WESTBOROUGH, MA January 7, 2017 What happens once the “scene is safe”? Usually the hostile threat is taken into custody – either to jail or a hospital. In the aftermath of high stress events such as talking a violent alcoholic into surrendering there should be an opportunity to follow-up and bring closure. In the time it takes to defuse a potentially lethal citizen encounter the police officer has established a connection – however slim it may be. Aftermath intervention may go a long way to further validate the first steps taken with the initial encounter. With such high incidence of polydrug abuse the threatened violence may take on a surprisingly banal theme and the importance of sobriety may be realized once the scene is safe.
Most officers are already highly skilled at using their verbal skills to de-escalate a violent perpetrator without using lethal force – even when a higher level of force may have been warranted.
I have been called to the same home over and over when a violent adult male became intoxicated and gradually overwhelmed and depressed. Each time officers went to the residence there ended up being a fight. We deployed OC spray on more than one occasion each of us getting the pepper in our eyes. This man was hooked up and sent to the hospital time after time. Upon his return (usually within 1-2 days) he would have a short period of sobriety and slowly start drinking and abusing his father again resulting in the same battle we had days, weeks, months ago. Interseting to me was that the younger man was quite reasonable when he was sober. He had no interest in seeing a therapist – nor could he afford one. The important question to me was what steps could be taken to link this guy to a 12-step alcohol (and drug) recovery program? There were meetings in our town and they were free. I thought if he could meet a sponsor than hs abuse of his father might be reduced. In any case, sooner or later someone was going to get seriously injured on a call at this home. We had heard rumors of him wanting to commit suicide by cop.
Community policing has long espoused the partnership between police and citizens said Sefton in December 2013. The positive benefits to this create bridges between the two that may benefit officers at times of need – including the de facto extra set of eyes when serious crimes are reported. The same goes for crisis management. The relationships you build while in the community can serve to help soften the scene and slow down an escalating person of interest who may be looking for a fight. Violence often occurs after a period of brooding isolation that is fueled by alcohol and a bolus of rage.
Police officers are regarded as the front line first responders to family conflict and DV. Now they are being trained to better interact with those thought to be mentally ill. For better or worse, the police have an opportunity to effect change whenever they enter into the potentially hostile foray. This affords them a window into the chaos and the opportunity to bring calm to crisis.