There was a recent incident with an off duty cop that highlights the critical need to be clearly thinking and making smart choices. I had just posted a blog a mere 5 days ago pointing out that a part of de-escalating a situation is knowing when YOU may be in fact escalating it!
First of all, let me stress that I was NOT at this particular incident, and as pointed out by some news media the video DOES NOT show the ENTIRE incident, it starts AFTER something happened and the off duty cop felt compelled to go out and it seems leave the boundary of his property to grab hold of a young teen among a large group of teens. I do not know the history of the off duty officer and the kids walking through his property, I don’t know if anything has ever been damaged, I do not know anything other than what is on the video, and I just want to take the opportunity to use part of it at face value to highlight what I am trying to teach and train at my De-escalation training workshops.
I have handled calls like this during my career, situations exactly like this with kids walking through yards and property, and I have dealt with neighbors not getting along. For the purposes of this blog let’s just use the off duty officer in this incident and video as a composite character of everyone who has ever been frustrated with the complete lack of respect for other people and other property as shown by many juveniles today.
Let’s look at the choice to go out and apparently leave the boundary of his property, and go and grab onto a juvenile among, oh let’s say, about 6 of his friends. Based on the video it appears the man is pulling the juvenile BACK to his property. There is a very strong probability that the man did not call the police before running out there on his own, out numbered, to grab a juvenile and attempt to drag the juvenile back to his property. I know from experience that when we hear over the radio that an off duty police officer is dealing with an incident everyone comes with lights and sirens blaring! Since no sirens can be heard in the video for as long as it was recording I strongly believe the police had not been called by the man and he apparently strongly believed he could handle this matter.
Let’s now do some what ifs… The man was among a crowd of juveniles, some as tall as him, they are younger, faster, and can be very violent. The man put himself in a situation where there could have been a spark that created a very violent mob mentality and since he was clearly alone, this man could have been very badly hurt or even killed.
In the video the juvenile’s friends clearly get to the point that they are going to “go for it”, their body language is very clear in the video as they encircle the man and their friend in the front yard of a house. The man clearly does not see or ignores the warning signs and continues to pull the juvenile, and then it happens, one of the other juveniles with a red back pack rushes the man and uses his body weight to slam into the man, knocking him over some bushes. As the man gets up, still holding onto the juvenile, another juvenile takes a swing at the man and at that point the man seems to realize it is getting bad and he pulls a gun.
But what if he did not have a gun? You can see in the video that the act of aggression by the 2 juveniles was beginning to excite and stir up the crowd. A mob mentality was quickly beginning to form. I do believe the man saved his own life by pulling his gun, but could this situation have been avoided, or even de-escalated?
In situations exactly like this I had home owners who were absolutely at their wits end and highly angered by either a neighbor or people going through their property, they would angrily tell me they have had it and if the police did not help they were going to take care of the problem themselves! I urged home owners to seriously consider their options and consequences of their actions, I pointed out an old saying to “pick your battles”. I urged them to try to get video of the transgression for the police to use, I urged homeowners not to try to deal with a group of juveniles on their own.
Folks, believe me I know how easy it can be to get caught up in the moment, adrenaline rush and all, but you have got to SLOW down and THINK of options and consequences. You MUST consider that holding back and waiting for back up may be the best option! When you are outnumbered, you ARE OUTNUMBERED! Whether it is by males, females, young or old, you ARE OUTNUMBERED! And I can tell you from experience that dealing with an enraged group, a mob, it is NOT fun and NOT safe! In the course of my job there were a few times that I had to wade into the crowd to grab someone, but the majority of times I waited until I saw my friends rolling down the street with lights and sirens before I jumped into the crowd. (And what a coincidence, as I was writing the last paragraph an episode of Homicide hunter: Lt. Joe Kenda came on where he talks about his rookie years and how in one incident he came upon a large crowd fist fighting in the street and he jumped into it before back up arrived… And he ended up getting shot. He comments how dangerous it was to have jumped into the crowd like that by himself and how he learned NOT to do that again!)
This is why consistent training in decision making skills in stressful situations is so critical. If you don’t train with a little bit of adrenaline, you may have what I call a vapor lock during a real stressful incident, and you will either under-react, or over-react, or maybe even not react at all.