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What Skills Do I Really Need to Win a Violent Confrontation?

November 01, 2007  |  by - Also by this author

What Can I Do?

There are several things that you can do to ensure that you are ready to face the violence of the streets.

Avoid Fatal Errors: Learn the fatal workplace errors for officers-and avoid them (see "10 Deadly Sins" on page 46). By routinely performing good officer safety practices you can minimize the likelihood of putting yourself in vulnerable positions.

Tailor Your Response to the Suspect: Is he truly a threat? Do you need to confront her, or is the situation conducive for leaving her alone to cool down? Unless a crime has been committed or is about to be committed, your responsibility to confront an individual is minimal.

Know Yourself (and Your Fellow Officer): Your ability to avoid escalating a situation is precious. Your ability to deescalate or completely defuse a situation is priceless. Recognize your strengths, but don't be shy about taking advantage of what time is available to you in dealing with suspects. If the suspect is in a contained environment, you may be able to mitigate the prospect of having to use force by calling in resources ahead of time. Making the most of what you bring to the table can prove immediately profitable.

Learn Verbal Judo: For decades, many veteran officers consciously cultivated the gift of gab. Doing so not only allowed them to develop a rapport with locals and establish contact with informants, it also allowed them to develop the requisite rapport that helped them keep potentially agitated individuals from becoming violent. In recent years, the practice has been referred to as verbal judo and assigned its own nomenclature.

Many police agencies send their officers through verbal judo training programs. Some officers have displayed initiative in seeking the training on their own. In any event, you should work to develop excellent communication skills. When piggybacked onto your observational skills-that is, your ability to recognize when an offender is under the influence of stimulants or just raging emotions-verbal judo can be your best tool for preventing violence.

As rookies you will have ample opportunity to get your knuckles bruised or your nose bent without looking for it. Don't needlessly escalate situations. You need to be secure enough to not allow provocative remarks made by suspects to get the better of you. You should be professional enough to recognize that each situation is unique and sometimes a most violent confrontation can be avoided with just a little finesse.

At the same time, there are those for whom the extension of respect is seen as a sign of weakness. When it comes to dealing with such individuals, "Excuse me, sir, would you mind adopting a sedentary respite at curbside?" might sound nice, but "Sit your ass on the curb!" will get the job done.

In fact, recent psycholinguistic studies suggest that "Alpha" commands, those commands that are direct and unambiguous, are far more effective at keeping situations from escalating than "Beta" commands, those that are less clear cut or are imprecise. "Beta" commands tend to confuse situations, inadvertently encouraging suspects to take actions contrary to those desired by on-scene officers.

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