What Hospitals Can Teach the Police

How can police officers be better trained to remain calm and defuse tense situations?

An unexpected model comes from the field of health care, a profession that has found ways to address the incidence of violence in encounters with those it aims to serve. Hospital workers often come into contact with volatile people: agitated drug users, panic-stricken accident victims, the hysterical parents of sick or injured children and so on. Those workers report nonfatal violence-related injuries at many times the rates of members of other occupations, including law enforcement (though police officers have higher rates of fatalities).

Because health care professionals are not permitted to attack, shoot or otherwise harm patients, they have been forced to develop techniques for de-escalating potentially violent situations.

Seventeen states have passed laws requiring de-escalation training for police officers, (but)…with 18,000 independent police departments, most of which have 50 members or fewer, it is hard to establish a practice that every department and officer will accept.

There is also a cultural obstacle to overcome, says Chuck Wexler, the executive director of Police Executive Research Forum: a warrior-like mind-set that an officer should never retreat. “We’re not advocating walking away from a situation,” Mr. Wexler told me. “But if something fails it’s O.K. to step back, have a tactical pause and come up with a Plan B. The sanctity of human life should trump everything.”

In other words, first do no harm.

From The New York Times.

Read the full article here.

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