Dave Closson grew accustom to hearing the words “thank you.”
These words didn’t come from Closson doing someone a favor. No, these words came from students he was issuing citations to. Serving as an Eastern Illinois University police officer, Closson used “motivational interviewing” to not only deescalate situations, but motivate students to change. Motivational interviewing is a conversation style used to strength a person’s own motivation to change his/her actions.
From his experiences as an officer, Closson released a book on how to incorporate motivational interviewing in campus police departments. The book is called “Motivational Interviewing for Campus Police.” Closson plans to give a presentation about his book on Friday, Jan. 22, at the 2016 National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) Strategies Conference: Alcohol & Other Drug Abuse Prevention” in Orlando.
Closson was introduced to this style of interviewing after co-teaching a class focused on alcohol prevention. Heather Webb, director of EIU’s Office of Student Standards, originally encouraged Closson to co-teach the class because she felt he would be a natural at the interviewing style, which is common in alcohol prevention trainings.
“The student will voice his/her own reasons of why they should make a change, and then you help strengthen his/her own internal motivation,” Closson said, describing how the process works. After motivating the students in the class, Closson decided to implement the tactics on the streets as an officer too.
“College police officers are also educators who are teaching responsibility, accountability, campus safety and alcohol safety,” Closson said, who believes that campus officers' jobs are more than simply keeping the peace. Motivational interviewing has the potential to influence a student’s behavior right at the incident instead of waiting for change later on, he said.
“Why not start the change process closer to the incident and ideally learn from it?” Closson said.
In each conversation as an officer, Closson chatted with students and showed them he genuinely cared for their success and well being. “Motivational interviewing is about the interaction with the student,” he said.
Closson believes this style of interviewing has the potential to apply to law enforcement agencies across the country especially for crime prevention officers. Police officers use the book “Verbal Judo Tactics & Techniques of Police Communication,” which teaches officers how to deescalate situations and gather cooperation.
“I like to say that Verbal Judo gets at the de-escalation and cooperation, while motivational interviewing sits right on top of it,” Closson said. For him, motivational interviewing takes police communication to the next level by fostering the long-term change in the individual.
While Closson is no longer an EIU police officer, he still uses motivational interviewing as the assistant director of Illinois Higher Education Center at EIU. In the position, he gives trainings and consultations to reduce student health concerns related to alcohol, drugs and violence.
Starting as an EIU police officer in 2010, Closson was a crime prevention officer, field training officer and patrol officer. He also served as a sergeant in the Illinois Army National Guard, where he experienced community policing firsthand as he collaborated with civilians in Iraqi.
For his time with the Illinois Army National Guard, he was rewarded two Army Commendation Medals, one for meritorious service and one for valor. He was also rewarded the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Air Assault Badge, National Defense Service Ribbon, Iraq Campaign Medal and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
Closson graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in technology with concentration in a training and development at EIU.
For more information about Closson and his book, go to www.miforcampuspolice.com.