Sometimes your best de-escalation efforts will not work, that’s just the way it goes when dealing with people. Dealing with a person who is angry, or drunk or high or mentally/emotionally impaired can be very challenging, it is very fluid and very dynamic. I know, I lived it. But I also saw how the vast majority of situations my buddies and I dealt with over the years with people were successfully de-escalated by our use of our body language and our tone of voice.
A number of years ago a man called for an ambulance to transport his adult son (about age 18-23 or so) to the hospital for observation. The father stated his son had not been taking his meds for schizophrenia and the family was concerned because of the erratic bizarre behavior. The man said his son had not been violent. Per protocol the ambulance asked for police to check the scene first for safety and my buddy and I got the call.
When we pulled up the father was on the front porch steps on the cell phone, the son was pacing back and forth on the porch and sure enough, as soon as he saw us pull up he became agitated and stressed and began to yell at his father. My buddy walked to the sidewalk in front of the house and called out that no one was in trouble, we had heard over the radio that someone needed an ambulance and we were just checking it out because we were in the area. I remained across the street with the cruiser to not give the kid any sense that we were “crowding” him, but I was in position to respond immediately. My buddy struck up a conversation with the father and son, my buddy had a relaxed body posture and a calm tone of voice.
After a few moments I called for the ambulance to pull up, the son was calm. As the ambulance passed between me and the father and son to park, I looked up to see that the son was on top of his Dad’s shoulders, hitting his Dad about the head and shoulders with a fist! My buddy and I quickly jumped in. There had been no warning what so ever that the son was going to flip like that, no precursor body language of an impending assault, no sense of stress or agitation. Sometimes a situation will just go bad, but I absolutely credit my buddy for keeping things calm and peaceful for as long as he did until the ambulance arrived with his use of body language and tone of voice.
I found this video on Youtube of another situation that went bad. It happened in 2015 at a gas station in Salt Lake City, Utah. There were some issue with a particular young lady’s pump or credit card, and she got upset. The young lady demanded to see proof that her card was not charged for the gas she did not pump…
If you watch the body language of the manager and the way she seems to be talking to the young lady, there is no sense that the manager feels frustrated with the young lady, who doesn’t give off any negative body language either. The manager seems to just stroll over to the counter to grab the receipt, she doesn’t jab it at the young lady, she hands it to her and seems to explain calmly what’s on the receipt, proving that the credit card was not charged. And in fact just before she is struck in the face it appears that the manager tries to smile. The manager appears to have done every thing right in regards to NOT escalating the situation. The young lady appears to just stroll in behind the manager, showing no obvious sign of agitation or aggression, her face doesn’t have a scowl, and all of a sudden out of no where this young lady slaps the manager!
How the manager handled it from there is also praise worthy in my opinion, instead of putting the beat down on the young lady the manager used just enough force to detain the young lady until the police arrived. I can not recall an incident in my city where an employee or manager did not put the beat down on a thief who had implied a weapon. So again, sometimes your best de-escalation efforts will not work, things will just go sideways on you, and you have to be able to be adapt. This manager also kept her cool and used only enough force to detain the young lady.
I tried to look up the case and find out how this incident ended up, whether the girl was charged with assault and battery or what, but I was not able to find any thing.