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 O.K. in class, but I knew that if faced with an angry six footer, I was going to talk my way out or jet. Figured I’d try talking first-I had talked four gang members out of their butterfly knife when they threatened an unpopular kid one Friday night.
I didn’t need 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 the 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. “A soft answer turns away wrath,” the Bible says. Then there’s that other thing: 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!
De-escalation should be the norm-and it normally works. The current norm is brute force and a free pass to bully. If something abnormal happens, the professional law officer dang well be able to prove it.
Let’s insist on this now and end this shameful police brutality that has been sweeping our nation.
Stop the Hate