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Trying to de-escalate a situation - a lost art


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Jack McCoy

I don't want to sound like an old relic, but I can't believe how poorly so many cops handle arrests these days. 

In my time with a force that uses BWV, I have seen some of the most shocking displays from officers when carrying out arrests. No patience,  no tolerance threshold, no attempts to appeal or calm someone down or attempt to get them to co-operate. Instead I see cops barging in like bulls in china shop and actually be the aggressors, often deploying PAVA and strikes on someone for simply offering passive resistance.

Surely I can't be the only one that feels a great degree of pride for managing to bring in a suspect with VAP markers single-crewed, with all smiles and chatting away as if we are the best of pals. I have actually had people, twice my size, be aggressive towards me and make me reach for my baton or PAVA, but I have still managed to calm them down and in the end, even apologise to me for their behaviour.

Now all I see is bullies in a uniform that will use the excuse of power to use force to put someone in a headlock and throw them to the ground, whilst handcuffed, simply for refusing to walk... I'm sorry, but I find that utterly disgusting. These people have no business being cops and all they do is make the public hate and distrust us even more, leading to decent cops being at a greater risk of being assaulted.

I have raised my concerns with my supervision each time I have had to prepare a case file and witnessed these on BWV and every time I get the same response  along the lines of "it does seem excessive, but if the suspect complains, it's for the arresting cop to justify at court, we won't challenge their perception of the situation or discipline them"...

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Very easy to be critical when you weren’t there at the time of the arrest and are watching it from the safety of an office. I bet you are incredibly popular running straight to supervision, have you  

I've seen the opposite - more and more people who shy away from conflict, or are nervous about using enough force early enough. I suspect it's partly a societal thing, attitudes to fighting particular

I've been trying to keep my gob shut reading this thread, but a few of the other commenter have suggested: 1)direct challenges to the officers  2) reports to supervision 3) reports to P

gallifrey

Very easy to be critical when you weren’t there at the time of the arrest and are watching it from the safety of an office. I bet you are incredibly popular running straight to supervision, have you  actually had the bottle to speak to these officers directly, certainly doesn’t sound like it.You may not be aware of the intel on the person they are dealing with or their previous violent experience with that person heightening the risk. 

One of my pet hates in the job is officers who run continually to management , rather than speaking to someone directly first. I was always taught if you have a problem with someone in the job, have it out with them first or you will not last. If you still have issues after that, then by all means escalate it, at least have the decency and bottle to speak to them first though. 
 

Edited by gallifrey
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Jack McCoy

You 'll be surprised t hear that I HAVE spoken to these officers and their excuses are the same as yours 'you weren't there so you don't get to comment'. I'll turn the tables here for a second and redirect that mentality towards you. I LOVE it when someone who hasn't viewed the BWV of a cop grabbing a HANDCUFFED person from the throat, putting them in a headlock, slamming them to the ground and then using PAVA on them, simply for refusing to walk to the car/van.

You sound like the nightmare cop that feels the uniform entitles you to take out all of your own personal miseries and frustrations out on people whom you would never dream of challenging to stand up fight...

How's that for a bit of your own 'armchair psychology' directed back at you?

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Sceptre

I've seen the opposite - more and more people who shy away from conflict, or are nervous about using enough force early enough. I suspect it's partly a societal thing, attitudes to fighting particularly amongst children have changed over time and the police isn't recruiting from the same demographics it was decades ago, and partly organisational in that people are scared of complaints or being disciplined for excessive force. 

Talking someone who is aggressive down is great, well done to anyone with the charisma and reserve to do that, but that doesn't necessarily make someone else's different choice wrong - they might be less willing to compromise their personal safety than you, or perceive the likelihood of success differently. I expect there's a wide variation in attitudes towards force, for instance between urban and rural policing, but I have to say I find it hard to believe that in this day and age you're seeing frequent incidents of grossly excessive force on BWV and they're all swept under the carpet.

