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De-escalation is all the rage these days. The entire Chicago PD, for example, are now required to take de-escalation training. Seems pretty simple to me. For one thing, cops shouldn’t get in someone’s face. Literally. Distance creates a sense of safety for the “stressed” individual and gives them more time to react should things go seriously sideways.

Do you know how to de-escalate a potentially violent confrontation, so you don’t have to use your gun? Here’s a tip from a former hypnotist: ask the potential perp where they got their shoes. “Nice shoes! Where’d you get them?” Seriously. It makes them look away and interrupts their train of thought. What techniques do you use?

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  1. Not to be a smart-Alec or to detract from a good question, but what if we asked “Do you defuse everyday arguments with family members and co-workers?”

  2. Lots of things work with different people.
    Changing the subject, vocally agreeing with or sympathizing with even if you don’t actually, jokes, if you’re confronted with an especially and obviously stupid person temporarily turning off few dozen IQ points tends to comfort them. Keeping your distance. Not raising your voice.

    And, of course, not engaging in the first place or walking away once engaged. My personal choice.

    • I agree, however, with the whole walk away thing, I’d add don’t ever just up and turn your back to a potential foe. Walk away facing them if you have too. Might look dumb or strange, but I’d rather look dumb then be jumped from behind.

    • I made the mistake of marrying a feisty redhead – my de-escalation technique is chocolate.
      The shoe idea sounds like a lead-in to a sucker punch…

  3. Stay calm and project both confidence and strength. Do your best to acknowledge the other person’s position.

    And be ready to come on REALLY strong when the other person is ratcheting up and there appears to be no end to their ratcheting up.

  4. Don’t think telling this woman cop, her shoes look nice would have worked. Kudos to the LEO who talked her off the ledge and probably saved her from a 1st Degree murder charge. What provoked her hissy fit?

  5. Deescalation is emphasized a lot in my department and used frequently. Generally, remaining calm and keeping a mild demeanor achieves a lot.

  6. like when the wife is insanely irate, just speak softer, it forces her to listen, and it usually makes her speak softer. Of course she’s smart enough to know what I am up to IF I actually started it, it doesn’t usually work if I started it. Rule #1: Don’t start anything.

  7. I’ve heard the term “never ask to get shot.”

    Don’t escalate the situation by challenging the person. Apologize, be humble, walk away and never under any circumstances say: “You won’t pull the trigger.”

    Naturally, police don’t have the luxury of disengaging from criminals, but as a civillian I would rather lose pride than take a human life.

    I did four deployments as an Infantryman to OIF and OEF. The thought of ever hurting another living thing again sickens me. But just because I’m a man of peace doesn’t mean I’ve lost my capacity for violence. I’m thinking of it more as a case of losing a bit of pride to protect the bad guy from me.

  8. Too many cops “hate to lose”. They can’t stand to be disrespected or to let someone else win even an argument. So, they get loud, they get back in that person’s face.

  9. As a private citizen in reasonable fear for my life or the lives of others, I am under no obligation to de-escalate.

    The inches have been given, the miles have been taken and its time to start taking it all back. All lives are not precious.

  10. From what I’ve seen from police training, the best way to de-escalate a tense situation is to deliver two rounds to center of mass followed by one to the head.

    So, do I collect my pension now or later?

    • Ooh, sorry Adam. You forgot “Shoot the dog”… but thank you for playing! Desiree has some nice parting gifts for you!

  11. I learned how to de-escalate from my Dad; the man stays eerily calm even when he’s irate/angry, and it’s even more pronounced when someone/something has him red-lined. Hell, I’ve never heard him yell, or raise his voice in anger; it just gets more…. forceful?

    That, along with a weird silent “look” we inherited from my very formidable (but sweet) grandmother, tends to make whoever is on the receiving end feel 2″ tall.

    After I got older and bullies/delinquents/arguments got more dangerous, a girlfriend at the time pointed out that I turn into my old-man…. and I realised that if a belligerent suddenly feels like a little tiny worm on a huge f-ing hook, they lose the initiative. They can’t figure it out, puts them off their game, confuses the hell out of ’em, and makes humour/suggestion or other de-escalation angles much more effective.

    Incidentally, I also found that it works at the DMV and other gov. types. I always wondered how my Dad has an Obi-wan-like ability to deal with bureaucrats & cops.

  12. I have often rapidly escalated things or remained extremely calm when I “shouldn’t” have. Both have worked to de-escalate the right situation.

    Most often, the right answer has been to speak in a calm but firm voice while appearing to be confident and/or in a position of strength.

  13. I would surely like to hear someone ask me that shoe question while I’m at work.

    I’d tell them to put down the crack pipe. Heh.

  14. The best resource I’ve encountered on confronting committed, small scale violence is Ellis Amdur.

    He positions all his work of this kind with “crisis intervention”, which seems the right perspective. Threat of credible, immediate escalation to violence is, indeed a crisis. And the goal is to intervene – change how the whole interaction responds, so something else happens.

    He’s done crisis intervention for real, for decades. Good writer, too.

  15. Keep in mind that this is an interaction. The best and most effective thing to do is leave. If the cops in question had gotten in their cars and just left, she wouldn’t have had an audience and would have behaved better. Don’t feed into someone’s rage by matching your voice level with the person who’s out of control. Staying clam, i.e., not showing excitement, is important. So is speaking in neutral tones.

    One trick that I’ve found almost always works is the use of silence to control the interaction. Out of control people look for verbal and non-verbal cues from others to maintain and justify their level of rage. Being silent or emotion-neutral when you’re expected to respond in kind is confusing to someone who is raging and ranting because they need the like responses of others to legitimate their behavior. When it’s not there, they are forced change their definition-of-the-situation. This can often diffuse things because they don’t have the required audience. Only truly crazy people walk around enraged and talking to themselves without an audience. There’s a reason for that.

    • Exactly. Being completely calm/showing no emotion in the face of bullies/belligerent drunks/etc who are essentially pumping themselves up for a fight, deflates & confuses them quick.

      But as for encounters with the truly crazy/drug-induced or not, I’ll quote Hunter S. Thompson;

      “You can turn your back on a person, but never turn your back on a drug, especially when its waving a razor sharp hunting knife in your eye.”

  16. De-escelation is one of those things I think is in someone’s personality. I’ve never seen someone take a 2 hour mandated class and come away any better at it (though I think it can be learned by watching someone who is good at it… over time).

  17. If by training, they mean watching Roadhouse – then by all means I approve.

    #RIPSwayze #sheslikethewind

  18. That woman needs to work for the United States Postal Service. She definitely “went postal”.


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