, they should also utilize feedback
and ask
questions to make sure that they completely understand the message that is being
portrayed. In
most cases messages are passed down from the top person in command of any
All criminal justice organizations have what is known as formal and informal
channels of
communication. This being the process by which information flows from the sender
to the
receiver. Formal channels will usually follow the chain of command which provides a
sense of
order and security within the agency. This in turn guarantees that all officers will
receive the
same information when it comes to the content of the message. Nevertheless, there
drawbacks when formal channels are used exclusively or in excess. There are strict
rules to
follow pertaining to time and the personal effort it takes. For example: in order to
search a
persons home, said officer must first obtain a search warrant which will take some
time to go
through the proper channels of communication. Evidence will disappear while
waiting on the
warrant to process and arrive on location. A written record should always be kept
and if there is
need for a change or modification it will take time to correct this.
Informal channels can be considered to be like gossip, these are the unofficial
ways of

delivering information within any work environment. An example being, detectives

parole officers to receive clarification on an initial report. When time is important
and crucial,
the officer can cut through the lines of their superiors, so that they can pass
information faster.
Receiving this information faster could prevent a dangerous criminal from leaving
the area and
also assist in the apprehension of the suspect. The information will still need to be
clear and
precise no matter the avenues it flows through.
There are five known barriers to communication: emotional, physical,
ineffective listening and listening speed. Barriers are influencing factors which
impede or
breakdown the continuous communications loop. They block, distort, or alter the
information. By
identifying the barriers and applying countermeasures, team members can
communicate. (University of Phoenix, 2009).
Emotional barriers could be present in the sender or receiver. People tend to
base things
off of personal experiences or expectations. In an effort to address emotional
problems within
law enforcement departments, administrators of some agencies have developed
peer support
systems. (University of Phoenix, 2009). Physical barriers are the characteristics of
environment that will make effective communication more difficult. Any obstacle
that slows
down or interferes with information flowing freely is a physical barrier to
communication. When
two people are unable to agree on the meaning of certain words or terms this is
known as a
semantic barrier. If the receiver does not get any feedback, the words from the
sender can

translate differently than they were meant to. Ineffective listening is the failure on
the receivers
end to understand what the sender is trying to communicate to them. Habit is the
biggest cause of
ineffective listening. Certain factors will cause people to tune out certain messages,
such as the
topic being uninteresting, emotional involvement or the failure to adjust to
distractions. If
information is not transmitted or understood properly or on time, this could cause a
criminal to
get off on a technicality of falsely transmitted information, whereas an innocent
person might be
sent to jail.
In conclusion: In any criminal justice system it is important to be a good
listener and to
properly transmit information. To prevail over barriers of communication a person
needs to
concentrate on the sender, fully understand the message, evaluate what the
message means, and
respond properly. This can all be done by knowing, understanding and following the
components of communication. Law enforcement personnel should all be familiar
with verbal
and non-verbal communication. An officer must apply listening skills so that they
understand the message. Formal and informal channels of communication both
have there
advantages and disadvantages.


Merriam-Webster. (2015). Retrieved from

University of Phoenix. (2009). Written and interpersonal communication. Retrieved

from University of Phoenix, CJA304-Interpersonal Communications website.