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gallifrey
10 minutes ago, Jack McCoy said:

You 'll be surprised t hear that I HAVE spoken to these officers and their excuses are the same as yours 'you weren't there so you don't get to comment'. I'll turn the tables here for a second and redirect that mentality towards you. I LOVE it when someone who hasn't viewed the BWV of a cop grabbing a HANDCUFFED person from the throat, putting them in a headlock, slamming them to the ground and then using PAVA on them, simply for refusing to walk to the car/van.

You sound like the nightmare cop that feels the uniform entitles you to take out all of your own personal miseries and frustrations out on people whom you would never dream of challenging to stand up fight...

How's that for a bit of your own 'armchair psychology' directed back at you?

To be honest I rarely use force and generally don’t have to . Your original post did leave out the fact that you had spoken to them about it which is a rather crucial bit of information.  My issue is with those who don’t challenge their colleagues directly. 
 

Considering I have survived a serious assault earlier in my career, followed by PTSD and cancer , getting myself back to full fitness whilst training Thai boxing, kickboxing , systema and Krav Maga , I have no issues with standing up to anyone but thanks for the insult. I mainly work alone as well so again I have no problem dealing with incidents by myself on or off but hey. 
 

Ultimately you are criticising those officers it is down to them to justify their use of force at court. If you had challenged me I would have said here’s my statement, here’s my pocket book , ask me anything you like and I have done this in the past . Hence why in over 20 years of policing I have had no upheld complaints and very few complaints overall. 

Edited by gallifrey
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Jack McCoy
5 minutes ago, Sceptre said:

I've seen the opposite - more and more people who shy away from conflict, or are nervous about using enough force early enough. I suspect it's partly a societal thing, attitudes to fighting particularly amongst children have changed over time and the police isn't recruiting from the same demographics it was decades ago, and partly organisational in that people are scared of complaints or being disciplined for excessive force. 

Talking someone who is aggressive down is great, well done to anyone with the charisma and reserve to do that, but that doesn't necessarily make someone else's different choice wrong - they might be less willing to compromise their personal safety than you, or perceive the likelihood of success differently. I expect there's a wide variation in attitudes towards force, for instance between urban and rural policing, but I have to say I find it hard to believe that in this day and age you're seeing frequent incidents of grossly excessive force on BWV and they're all swept under the carpet.

"I've seen the opposite - more and more people who shy away from conflict, or are nervous about using enough force early enough."

I've seen that as well. I've had to wrestle with someone single handed because the other cop was too skittish to put hands on.

"Talking someone who is aggressive down is great, well done to anyone with the charisma and reserve to do that, but that doesn't necessarily make someone else's different choice wrong - they might be less willing to compromise their personal safety than you, or perceive the likelihood of success differently."

I never have and never will criticise someone for using force on an aggressive subject/suspect, even if they are handcuffed. What I am talking about here is having someone, who is calm and non-threatening, in handcuffs and refusing to walk. You can't justify taking them to the ground and using PAVA as a 1st response. There's the 5 step appeal and if all else fails and they are still refusing to walk, get another unit (if possible) and simply lift them into the back of the cell. 

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gallifrey
10 minutes ago, Sceptre said:

I've seen the opposite - more and more people who shy away from conflict, or are nervous about using enough force early enough. I suspect it's partly a societal thing, attitudes to fighting particularly amongst children have changed over time and the police isn't recruiting from the same demographics it was decades ago, and partly organisational in that people are scared of complaints or being disciplined for excessive force. 

Talking someone who is aggressive down is great, well done to anyone with the charisma and reserve to do that, but that doesn't necessarily make someone else's different choice wrong - they might be less willing to compromise their personal safety than you, or perceive the likelihood of success differently. I expect there's a wide variation in attitudes towards force, for instance between urban and rural policing, but I have to say I find it hard to believe that in this day and age you're seeing frequent incidents of grossly excessive force on BWV and they're all swept under the carpet.

Interesting about the shying away from the use of force. Currently have a bad back from someone trying to talk someone down rather than handcuffing them when they had the opportunity. 

