Cops Can Learn Something From Quality Teachers About Building Relationships and De-Escalating Violence

While police officers are experts at handling high-pressure situations, teachers are experts at building relationships with their students. Teachers and cops do have a lot in common: they are both community servants who are regularly thrust into situations where they must make split-second decisions that can affect other people’s lives.

Escalated violence. It’s the reason that most people avoid law enforcement whenever possible. Normally, I’m one of those people, but there’s one time when I’ll go out of my way to interact with a cop: when I’m picking up my little brother from school. When I see an officer of the law, I’ve learned to smile at them and say hello. I say this because they can see that I’m not a threat and that I’m not there to cause trouble. They can see that I’m just a big brother picking up his little sister.

If de-escalation was the goal…

I’m not a cop, never have been, have no police parents and have no interest in becoming one. But I have experience in de-escalating conflict.

For nearly 10 years, I taught over 100 teens a day while working my way through the emotions, moods, hostilities, discomforts, conflicts, dramas, and traumas that the students brought to my classroom. Between classes, during transitions, when the hallways were filled with elbow-to-elbow kids, I stood outside my room chatting and joking with the students, feeling an unmistakable sense of conflict in the air.

Experienced teachers recognize the signs when they see them. They know when averted eyes, gnashing of teeth and mumbling are harmless and when it indicates a possible assault. And experienced teachers know you can’t wait. Students may be invited to take a walk to cool off. Students who disagree can be invited to a lively discussion to defuse tensions.

But sometimes things get out of hand, despite our best efforts. Arguments that erupt on social media are like powder kegs that are sometimes set on fire. Fights break out in the hallways and toilets. When this happened, my wonderful colleagues and I got up, interrupted them and defused the situation. And no student died. None of the students were injured. No students were strangled. None of the students were tasered. None of the students saw their friends killed.

These differences are determined by two important factors Objectives and instruments

In well-organized schools, with teachers who have engaged in self-reflection to recognize and reduce their implicit biases, safety is the goal. These educators know that learning literally cannot take place if the child does not feel safe.

They have learned to overcome their prejudices about authority, to recognize that the best way to create a culture in the classroom is through challenging teaching, to take responsibility for all their students, and to do their best to avoid harsh disciplinary measures. De-escalation, mediation and the support of experienced educators aim to maintain this level of safety.

Streets are used to enforce the rules. The police demand, and everything in their presence is designed to impose: Sirens, uniforms, handcuffs, tasers, guns, dogs, patrol cars, chokes and, of course, pistols. In enforcing the rules, power comes before safety, and bodies end up on the ground.

Our tools reflect our goals, and the tools we have, we use. For experienced teachers, whose goal is student safety, the relationship with the student is the most important tool.

Relationships based on love, understanding, respect and high expectations increase the likelihood of defusing conflict. Once the teacher has established this relationship, he or she knows how to connect with students, when to invite them to recess, when to supervise them, and when to ask mediators for help.

It seems that for cops, whose first goal is submission, tools are weapons: Pepper spray to blind the insubordinate, stun guns and handcuffs to immobilize the insubordinate, knees to strangle the insubordinate, and pistols to kill the insubordinate.

The inevitable cries of distress from those who defend the police force for the actions of the rotten apples cannot be ignored. When nine police officers remain silent in the face of the murderous actions of one, we are not talking about one rotten apple, we are talking about ten.

And that goes for any teacher who tries to hurt a student. There are too many cases of teachers physically and emotionally hurting their students, especially because of their race. That’s why the idea of arming teachers is ridiculous.

They are teachers whose preoccupation with power and subordination makes them seem not so much educators as oppressors. Any teacher who touches a student should be fired on the spot and never allowed to work with children again, and any union that defends them should be unmasked as defending unauthorized actions.

Yet good educators defuse potential violence almost daily. They do it unarmed because they care about the safety of the children. Untrained cops kill disobedient people because they care about power.

This is not the time to worry about the feelings of police officers, not when the streets of America and the news are filled with the bodies of so-called insubordinates. Your life is more important.

This source has been very much helpful in doing our research. Read more about police de-escalation statistics and let us know what you think.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is de-escalation in law enforcement?

Although the general public believes that most law enforcement officers are trained only to use force, the truth is most officers are also trained to use de-escalation techniques. When an officer de-escalates a situation, they are attempting to avoid using force in favor of using words, or other methods to calm the situation down. de-escalation is a law enforcement tactic that aims to help police officers avoid using their guns in situations that do not require it. This is done through the careful, strategic, and slow reduction in the amount of tension in a situation. This can be accomplished in many ways, including by (among other things) not shouting or pointing guns at the people involved, and by giving them the time and space to calm down. De-escalation is a skill that can be learned by police officers and is taught to many of them, as it is considered a valuable tool in lowering the number of police shootings.

How do you de escalate a police officer?

One of the ways we can build trust with the communities we police is to be proactive in the way we approach potentially volatile situations. For a lot of people, the last thing they want is a confrontation with the police, and the first interaction with an officer can set the tone for how future interactions will go. Getting out of one of these situations with your safety and dignity intact is the goal, and there are a few things you can do to make a confrontation less likely to occur. With the rise of racially charged police shootings across the country, and the concurrent rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, officers have not been shy about de-escalating situations with their firearms. But these are not the only weapons in the officer’s arsenal. The truth is that most of these situations could be resolved through the use of verbal judo—the ability to inflect one’s tone, words, and body language to calm down a dangerous situation.

What is the most important thing for police officers to do when building police/community relations?

Police departments and community groups have very different goals when it comes to their relationships with the public. Community groups want to build trust with police, while police want to maintain order. To build good relationships, police officers need to focus on interacting with the public in a way that doesn’t make people feel like they are being accosted. (For more on how your words and body language can affect people, read our article on what is body language?) The purpose of this blog is to provide you with tips on how to best build the relationship between police officers and the community. Knowing how to communicate and interact with people is a necessity for anyone working in this field, and knowing how to react when people act in a non-standard manner is key to keeping the community and yourself safe. Although these skills may seem like a no-brainer to some, the reality is that every day officers are put into situations you couldn’t even imagine.


About the Author: Prateek

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