COMMUNICATING WITH EDP’S

   
Communication with EDP’s is the best form of tactics an officer can have for his or her safety as well as the safety of others, including the EDP’s. The best officers are officers who know how to speak with people and use minimal force and use force only when absolutely necessary. Too often, poorly trained officers use force when responding to calls for EDP’s when the situation could have been otherwise handled with a peaceful resolution. In order to assess the situation, you may want to ask questions of the EDP. When you try to communicate, be attentive to your tone of voice and body language. Listen carefully, be empathetic, and avoid phrases that will trigger anger, misunderstandings, or agitation. If there is something about you or your partner’s way of talking that appears to agitate the EDP, have the officer with the best rapport be the designated contact officer. He or she will do all the talking with the EDP, while the other officer acts as the cover officer. The following are communication strategies that are imperative when communicating with EDP’s:

  • Determine reasons for the individuals’ actions.
  • Be honest- perceptions of deceit may escalate violence and be perceived as a challenge.
  • Listen to the person- be an active, empathetic listener.
  • Ask simple and direct questions.
  • Ask open-ended questions.
  • Develop a rapport- this helps to overcome the persons fear and mistrust.
  • Recognize and respond to physical needs
  • Paraphrase responses and check for understanding
  • Identify and communicate with the healthy aspects of the person
  • Continually assess the situation for danger
  • Maintain adequate space between you and the EDP
  • Be calm
  • Give firm, clear directions
  • If possible only one officer should talk to the person
  • Respond to apparent feelings, rather than content
  • Respond to delusions and hallucinations by talking about the person’s feelings rather than what he is saying
  • Be helpful. People, generally will respond to questions concerning their basic needs (What would make you feel safer? Calmer?
  • Address basic needs when appropriate (tissue, cup of coffee, etc.)
  • Use simple acknowledgements- this encourages further communications:
    • Ex: “uh huh”, “I see”
  • Allow sufficient time for response
  • Encourage the person to respond
  • Use calm, simple, direct instructional/ request
  • Restate person’s statements:
    • Ex:       EDP: “I can’t sleep”
    • Officer: “You’re having difficulty sleeping?”
  • Use the term “go on” and “and then…?” as general leads
  • Give broad opening such as “you look like you need to talk things over with someone”
  • This indicates willingness to listen and relieves tension
  • Seek clarification and problem for specifics. This encourages talking and provides accurate information
    • Ex: “I’m not sure I understand, could you explain?”
  • Avoid expressing approval or disapproval
  • Discuss alternatives. This enables the person to consider options
    • Ex: “When you feel this depressed, what can you think of that might make you feel better?”
  • Use position of authority in a positive manner
  • Keep person talking; never reach complete closure
  • Stress positives, such as person’s strengths, qualities, and resources.
  • Respect, attentiveness, openness, acceptance and positive attitude increase effectiveness of communication
  • Appeal to emotions rather than intellect if you know the person is under the influence of drugs
  • Be quiet after asking a question; listen as carefully as you question

Communicating with EDP’s- DO NOT:

  • Not join into behavior related to the person’s mental illness (agreeing, disagreeing with delusions/ hallucinations)
  • Not stare at person- This may be interpreted as a threat
  • Not confuse the person- One officer should interact with the person. If a direction or command is given, follow through
  • Not give multiple choices- Giving multiple choices increases the person’s confusion
  • Not whisper, joke or laugh- This increases the person’s suspicions  and the potential for violence
  • Not deceive the person- Being dishonest increases fear and suspicion; the person will likely discover the dishonesty and remember it in any subsequent contacts
  • Don’t make promises/ threats that you can’t follow through on
  • Do not challenge the person’s delusions
  • Do not allow yourself to be manipulated
  • Avoid yes or no responses to personal questions
  • Do not falsely threaten arrest
  • Do not legalize
  • Do not overreact to gang language, sexual, racial, ethnic insults
  • Do not order, command, warn, or threaten- this creates fear/ resistance, invites testing, promotes rebellious behavior
  • Do not moralize, preach, or judge- this communicates a message of self-righteousness.
  • Do not name-call or ridicule
  • Do not negate the seriousness of the crisis- this causes misunderstanding, evokes hostility, and causes the person to be embarrassed.

The police response to EDP’s is one that is very common and very sensitive in nature. In my career I have heard of many officers getting injured in the line of duty during calls involving EDP’s. Safety is paramount when responding to these calls and departments should put a high emphasis on training their officers how to properly communicate with EDP’s. This training should include classroom as well as scenario based training. BE SAFE!
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