Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Training Tips

By Tracy E. Barnhart
Backgate Contributing Author

 Assessing behavior and preventing a physical assault should be accomplished whenever possible. It is critical for an officer to recognize and assess aggressive verbal and physical actions of a person. Recognizing verbal and nonverbal aggressive behavior signals will aid the officer in preventing and de-escalating situations. Also, it prepares the officer mentally and physically to take immediate counter actions should a physical assault occur. Before physical action by an aggressor occurs, that individual usually begins to threaten to attack, in an attempt to intimidate the opponent, through a process sometimes called posturing, ritualized combat, or affective aggression.

1. The individual may tell you what they are about to do, “I’m going to kick your ass!”

2. Visible overt awareness - visible weapons/unusual bulges/unusual nervousness/hands in view.

 3. Their face may show tension and will tighten or twitch, the jaws and lips will tense into a biting position as well as quiver and mouth expressions will frown and tighten over the teeth.

 4. Their body posture will display broadside with their hands on their hips or clasped behind their head. They subconsciously will take a bladed boxers stance and will rock back and forth or bob up and down on the balls of the feet. Stands taller, sets head and shoulders, moves away/moves closer, points, forms fist and/or loads the arm.

5. Their hands will pump open and closed and then clench into a fist so much that their knuckles will go white. Always look at the hands and what they are doing with them.

6. They will deepen their voice tones and the volume increases. The more threatened or aggressive an individual becomes the lower, harsher and louder their voice turns thus the bigger and tougher they seem. The deeper the voice the more authoritative they seem.

 7. The eyebrows will come down as if to shield the eyes. This makes them look more aggressive and intimidating.

 8. The nostrils will flare and their breathing will become rapid and deep. Lips separate to show teeth.

 9. Aggression redirected to something/someone else, such as breaking pencils, kicking, chairs, yelling at bystanders.

 10. The individual will seem to be looking through you; their eyes become glazed over with an empty stare. The individual will take on an uninterrupted stare with alternating eye stares and the eyelids will tighten down. They may attempt to get chest to chest with you.

 11. They may start sweating and beads of sweat will form on the forehead.

 12. Eye blinking; the blink rate reflects psychological arousal. The normal blink rate is about 20 closures per minute. Significantly faster rates may reflect emotional stress.

 13. Individuals will show exaggerated movements such as pacing, finger pointing, and threatening fists with bent arms. Their verbals will be relentless and rapid to get you to change your mind or change your last orders that have sent them over the edge. They want to win the confrontation.

 14. The individual may shed clothing such as taking off their shirts or jackets bend down and tighten their shoes or remove items of value such as watches and hats and set them aside.

 15. The individual will start to look around to assess witnesses, back-up available, escape routes or will start to target glance at the places they want to strike on your person.

 16. Vasodilatation and vasoconstriction or flushing of the face will also be evident at the tops of the ears by a darkening redness due to the release of adrenaline and noradrenalin into the bloodstream.

There is an inherent danger associated with the corrections profession. Whether an officer is in a county jail or a closed security segregation facility, wearing a uniform will put them in dangerous situations. Threat assessment is the act of becoming aware of a situation directly through the senses, including hearing and seeing, thereby making a reasonable determination about the risks involved. Any inmate potentially can be assaultive and use deadly force. However, approaching every inmate in a high-risk mode would be unreasonable. There can be many articulable facts that support threat assessment. Some of the facts used in this judgment decision are listed above; it is not a comprehensive complete listing.

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