Many times we've heard on the news recently that a police officer made contact with someone, and the situation turned confrontational or deadly. I invested years of my law enforcement career learning to interact with people. For me, it was an education.
Let me share some of that knowledge with you. And in doing so, you can hear things from the perspective of the police officer. Why? Because someday it might save both our lives.
When an officer is dispatched to a call for service, he or she is going into a situation that they know very little about, meaning, it is unknown to them what is actually happening at the scene. They know only what has been communicated to them by the police dispatcher.
That information is never the full story due to the limited amount of information, if any, provided by the 911 caller to the dispatcher.
The officer's first priority when he arrives on the scene is the immediate protection of the public and of himself. We all understand that there is an inherent danger in policing. While it's not something that makes any police officer shy away from their duties, it is something that is always on the back of their minds.
I'm in no way defending poor decisions or bad police work. Law enforcement is like any other industry, yours included. There are great, good and poor performers in the workplace. And we all know who they are.
When an officer first arrives on scene, he or she must gain immediate control of the situation. It's during this time that very often public contact with the police becomes confusing. In an effort to gain immediate control of the situation, the officer will exert their "Command and Control" presence. Verbal orders are given. Physical restraints are often temporarily applied. This does not necessarily mean anyone is in trouble or at this point, going to jail. It means only that the officer is doing his very best as a human being to digest all the visual and physical stimulus that is being thrown at them during the initial moments of arriving at the scene.
Very, very seldom does the police officer arrive at a scene that is calm, quite and orderly.
I cannot tell you how imperative it is that everyone at the scene comply with the instructions of the police officer during the initial moments of the officer's arrival. The best thing you can do to help the officer at that point is to be compliant, calm, and cooperative. Comply with what the officer asks so they can then make sense of everything happening around them and better ensure your safety and theirs. The individual who is being loud, disorderly, aggressive, and non- compliant will immediately be perceived by the officer as the most probable threat.
Once the situation is under control, the officer, or officers, are obligated to investigate the incident that has been reported. It is during this phase that decisions will be made, based upon what the officer observes, what witnesses have reported and what the law dictates. It is on this information that the officer will then take action.
Look at it like this, until the scene is relatively calm, that officer is not going to feel safe in that he or she can provide you the best physical protection you deserve at that moment.
We've all been told that communication is a two-way street. Scene management isn't all about how the police act. It is also about how the public reacts.
Please remember to do your best to make a potentially bad situation a little better. For your safety and for mine.