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Jack McCoy
13 minutes ago, gallifrey said:

To be honest I rarely use force and generally don’t have to . Your original post did leave out the fact that you had spoken to them about it which is a rather crucial bit of information.  My issue is with those who don’t challenge their colleagues directly. 
 

Considering I have survived a serious assault earlier in my career, followed by PTSD and cancer , getting myself back to full fitness whilst training Thai boxing, kickboxing , systema and Krav Maga , I have no issues with standing up to anyone but thanks for the insult. I mainly work alone as well so again I have no problem dealing with incidents by myself on or off but hey. 
 

I have no issues with standing up to anyone but thanks for the insult. If you had challenged me I would have said here’s my statement, here’s my pocket book , ask me anything you like and I have done this in the past . Hence why in over 20 years of policing I have had no upheld complaints and very few complaints overall. 

"My issue is with those who don’t challenge their colleagues directly. "

And I appreciate that. But I can't say I have ever come across a cop that I have seen behave inappropriately (even criminally) EVER accept any form of 'review' or criticism from another PC. They have all acted indignant and tell me if I have an issue, to take it up with supervision.

"I have no issues with standing up to anyone but thanks for the insult."

I wasn't insulting you, I was merely pointing out the irony of you accusing me of behaviour you were so clearly exhibiting yourself.

In the end, part of the responsibility and honour of this job, is to challenge any inappropriate behaviour. You can argue the merits of my perception as to what constitutes inappropriate, but I think most people would agree that using PAVA on a handcuffed suspect who has offered no violence to anyone, simply because they won't walk, or stand up for you, is excessive and wrong.

Edited by Jack McCoy
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gallifrey

If everyone agreed life would be very boring and thank you for a reasoned debate.

I have privately challenged colleagues in the past and we have had discussions about an incident. I have always received from them information that I hadn’t been aware of or relevant intel justifying they  took that course of action. 

To be fair I was referring to the comment about not daring to challenge someone to a stand up fight. I have nothing to prove I have always been the same with people on or off duty, with or without Ppe. I can see where that point was coming from though. 

 

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Jack McCoy
7 minutes ago, gallifrey said:

Interesting about the shying away from the use of force. Currently have a bad back from someone trying to talk someone down rather than handcuffing them when they had the opportunity. 

I've had that as well. I got bitten and spat on because of someone who too afraid to get physical with a suspect. But despite my own personal injuries, I would never advocate carte blanche force from cops on the off chance that they might kick off. We know there ares risks in this job, it is our duty to access them and act accordingly.

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gallifrey

Exactly in this case there was enough intel and behavioural cues to justify handcuffing as soon as his medical treatment was completed. Still on a positive note the local NHS have been great about it. 

Edited by gallifrey
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Jack McCoy
13 minutes ago, gallifrey said:

Exactly in this case there was enough intel and behavioural queens to justify handcuffing as soon as his medical treatment was completed. Still on a positive note the local NHS have been great about it. 

I actually had a word with an officer the other day for his use of force. The suspect was well known to us, but has never been arrested for assaulting/resisting/obstructing a PC. This cop actually wrote in their duty statement that he had prior knowledge of the suspect as a known nominal and he knew him to be violent towards cops.

Obviously he was mistaken in that he was indeed a violent offender towards other members of the public, but had never recorded him as being violent towards cops. On the BWV you could see the lad was quick to act and gets hands, but was a little too eager to push the guy face first into a wall in order to stack him to the rear.

Now I didn't criticise him about his perception, he obviously believed the guy would be violent so he did what he thought he had to keep himself and his colleague safe. However, I was actually a bit taken aback that when I pointed out to him that there is a clear mistake in his duty statement, his reply was "well who cares, he's a scumbag anyway"... Now that makes me wonder about this kid. Did he actually believe the guy was violent towards cops, or was he simply covering his own backside and pre-preemptively trying to excuse his actions without having to justify them in response to the suspect's actions at the time?

