I worked as a teacher in a 1,200-man prison and as a counselor in a privatized kid jail. I am a small, slim woman, not a Viking, and I paid close attention to the class on de-escalating tense situations. I paid close attention because I was either going to de-escalate a tense situation or run for my life.
Sure, they taught us physical take-down procedures and I did pretty good, but I knew that if faced with an angry six footer, I was going to talk my way out, run away…or die. I chose talk my way out; I had talked four gang members out of their butterfly knife when they threatened an unpopular kid and talked an armed man into taking me home instead of whatever horrible fate he had in mind for me.
I had no use for my de-escalation skills at the prison. The guys were polite and even helpful there. After all, I was a volunteer teaching them job skills. I did call upon my skills at the privatized kid jail, which was a violent snake pit, where the kids were routinely humiliated and abused.
De-escalation skills can be learned by anyone. They involve speaking and acting in a non-aggressive, non-threatening manner. Basically, they involve treating the other human as you would want to be treated. Some big guards at the kid’s jail relied on muscle mass and brutality-which brings compliance-briefly-only briefly.
These skills can be taught to police, who are supposed to be professionals who protect and serve, not bouncers, judges, juries and executioners. The courses are already available, the techniques work-Look! I’m still alive!
Let’s get doing this now and end this shameful police brutality that has been sweeping our nation.