Friday, October 26, 2007


De-escalation is the step when force is imminent (how's that for 'soft' language- more real: if you don't do something now the fight will be on in a few seconds). It is "talking 'em down". It ranges from sympathy to weird non-sequitors to treating a threat like a thoughtful question to pure intimidation. It is a skill, and a more varied and more versatile skill than anything physical. But it is a skill, not an answer.

Some memorable successes:

"Turn your head to the side."
"Why, mother fucker?" He glared hard.
"Cause you look like you're thinking about fighting and you seem like a nice guy, so if you do start to fight and I smash you into the wall right there, if you turn your face to the side you won't break any teeth."
His glare changed to something more puzzled.
"It's just a courtesy. You seem like a nice guy and you don't need any dental bills. Just turn your head to the side."
"I won't be any trouble."
"I appreciate that."

"Mr. N----, please hand me the weapon."
"No you piece of shit. come here and take it."
Hurt tone, "But... Mr. N---, I said 'please.'"
"Oh, all right."
"Thank you."

"What's your goal today, partner?" This is one of my universals. Most of the people who want to fight are unhappy, without really thinking about why, and want to do something, without really thinking about what. Once they put into words what they want , e.g."I wanna go home" they often clearly see how fighting is not a step in that direction.

The dude has already kicked the door off a squad car.
"What's his name?" I ask the arresting officer.
I shake my head, "What's his last name?"
"Uh, Jones." (Names changed)
"Mr. Jones, you ARE going to go through this process but you are in absolute control of two things: How long it will take and how much it will hurt. I'm for very fast with no pain. How about you?" This worked, but there are problems with it. People in altered states of consciousness (not just drugs or alcohol or mental illness, anger and fear and dehydration and injury can all have similar effects) usuall can't follow long sentences. Keep things simple.

"You're fine. I'm part gypsy and gypies can't be turned into vampires." Needless to say, that got a big "Huh?" which lasted long enough to get cuffs on. Also, needless to say, this is part of a much longer story. Use your imagination. This is also where I learned that things that freeze the threat's brains can also freeze your partner's. When I got the cuffs on, my partner was still looking at me with his mouth open.

Not just for de-escalation of a fight. There is a critical moment right after a very bad thing and sometimes you will have to deal with someone on the edge of shock. Not physical shock, just the information and the implications of that information (the violent death of a loved one, for instance) can smash the identity. Will smash the identity, more realistically. The words then need to be for growth and positive action.

"I know this hurts, but your children need you know more than ever. They need you to be the strong one." The implication that no matter how shattered you feel you are still stronger than someone is empowering. Taking the steps to help another helps process the woumd without wallowing in it.

When it is being transformed into a righteous anger, an honest, cold focus: "Bullshit. You need to take care of her. She needs you to be there. You run off and do something stupid, look for some vengeance and you know what will happen. THEN she'll be alone and then will be forced to deal with what happened to her AND what you did to yourelf. Don't you dare do something stupid and try to make this about you."

This is a good skill, one of the critical skills in critical situations.


Anonymous said...

I have observed an interesting phenomenon. The pt was postictal and combative. It took 8 of us to hold him down. I was holding his arm while the nurse started an IV. He was flexing an straining so hard that when she removed the stylet, he shot a 10" arc of blood out the catheter. Crazy!

Anonymous said...

Hi Rory. I just recently found your blog and it's one of the more interesting and insightful blogs I've found. And you're a good storyteller too. I've been making my way slowly through your archives and enjoying it immensely.

I myself am kind of the opposite of you in some ways, small and physically timid, and I burned out of martial arts a long time ago because I just couldn't stand the violence, even in the game form that it is in martial arts classes. Still, the use of force and the resolution of conflict has remained a fascination of mine and it's good to read someone write about it with the wisdom of diverse experience to back it up. Keep it up!


Rory said...

David, Welcome. And for the record, I'm not that big. When I started working in the jail I weighed 70 kg (154 lbs).

Do you ever take digital pictures of work that I could use in the book? Know anyone who does?

dkphelps said...

Hello Rory,
I just found the blog, finally. I am enjoying the book as well as some of the references. We are both enjoying it. Some of the perspective is helping with the new job endeavor.
The new Mrs. Phelps