One of the most important de-escalation techniques is calm communication. Officers should adopt a calm tone and avoid shouting. They should speak slowly and methodically to promote a sense of calm and reduce tensions. Raising one’s voice is more likely to agitate a volatile situation whereas calm, respectful communication helps diffuse tensions. Officers should introduce themselves, explain their role/intent, and make efforts to put people at ease through polite and respectful communication.
Active listening is another useful technique. Officers should actively listen to understand the perspective of the individual and the root causes of the behavior. They should make eye contact, refrain from interrupting, repeat back what they heard to confirm understanding, and acknowledge the feelings/perspective of the individual. Active listening helps diffuse anger and resentment, demonstrates respect, and allows officers to gather crucial information to properly assess risk and resolve conflicts peacefully.
Maintaining distance and avoiding physical contact for as long as safely possible can also help de-escalate tensions. Whenever possible and appropriate given the risk factors, officers should maintain a distance of at least 21 feet from individuals, avoid physical contact, and use non-threatening body language like keeping hands visible and avoiding sudden movements. Maintaining distance reduces the perception of threat which makes violence less likely.
Reducing heightened emotions is another valuable technique. Officers should avoid threatening language or forceful commands, which tends to heighten emotions. They should speak in a low, soft tone and employ respectful language. In certain situations, officers can even consider using humor to help lighten the mood if done respectfully and appropriately.
Acknowledging concerns and allowing time/space for compliance are also useful de-escalation techniques. Officers should acknowledge and empathize with concerns/frustrations to help validate perspective and build rapport. They should give clear directions and allow adequate time/space for compliance, repeatedly communicating intent to resolve issues respectfully if possible. Rushed commands and lack of acknowledgement or empathy increases tensions whereas allowing time/space for compliance helps individuals see that officers want a peaceful resolution.
Redirecting individuals by suggesting positive alternatives for harmful behaviors in a calm, respectful manner can also help de-escalate crisis situations. For example, offering alternatives like “lets move this conversation to the living room so we can discuss this in private” is more likely to gain compliance versus forceful directives. Offering positive options respects individual choice/autonomy which promotes cooperation and reduces resistance.
Using paraphrases and reflecting back key statements in a calm, respectful tone can help acknowledge the perspective of others and build rapport during potentially volatile situations. It validates emotions and concerns and signals active listening/understanding versus dismissal. This increases cooperation and compliance. Paraphrasing/reflection requires nuanced delivery through a calm, composed tone and manner coupled with body language/facial expressions that communicate care, concern and willingness to understand all perspectives.
Avoiding direct eye contact that could heighten tensions is another technique. Sunglasses can be worn if necessary based on the risk factors. Officers should not appear distracted or disengaged either. The goal is reducing perceived threat/intimidation through calm communication complemented with body language that remains alert/attentive versus avoidant or confrontational.
Officers should refrain from making direct threats or promises, which tends to heighten tensions rather than resolve conflicts. Promising arrest or threatening force often backfires by provoking resistance instead of gaining cooperation. Officers’ comments and directives should focus on the situation/behaviors in a calm, measured manner versus the individual to depersonalize interactions.
Offering appropriate medical/social services when possible also helps resolve situations peacefully by addressing root causes versus focusing solely on enforcement remedies. Linking individuals to support/resources promotes cooperation by acknowledging broader context versus treating situations as solely criminal justice matters. Officer safety should always remain the top priority.
Effective de-escalation requires both skill and compassion. It involves nuanced communication delivered calmly through active listening, acknowledging perspective and offering reasonable alternatives/options whenever safety allows versus reactive, confrontational or punitive approaches. De-escalation treats all individuals, including officers, with dignity to resolve conflicts respectfully. It focuses on situation over individuals by addressing behavior politely versus labeling/threatening. With training and experience, these techniques can help officers successfully manage tense interactions without needing to elevate force levels unnecessarily.