Defusing Difficult Encounters spotlight on safety graphic and icon

Defusing Difficult Encounters

Your duty to protect and serve means that you come into contact with hundreds of thousands of citizens throughout your career. The majority of these contacts are uneventful, with most members of the public recognizing and complying with lawful instructions. You may occasionally become involved in interactions in which achieving compliance is more difficult as a result of either willful resistance or a person’s inability to comply. In either scenario, your first priority is your own safety and the safety of those around you.

This Spotlight on Safety focuses on employing some basic defusing tactics, to enhance the safety of everyone involved and help bring such an encounter to a successful conclusion.

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Defusing Difficult Encounters

Officers can have a significant influence on the outcome of difficult encounters based on their decisions and actions. By learning and employing some basic defusing tactics, officers can enhance the safety of everyone involved and help bring such an encounter to a successful conclusion.

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The posters below are available for you to print and post around the office. These posters serve as a daily reminder not to become complacent. Research has shown that suspects read officers to decipher their preparedness. Prepare now for what could happen, so if it does, you’re ready.

Increase Officer Safety

De-escalation techniques for a peaceful resolution!

Keep Calm and De-Escalate

De-escalation techniques should be used unless it is unsafe or not feasible.

What You See

What you may see, may not be the whole picture.

VALOR For Blue eLearning

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Defusing Difficult Encounters

The goal of this webinar is to enhance law enforcement officers’ abilities to evaluate situations that they may encounter, apply general defusing principles and methods, and make appropriate tactical decisions to resolve fluid, dynamic, and uncertain situations.

Behavioral Response to Stress and Fear

June 30, 2016 - 16 minutes

This episode examines how the mind and body respond to stress and explores methods that can be implemented to minimize the negative effects that stress can have on performance, especially in critical situations. Retired Major Mark Sawa, who served with the Travis County, Texas, Sheriff's Office, shares techniques for officers to remain calm and operate under stressful conditions.

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Resources Mentioned in This Podcast

Defining De-Escalation

June 30, 2016 - 15 minutes

Although de-escalation may be seen by some as a buzzword, utilizing a variety of techniques to peacefully resolve situations is not a new concept in law enforcement. With the help of Sergeant Eric Pisconski, who oversees the Seattle, Washington, Police Department's Crisis Response Unit, we examine one agency's strategy regarding de-escalation.

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Resources Mentioned in This Podcast


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Polis Solutions

Polis Solutions and CNA will serve as the VALOR Initiative’s De-Escalation Training and Technical Assistance (TTA) Provider to deliver evidence-based de-escalation TTA on a national scale that will help to educate and protect state, local, and tribal police officers and improve outcomes and relationships between police officers and the diverse communities they serve. Working with The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), Polis and CNA will provide a full suite of TTA based on multidisciplinary social science research into the dynamics of face-to-face interactions in low-trust, high-risk situations of the kind exemplified by police encounters with people in historically marginalized communities, people with mental illnesses, and people in various states of crisis and trauma.

Improving Police Response to Persons Affected by Mental Illness

On , the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) convened an advisory group of leading experts on police response to persons affected by mental illness. The advisors’ principal task was to discuss the problem in-depth and create a set of recommendations to help law enforcement agencies effectively manage their officers’ responses to persons affected by mental illness. The recommendations are included in this report, "Improving Police Response to Persons Affected by Mental Illness."

Training For Police-Mental Health Collaboration Programs

An essential element of Police-Mental Health Collaboration (PMHC) programs is to provide specialized and comprehensive training to officers who respond to incidents involving a person with a mental illness. When law enforcement officers participate in standardized training with qualified and effective trainers, they are better able to understand mental illnesses and the impact on individuals, families, and communities. Through effective training, officers learn how to identify signs and symptoms of mental illnesses and how to utilize a range of stabilization and de-escalation techniques. In addition, they learn about disposition options, community resources, and legal issues. This section provides an overview of the necessary training for officers to safely and effectively manage encounters with people with mental illness. It focuses on types of training, time frames for training officers, suggested curricula to use, and other resources for a comprehensive training program.

An Integrated Approach to De-Escalation and Minimizing Use of Force

This report summarizes the findings of Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) research on this topic and presentations made at a PERF Summit in Washington, DC, in February 2012 on “An Integrated Approach to De-Escalation and Minimizing Use of Force.”

ICAT:  Integrating Communications, Assessment, and Tactics:  A Training Guide for Defusing Critical Incidents

ICAT takes the essential building blocks of critical thinking, crisis intervention, communications, and tactics, and puts them together in an integrated approach to training. ICAT is anchored by a Critical Decision-Making Model that helps officers assess situations, make safe and effective decisions, and document and learn from their actions.