On the NHS note, you sound a lot luckier than me. I still have a niggling in my lower back (near my sacrum) from holding on to a suspect trying to jump over a wall after a foot pursuit. This was 2 years ago, nearly 3 actually, and all the NHS did was offer me physio appointments once every 3-6 months to see if I was feeling better...

Apparently they assessed it as a 'mechanical' issue and not a nerve issue (which was good news, I'd hate to have gotten a slipped disk or sciatica). 

Edited by Jack McCoy
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Sceptre
37 minutes ago, Jack McCoy said:

I never have and never will criticise someone for using force on an aggressive subject/suspect, even if they are handcuffed. What I am talking about here is having someone, who is calm and non-threatening, in handcuffs and refusing to walk. You can't justify taking them to the ground and using PAVA as a 1st response. There's the 5 step appeal and if all else fails and they are still refusing to walk, get another unit (if possible) and simply lift them into the back of the cell. 

The five-step appeal is well and good in negotiation or public order contexts, but it is also time-consuming and not something most cops on the street are going to follow in full with awkward prisoners. If someone isn't walking after the first time of telling then we train arm entanglements and subject management techniques for that, and I'd try those before asking for the three or four officers it takes to lift the average person easily. 

Your example of with PAVA does on the information you've given sound like an unusual reaction to passive resistance, but are we in possession of all the facts? Add in a fear of spitting or headbutting and it's absolutely reasonable; if that was the case then it should've been recorded, but then there's even less training about writing up force than there is about using it and I've posted about that before. Surely all forces have processes for recording and scrutinising use of PAVA which would catch something so out of the ordinary?

30 minutes ago, Jack McCoy said:

And I appreciate that. But I can't say I have ever come across a cop that I have seen behave inappropriately (even criminally) EVER accept any form of 'review' or criticism from another PC. They have all acted indignant and tell me if I have an issue, to take it up with supervision.

Human nature is to be defensive in response to criticism even over trivial things, never mind something which might risk your career. It also doesn't help if you're not on the front line and so fall into the old "office dweller" trope, no matter your background, that's just how the mindset works fair or not. 

6 minutes ago, Jack McCoy said:

...The suspect was well known to us, but has never been arrested for assaulting/resisting/obstructing a PC. This cop actually wrote in their duty statement that he had prior knowledge of the suspect as a known nominal and he knew him to be violent towards cops.

Obviously he was mistaken in that he was indeed a violent offender towards other members of the public, but had never recorded him as being violent towards cops. On the BWV you could see the lad was quick to act and gets hands, but was a little too eager to push the guy face first into a wall in order to stack him to the rear.

That he's never been arrested for assault PC doesn't necessarily mean it's never happened though, does it? We tend not to proceed with minor skirmishes all the time, which of course is part of the reason there's so little deterrent to fighting with the police. Suggesting that someone has made something up retrospectively in their statement is a big accusation to throw around, no matter your suspicions. 

Edited by Sceptre
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Jack McCoy
36 minutes ago, Sceptre said:

The five-step appeal is well and good in negotiation or public order contexts, but it is also time-consuming and not something most cops on the street are going to follow in full with awkward prisoners. If someone isn't walking after the first time of telling then we train arm entanglements and subject management techniques for that, and I'd try those before asking for the three or four officers it takes to lift the average person easily. 

Your example of with PAVA does on the information you've given sound like an unusual reaction to passive resistance, but are we in possession of all the facts? Add in a fear of spitting or headbutting and it's absolutely reasonable; if that was the case then it should've been recorded, but then there's even less training about writing up force than there is about using it and I've posted about that before. Surely all forces have processes for recording and scrutinising use of PAVA which would catch something so out of the ordinary?

Human nature is to be defensive in response to criticism even over trivial things, never mind something which might risk your career. It also doesn't help if you're not on the front line and so fall into the old "office dweller" trope, no matter your background, that's just how the mindset works fair or not. 

That he's never been arrested for assault PC doesn't necessarily mean it's never happened though, does it? We tend not to proceed with minor skirmishes all the time, which of course is part of the reason there's so little deterrent to fighting with the police. Suggesting that someone has made something up retrospectively in their statement is a big accusation to throw around, no matter your suspicions. 

