A recent study shows De-escalation policy puts police officers at risk, and since I now conduct training workshops and seminars on conflict de-escalation for church and corporate security teams I was very interested in reading the article. Here’s a news story on the study …
Here is my 2 cents worth – I agree that if you make it a POLICY to de-escalate a situation, you are forcing the officer, who is there at the scene, boots on the ground, there assessing in real time what he or she is dealing with, to do something or waste time to say something that in fact will prolong the situation or even escalate it. And apparently the study seems to bear that out. In all fairness I will admit that I have not read or seen a police de-escalation policy so I have no true idea what police officers are instructed to do or say. But I wanted to address the idea of having a POLICY for de-escalation.
Now this does not change the fact that I strongly believe that your body language, your tone of voice and active listening play a critical part in de-escalating a situation, but I do point out and share stories in my training workshops examples of how sometimes it just does not work, a situation will still go sideways, especially if you are dealing with a person who is highly intoxicated on alcohol or illegal drugs, or a schizophrenic.
No two incidences, situations or even domestics with the same family are ever the same. What works one day or night is pretty sure NOT to work the next time you are called back, even if it is a few hours later after leaving the scene the first time! Been there, done that!
No police officer should start off heavy handed anyway, but officers need to be given the latitude to assess the situation and adapt, improvise and over come based on their training, experience, and assessment of the situation at that moment. Trust your officers. A recent study shows De-escalation policy puts police officers at risk.
I put on training workshops for church security, corporate security, and people from service oriented small businesses who will sometimes deal with an angry, rude, obnoxious person, and I share that in 20 years as a road patrol officer I found that 9 out of 10 times I was able to successfully de-escalate a situation with a person by being well aware of my own body language, my own tone of voice, and being engaged in the moment and actively listening. I have never seen a situation calm itself down with both parties yelling at each other, and I have seen how situations can escalate and explode from one person rolling their eyes, or using a condescending tone of voice.