Step 2 is to demonstrate that you are not a threat (use our cpi certificate). I travel around the country teaching, primarily, law enforcement officers. When I get to this part and tell them, “I want you to demonstrate to the person in crisis that you aren’t a threat, their response is interesting, as you can imagine. Usually, they say something like, “Whoa! Whoa. Wait a minute, Brendan. Time out. They teach us at the academy that you have to go in, take control, own the room, and establish your dominance over everyone and everything there.” They give me this whole big argument and try to say how that concept wont work for them, etc. I’m going to save you the argument for today, because the reality is, by demonstrating to someone that you’re not a threat, you lessen their anxiety and therefore are far more likely to gain compliance and cooperation and avoid confrontation.
I tell them, it’s true. You have a job to do which often requires using the “power of the badge” I tell them they have all the tools at your disposal on your belt –hand cuffs, pepper spray, Taser, baton–everything you might need should you absolutely need to go there. I want them to keep in mind, that seeing all of that gear not even being put to use yet can be scary to someone else, and they may immediately feel threatened. If the other person perceives you as a threat, be it verbal, emotional, or physical, the reality is their anxiety is going to increase. They’re already in crisis, and you don’t want to make it worse by demonstrating a threat before its needed. Too often that power and threatening body language, tone, approach, etc. is used as the first approach.
You don’t have to come off as Mr. Tough Guy with the mentality that people had better do what I say, or else. If you’re confident in your abilities, and your skills, you know you have the ability to go hands-on if you have to. Using the loud authoritarian approach isn’t always necessary. Saying things like, “I’m not going to ask you again,” or, “Hey, you better step back and calm down, or else!” “You can do this one of two ways, the easy way, or the hard way!” often result in the “or else”.
I remember one time in particular, I was working Patrol and responded to an automobile accident. To make a long story short, the person involved in the accident was drunk. He had just wrecked his car.. He took one look at me, and the very first words he uttered were, “F*** you, pig.” That was how the conversation started. It could have easily gone downhill from there. Instead I put my hand over my badge, basically covering it up, and said, “Wait a minute, hold on a second. Pretend I’m not a cop for one second. Is that your car down there in a ditch? Let’s get you a tow truck and get it up out of that ditch. Can we do that first?”
When I put my hand over the badge I was, basically, demonstrating that I wasn’t a threat. I was trying to help him in that moment, and was trying to make a connection with him. Yes, I was still a cop. I was still in uniform with my badge and the whole bit, and yes, I still had to take him to jail. But in that moment, I was trying to let him know, “Hey, we’re on the same team. I’m not a threat.” Honestly, though, it wasn’t about me actually being a threat, it was his perception of me as a threat. For me, it was about, “Hey, you shouldn’t be driving. You’re drunk. You wrecked your car. Let’s get that fixed.” I was able to show him that I was there to help with the situation, to make it a safer scenario, and that I was not a threat to him as he first felt. So, Step 2. Demonstrate You Are Not A Threat.