July 12


Crisis Intervention in Policing

By Gerard O'Dea

July 12, 2019

Conflict Management, conflict resolution, deescalation, safer services, Verbal Defense and Influence

“The desire for officers to receive better training in dealing with members of the public with mental health issues was repeatedly mentioned”  – from the 2018 published Home Office Police Front Line Review.

Crisis Intervention in Policing remains an emotive and important topic.  I spoke with veteran police trainer Gary Klugiewicz some time ago about how we help police officers (and others) to develop confidence when helping someone going through an emotional disturbance.  Here is an excerpt from that video chat.

Gerard O’Dea:

One of the reports that came out recently said that often Crisis Intervention in Policing - officers who are dealing with people who are having an emotionally disturbed moment or people with mental ill health/ mental illness – that the police officers dealing with them lack confidence.

I wanted to ask you about this – how do we develop confidence in contact professionals to deal with people who are emotionally disturbed? And I know that  you have a lot of experience, from when you were running the mental health facility in Wisconsin. I was wondering if you would maybe talk about confidence for a moment then how we build it.

Gary K.:
Well first of all, let me share with you that at points in your life, everyone is mentally ill. We have longterm mental illness, we have brain-based disorders, we have people who are on drugs and alcohol or the aftermath or we have people just in crisis now and sometimes all three together. So all of us have to learn to deal with people who have mental health issues for at least the moment. And what you have to do is you have to learn to do that. We have a program called PICI … Point of Impact, Crisis Intervention. When we encounter this person for the first time, we’re not going to know all the things that are effecting them. In fact, six months later you’re gonna have five psychiatrists who are going to make this decision, three-to-two, of what they think the person’s diagnosis is.

When it comes to Crisis Intervention in Policing we have about three seconds to figure it out. And how you get confidence to do that is through building competence. You have to get comfortable doing that by doing the fire drills, by working with this, and by gaining more confidence. We talk about that when you walk out, into the room to have an interaction with this emotionally disturbed person, there’s going to be one of three signs over their head. Okay? They are mathematical symbols –  less than, equal to, or greater than.

Less than is a very passive. The Equal to is assertive and, the Greater than is aggressive. We’re going to have these personalities that we’re going to display and they’re going to display. So one of the best ways that you can display better confidence is to look more confident. And you can practice doing that by, for example, standing up straight, maintaining good eye contact, presenting a good stance in engaging them, and by practicing talking when you’re a little bit stressed out so you don’t ever sound freaked out, regardless of what is happening in front of you.

Those are things you can do to get more competence in Crisis Intervention in Policing.  And it’s a matter of practice. I want you to all go back the first time you went to a CPR class. You might’ve done it [the compressions on the person’s chest] but it was very awkward. And now if you go back to do it again it’s a piece of cake and now you can add more and more stressors to it. But that’s what we have to do with verbal skills. We have to build the skills. Another analogy is that it’s like learning to shoot. First time we shoot, we have a hard time hitting our target. Then we have to shoot on the move, shoot in low light, shoot in different positions. That’s all part of gaining competence. And the more competence you have, the more confidence you’re going to have.

Gerard O’Dea:
Absolutely. I know from my own experience of teaching Vistelar Conflict Management and Crisis Intervention in Policing here in the UK.  One specific comment just a little while ago which relates to this issue about practice and competence is that, I went in to the classroom on the second day of one of my courses and the comment from an experienced social worker (who works with children with emotional behavioral difficulties) was that she said, “this course is very different to anything we’ve done before because usually what the trainer does, they come in and they give us these fantastic ideas about transactional analysis and parent-child modalities and lots of theory about how people should interact. But then they kind of tell us that, you now have to go back into practice and take all this theory and make it work for yourself”.

And she said the difference with our Vistelar Conflict Management training was that I was giving them specific templates to work on and then giving them the time and the space to go and practice it right then and there. And to actually move the muscles of their mouth (the psychomotor skill) and make sure that they got some practice before they go back to work and before they’re standing in front of an upset, distressed or frustrated or angry person. And they really valued that and thought that this was very different. But of course it’s really the bread and butter of what we do, isn’t it, Gary?

Gary K.:
Well, absolutely. I mean it’s amazing. We have what we call the blue card, the communication under pressure card. These are the 10 ways, 10 things we teach you – how to do the components of Crisis Intervention in Policing or any other setting. But on the back are the tactics that we would say these are the tactics you should use and show you how to use them. We have our learners practice them. We give you the card to take back into your workplace and actually do it. One of the neatest things that people say about Vistelar Conflict Management is that a lot of training content says that “you should be nice to people who aren’t being nice to you and you should act professionally”, but they don’t show you how to do it. We are the how.

We show you how to do it, show you how to practice and you can go home right that day and practice how to be effective in Crisis Intervention in Policing scenarios, or any others.

#training #behaviours #conflictmanagement #policeofficers #crisisintervention #mentalhealth Vistelar, LLC (conflict management training)


Gerard O'Dea

About the author

Gerard O'Dea is the Director of Training for Dynamis. Training Advisor, Speaker, Author and Expert Witness on Personal Safety, Conflict Management and Physical Interventions, he is the European Advisor for Vistelar Conflict Management, a global programme focussing on the spectrum of human conflict.

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