Dealing With the EDP
Asking questions accomplishes two things. First, it shows that you're interested in helping them. Second, it forces them to at least momentarily focus on something other than their anger. Of course, there is always the possibility that they're just a little nuts...
But you'd be ill-advised to call them on it, especially as some agencies will document
any complaint they file against you with the same attention to aggrieved detail that they would any other citizen. It is estimated that 17 percent of the U.S. population has some manner of physical or mental disability, so it's very likely that you
will be dealing with such individuals more often than you might anticipate. While I was not one for placating the implacable or kissing ass when dealing with bonafide jerks, I did have an uncanny ability to get compliance out of society's more compromised souls.
Perhaps it was a case of "It takes one to know one" (I've been known for my occasional eccentricities). In any event, it was easy to forgive many of their trespasses. Recognizing that they are often incapable of being held responsible for what they say or do took ego out of the equation and allowed me to approach such individuals as softly as possible.
Your most eff ective tactic is to gain trust. One way to go about doing this is to show genuine empathy. You may have to humor the occasional delusion, but don't get caught patronizing them.
Often, this will mean fl at out saying "No" to their requests, but always with the explanation that 1) You can't do what they are asking, and 2) for you to say otherwise would mean you'd be lying to them-and you're not going to lie to them. While this may frustrate their wishes, at some level they will generally respect and appreciate the candor.
By responding to such individuals appropriately and compassionately, you are more likely to gain their trust and cooperation.
Don't refer to mentally impaired individuals by their liability, e.g., "schizoid," or "paranoid." As the old joke goes, just because they're crazy doesn't mean they're stupid.
You can acknowledge their compromised condition, inquire about medications, but refrain from being overly intrusive. Indeed, developing a rapport with such individuals often means dealingwith them on their own terms (so long asit doesn't compromise good officer safety practices). Asking them how they wish to be characterized and how you can communicate with them most effectively will go a long way toward making sure that the two of you are on the same page.
It also might help to draw others into the situation, so long as they are familiar to victims or are knowledgeable about their impairment. Again, your ability to finesse prospective assistance will dictate your success in such scenarios.
Conflict Resolution in the Field
Most cops have been there. You get a message that says, "You're needed in the watch commander's office." In the moment you hear those words, you will know what it's about: Th at SOB called and beefed me. Here's one way to cover your ass against such complaints.
Most cops know intuitively, instinctively, and intellectually when someone is angry with them. Not acting on this knowledge is where they undermine themselves.
When you have such a situation, call in a field supervisor. By getting a third party or arbitrator on the scene, you give the aggrieved citizen an ear, someone he or she can vent to. Giving voice to their frustration can help mollify them without your necessarily feeling that you've had to acquiesce.
Besides, the sergeant can either calm them down or really piss them off , thereby making you look like a nice guy by comparison. Finessing problems sometimes means looking beyond yourself.