I appreciate the 5 step appeal isn't always applicable, but at least an effort should be made, circumstances permitting. If it fails, yes, use arm locks and so on. My objection is were PAVA and baton strikes are the 1st response, used within 2 minutes of the arrest and there is no apparent danger from others. I appreciate people's perception differ, but again, in the same way cops need to justify their actions, we need to justify our inaction when we observe them using force. We have a duty towards the public as well, how can we expect them to trust, defend or assist us if we don't challenge our own when they potentially could have handled a situation differently. I'm having a really hard time justifying everything as 'it's the cop's perception that matters' when you can clearly see they have crossed a line.

I am actually in just as much confusion about the frequent use of PAVA here as you are. When I was in Scotland, we were required to record our CS/PAVA canister numbers in our notebooks every shift and when we were first issued them they were weighed and the weight kept on record. If a cop was subsequently accused of using it, the original weight was now evidential, and it was reweighed to see how much the cop used or if he had used it at all.

I know one female who lost her job because the canister was randomly weighed and was found to be less than half of it's original weight, less than 1 month after it was issued to her and she had never disclosed she had used it. It was examined and found to not be faulty and after a little bit of digging, another cop on the shift admitted they had seen her use it in a fight but since it never made contact, they thought they'd 'keep it quiet' because of the all the paperwork required to justify it. He barely managed to keep his job, the only saving grace being she had far more service than him and he had an exemplary disciplinary record.

I remember all the paperwork my colleague had to do for using their CS on someone we arrested. I had to do all the work on the crime, statements, case file etc by myself because the CS usage paperwork was actually MORE.

But where I am just now, I have seen people use PAVA multiple times and I have never seen them do anything more than the standard use of force form that I do every time I even so much as put my hand on someone's shoulder to stop them from trying put band their head on the window.

In regards to the 'front line' vs 'office cops', that doesn't apply to me. I am, and have been, all my service, front line. The only reason I have been getting so much prisoner handling duty is because (and I mentioned this briefly on another thread), I actually have decent report writing skills (owing to my previous career) and I have even received commendations by supervision for how diligent and thorough I am with all my work. Now I appreciate the compliments (one Sgt on the shift even circulated a memo around the district proposing my record of report writing be 'adopted' as the standard to follow by the rest of the shifts), but I do find it has landed me with all the paperwork that others wish to 'off-load' and supervision are only more than happy to do so, because it's less of a hassle for them to chase certain cops for weeks on end to do something ****-poor than to have me do it really well within 1 set. Believe me, I'd rather be out on the streets. This is actually one of the reasons I want to transfer.

We can't go around thinking that everyone WILL fight with us. It's the best way to ensure cops will abuse their powers. If we didn't arrest someone who has 10-15 years of history with us, then either one of two things are happening; either he genuinely has never fought with us, or, cops these days are too scared of being assaulted and never risk assess any situation, instead having already decided that force will be offered on every occasion in which someone so much as stands still for a second when being walked to the car.

As for accusing someone of lies in the duty statement, I can only act on the information I have. I never accused him officially, but I am entitled to my thoughts and opinion on the subject, which I have not formed without reviewing the 'evidence' or speaking to the cop, but have in fact come to conclude are likely true because of them.

Edited by Jack McCoy
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IrateShrike

In my experience, most of the time by far that I have seen other officers using what subjectively appears to me as 'innappropriate' force (note 'innappropriate' does not automatically equal 'unlawful') it is because they are inexperienced, poorly trained, poorly equipped, scared, intimidated, enthusiastic etc, not for any malicious reason. 

There have been times when I have discussed this with them after when I considered it necessary.  I've always tended to take the approach where I am prepared to admit that I am in the wrong based on my own unique perception of the circumstances, and I feel this is the most beneficial.

One of the most beneficial things I learnt from my experience in PSU deployments was actually reading situations so I could make a better judgment of when I needed to use force and this resulted in using force less often, not more.  This was far more valuable to me in general policing than the tactics.

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