I work in a non-restraint facility for special needs kids (21 and under) with extreme behavioral issues. I’m talking real violent stuff. Sixteen and twenty-one year old boys who can (and do) home-run swing desks at your head.
As a non-restraint facility, we are trained to respond to these outbursts in the most non-threatening, non-confrontational way possible, while still protecting both the bystanders and the person currently attacking us.
We are monitored every second of our shift to make sure the safety and dignity of our clients is maintained, especially–and just let me emphasize this–the safety and dignity of the person attempting to hurt us. Their right to be treated fairly and with empathy is not forfeit just because their brain chemistry fucked them up today.
We have to be calm, regardless.
We have to be gentle, regardless.
We can never respond with any kind of force, ever.
Those rules apply to all the staff, all the time, no matter what.
So when I hear bullshit about how somebody “reached for their waistband” or they were “resisting,” when I hear yet another police officer got off because the situation was “scary” or he “feared for his safety” or whatever the fuck, I lose my shit.
You wanna talk about how you were frightened for your safety, walking up to someone in the middle of a psychotic episode? Yeah, well, I’ve been there. Pretty regular–probably twice a week, at least–no gun, no taser, with guidelines that state I cannot even use my fucking thumb because that’s considered “grabbing” and therefore a “restraint.”
And you know what? I’ve walked away from every one of those. I haven’t died. I’ve never even been seriously injured. We defused the situation in ways that didn’t involving riddling the other participant with bullets and at the end of the day, everyone went home. Go fucking figure.
And yet–and fucking yet–I keep hearing “not all cops.”
“Not all cops” are bad. “Not all cops” shoot innocent people .3 seconds after rolling up on the scene. “Not all cops” are racist fuckbags, misusing power for a personal joyride. “Not all cops” rape people at gunpoint (and get off scott-fucking-free).
Yet, at my place of employment, somehow everyone is calm in a crisis. Somehow everyone responds to violence with non-violence. Somehow everyone is always able to act like a goddamn compassionate human-being in the middle of the worst kind of street fight–
but you’re telling me that cops, people paid to protect, can’t all do what I do?
You’re telling me that cops, trained to respond to crises, can’t all respond to the same crises, with the same skill, that I do?
And you’re telling me that cops have to stick together in the face of these “potentially false” accusations. That cops have to support each other, no matter what, because their job is dangerous or whatever. That yeah, some cops, but ~actually, sweetie, not all cops~
Fuck that noise. My job is dangerous, too. But you better believe that if anyone sees a member of our staff breaking regulation, their ass gets reported immediately. That person loses their clearances; they can no longer be hired in the field, anywhere. There’s no moving to another district. There’s no finding another location. We make it stop.
So until every cop is cleaning house, until every cop stops this strategically blind bullshit, until every cop refuses to stand by and watch the rampant abuse and corruption inherent in this system, until all the bad cops are weeded out and unemployable–
Until that moment, then yeah, all cops.
I would love to hear you talk more about what techniques you-all use at your work. Is this something cops could be taught, do you think? What would it take?
Well, we have a training seminar on Crisis Prevention and Management twice a year from this place: http://www.crisisprevention.com/
I don’t see why they couldn’t take it, too.
To be honest, the biggest technique we use is waiting. Clear the scene so no one gets hurt (try to clear it so the person having difficulties won’t get hurt/can’t hurt themselves either) and then you just wait. Dodge and wait and redirect if necessary.
Eventually the behavior will burn itself out. Then you can talk to the person to defuse the situation, take them to a better (generally quieter) place to calm down or send them back to class if they’re feeling okay afterwards. There’s no reason a tantrum has to ruin someone’s whole day.
I mean, there’s some physical stuff we use for dodging and blocking. And sometimes if a person is really unsafe in the middle of a behavior, we need two people to get under their arms and help them walk to a better place. But even then, it’s not like a carry or a frog-march or anything. If they drop to the floor, we let them down and they stay there until they decide to get up again. If they’re banging their head on the floor, we use mats to cushion so they can’t bust themselves up.
It’s not that CPI is some secret. It’s pretty common in special needs schools/hospitals/group homes and stuff like that. It’s that the techniques it uses take time. Our usual behaviors tend to take around 10 – 30 minutes to defuse, but three to six hours isn’t uncommon either. There are some times certain individuals come to school fighting and leave fighting.
It happens. It can be terrifying. I’ll be the first to admit that some days work legit feels like a warzone. I’ve been punched, kicked, slapped, bit, headbutted. I’ve had desks thrown at me, chairs, tables, staplers, other kids. I’ve had kids do flying leaps off the furniture to try to tackle me. I’ve had a kid try to stab me with broken scissors. That’s not even touching on the sheer quantity of bodily substances that have been propelled in my direction. But you know what, we roll with it, we wait it out and eventually, we get through it.
The problem is that police aren’t interested in taking time. They’re certainly not willing to put themselves at the level of risk we do by dodging and waiting. Police are interested in immediate dominance and a quick result. Combine that mentality with a system full of people who are burnt out or racist or just plain dangerous, taught to believe they are the physical embodiment of the “LAW” or justice or whatever the fuck…
Well, ta da. Welcome to the police state, take your new inmate number at the revolving door.
Thank you, that’s very helpful! It actually suggests an avenue for police reform: changing the system that rewards cops for having a *lot* of interactions and “resolutions” per day.
It could be joined up with a reform that prioritizes solving murders, much more than drug arrests.
Definitely things that should be seriously considered.
Something I learned the other day, the Police Service of Northern Ireland drew their weapons 265 times last year and didn’t fire one shot. They are the only police force in the UK that is routinely armed. They did use tasers, and obviously used force to arrest people, some would argue unnecessarily. And, being the direct descendant of the RUC, still have a lot of issues around bias and deeply unfair practices stemming from the political situation there over the course of a century of unrest.
But, despite being in a country that until recently was basically in a state of extended civil war, with a serious amount of guns and explosives knocking about, and still being targeted by pipe-bombs etc under their cars, they didn’t fire their guns. Not once.
So, tell me again how scared you were as a cop facing a 12 year old kid. Tell me again how you had to fire your weapon as it was the only option.