PROPER TACTICS WHEN HANDLING EMOTIONALLY DISTURBED PERSONS

Before arrival on scene of a possible EDP, or substance abuse incident, think TACTICS. On your way to the call, attempt to gather as much information as possible prior to arrival on scene:

  • Whether the person is armed with weapons
  • Medical or psychiatric history
  • Location of subject (home, park, etc.)
  • Presence of other adults, children, friends
  • Whether the person is violent
  • Whether the person has an arrest record or history of violence
  • Whether the person has a history of alcohol or substance abuse
  • Whether other uniformed personnel are on the scene (ambulance, fire department, police)
  • Whether other officers know the person
  • Get as much information regarding the EDP as possible from family members or other present
  • This might include past incidents where police have been called, hospitalizations, medications, drug and alcohol use, past suicide attempts, history of violence, availability of weapons, and/ or what triggered the current incident

Upon arrival on scene, one officer should assume the role of the “Contact Officer”. The contact officer will do all of the talking with the EDP. (This prevents the confusion and agitation that might ensue as a result of too many people talking at the same time). If you are the “contact partner”, lower you radio and coordinate your plan of action.  The “cover officer” will handle the radio.

Be aware of your surroundings (look for weapons, dangerous conditions, entrances, exits, etc.) Maintain a safe distance from the EDP. When an EDP is violent, maintain a barrier between yourself and the EDP. Respect the EDP’s personal space (personal space is defined as the amount of space an individual needs between him and you to feel safe) Avoid attempts to intimidate or threaten EDP’s. Such techniques may work with rational criminals, but are likely to further excite EDP’s.

Do not:​
  • Do not take offense at any actions or words directed against you. Remember that you are there because EDP’s have mental health problems. Even those who may have committed crimes may not be in control of themselves, and are not purposely trying to offend you or anybody else. Their actions are not deliberate choices. Instead, they are the results of a psychiatric illness or other condition.
  • Do not rush unless necessary to protect yourself or others.
  • Do not make sudden movements. Move deliberately and slowly and keep a distance. DISTANCE EQUALS SAFETY. Keep a barrier between yourself and any potentially dangerous EDP. Unless there is no other way to protect yourself or others against imminent harm, avoid behavior that causes agitation.
  • Do not lie or try to deceive. Once you break trust with an EDP, it is almost impossible to get it back.
  • Do not try to intimidate or frighten the EDP into submission
  • Do not “crowd” an EDP
  • Do not challenge the EDP’s perceptions. These may be hallucinations or delusions, but they are real to him
  • Do not stare at or maintain ongoing eye contact with the EDP, who may see this as challenging or threatening
  • Do not act in a confrontational manner by arguing with or challenging the EDP. Remember, be empathetic and a good listener. If you are the designated “contact partner”, listen and try to maintain empathy. Act as calmly as possible
  • Do not surprise your partner by taking any sudden or unexpected action unless someone’s safety is in imminent danger. Take as much time as you need to avoid injury to anybody
  • Don’t lose this advantage by rushing or by forcing a confrontation.

Understanding tactics when dealing with an EDP is crucial to your safety, the safety of the EDP and the safety of others. Many times the actions of poorly trained officers will result in the use of force where it could have otherwise been resolved peacefully. There is no rush. Take your time. Your goal should be a peaceful resolution.
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