It is now generally understood that police officers are placed in remarkably difficult situations that are often life-threatening. Even the United States Supreme Court has explained that police contacts can be tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving. It is no surprise that officers often struggle to adjust from an extremely high-stress, fight or flight encounters, back into the mild-mannered neighborhood police officer.
We understand that each day our first responders experience stressors that trigger a series of physiological changes known as fight or flight. This can include increased heart rate, muscle tone, blood pressure, decrease of fine motor skills, auditory exclusion, and tunnel vision. They remain in this state until the parasympathetic system returns body and mind to a resting state. Learning how to control this response allows for improved decision-making and rational thoughts that consider longer term consequences extending beyond the next few moments.
In an effort to address the prevalence of officer involved shootings and excessive force incidents, most police departments have imposed policy stating officers shall attempt to de-escalate situations when possible. The problem is that departments are providing little to no training on de-escalation. The nature of the job, from responding to life threatening situations to trivial report calls, is a rollercoaster ride for officers. During high stress calls, officers’ nervous systems are often unknowingly and unwillingly, automatically going into the sympathetic state (fight or flight). When operating in “fight or flight”, the officers are at a high risk of over reacting with excessive force and, in worse case scenarios, with unnecessary deadly force. Untrained officers are operating from a primal instinct to survive, not knowing how to respond using the frontal lobe of the brain to make split second decisions. Officers are given no tools on how to come down from this sympathetic state and are sent right to the next call for service, now even more likely to over react.
Officers are given little to no communication skills training on how to deal with difficult people. When confronted with uncooperative, provoking and vicious verbal attacks officers are left to their own devices on how to deal with this. Often officers are given the instruction to just “suck it up!” which again only further perpetuates the state of “fight or flight” and/or frustration. By the end of their shift Officers may feel on edge or often they are feeling lethargic, completely drained, having no capacity to show any sympathy to witnesses and victims, let alone be in a good mindset to respond to a deadly force situation.
De-escalation and Mindful Breathing was specifically created to assist first responders in managing stress before, during, and after stressful encounters to ensure enhanced decision-making during a crisis and the ability to rapidly return from the fight or flight response. The immediate benefits are apparent, but this course also equips students with the ability to improve long-term health.
The training will teach officers how to recognize when they are in a state of “fight or flight” and how to control themselves in any given situation. Once in control, they are then and only then in a position to influence the actions of others. They will learn how to read suspects’ body language and how to respond instead of reacting. Officers will learn simple and effective verbal communication skills that will give them confidence in dealing with difficult people. They will learn how to breath properly during a physical altercation in a way that will empower them and keep them out of “fight or flight”. They will learn how to attain a mindset of hyper awareness that is crucial during life and death situations. Nearly as important, officers will learn how to relax after an intense incident bringing them back into a parasympathetic state (rest and digest). This will prolong their longevity on and off duty.
After completion of the course, officers will have access to a higher level of awareness, both self-awareness and that of the people they come in contact with. Officers will be able to identify bodily functions of others, such as specific breathing patterns, which can give them insight to whether the person is in a calm cooperative state or in “fight or flight”. This, coupled with their heightened self-awareness of their own nervous system, will enable them to make accurate split-second choices, having a positive influence on the prevalence of officer involved shootings and/or excessive force incidents.
Students who complete this 8-hour course will be able to:
- Apply these techniques during a tactical event such as an active shooter
- Apply breathing techniques to help de-escalate a violent encounter
- Explain how to manage emotions before, during, and after a crisis
- Describe how to affect their heart rate and nervous system to alleviate stress
- Apply Breathing techniques to remain calm and focused in high stress situations
- Read a suspect’s breathing pattern as cues to mindset
- Use breathing techniques to increase energy, improve heart health, decrease pain, relax, and sleep better
Note: It is recommended that students wear workout clothing to participate in the practical exercises.
Course Length: 1 day (8 hours)
Certification: California Board of State and Community Corrections (STC)
Cost/Tuition: $0 for POST reimbursable agencies / $125
Max Class Size: 24 Students
Recommended For: Line level personnel and supervisors
About the Course Designer/Instructor:
Recognized as an expert in de-escalation strategies, Mr. Milosevich is a retired Santa Monica Police Officer, POST instructor, and Professor at Santa Monica College. Erik has taught law enforcement courses in: De-escalation (Lava Mae staff) Krav Maga, Gracie Jujitsu, Taser, Nunchaku, and Communications with Difficult People. Erik’s police experience includes Patrol, Field Training Officer, Riffle Team, Police Activities League, Narcotics, SWAT, and Neighborhood Resource Officer. [More..]
© Los Angeles County Regional Training Center 2019