De-Escalation Techniques

National Police Training
May 17, 2012 — 4,627 views  
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It's important for law enforcement personnel to become educated in the appropriate ways to handle potentially violent situations. De-escalation, whether verbal or non-verbal, is an essential practice and officers who develop superior communication skills may be able to keep volatile circumstances under control.

The key to maintaining control of any situation that seems like it could easily get out of hand is to leverage empathic listening skills and remain in control of the conversation.

De-escalation can be difficult, as the process is highly reliant on removing as much emotion from the situation as possible. However, when done correctly, the appearance of tranquility and calm can defuse a dangerous situation that may be just around the corner. Here are some techniques that may help:

Manage emotion

When people are in emotional pain and threatening to create safety issues, whether in public or in a private setting, law enforcement personnel need to take the situation very seriously. If an officer gives his or her undivided attention to the potential aggressor, the situation may begin to ease up. When people receive attention, they typically feel validated and are less likely to turn violent. This type of focus does not only involve verbal cues that indicate what is being said is heard - it also involves eye contact, body language and a calm voice.

Listen without judgment

It's important, when attempting to keep a person civil, to remove any impulse to pass judgement from the equation. If the unruly person is speaking incoherently or having a mental episode of some kind, law enforcement personnel should not react in a condescending way. Learning to be non-judgemental can help defuse any unfavorable event.

Allow a few moments of silence

Officers often use silence during interrogations to calm the conversation and allow both parties to digest what is being discussed. This same tactic can be used in public situations and is an influential part of de-escalation. Allow the person to work out his or her own thoughts, problems and actions. Giving him or her time to think through recent events may help calm down a sensitive discussion or circumstance.

Prepare a back-up plan

If a person does turn violent, it's important for law enforcement personnel to handle the situation with as little force as possible. The officer should stand and face the aggressor at an angle, so if the individual charges or makes another distinctly violent move, the law enforcement agent can properly sidestep the aggressor and make an arrest.

Taking the time to speak with someone who feels taken advantage of may prevent unfavorable events from unfolding. Communication can be a powerful tool, and a thorough discussion aimed at de-escalating the aggressor may prove beneficial for everyone down the line.

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