Vol. 76, No. 1Editorial message

When defusing tensions, quality counts


We've all likely witnessed an argument in which one party shouts "calm down!" Calm rarely ensues. Rather, tensions rise and the conflict takes longer to resolve, or it escalates.

Our first issue of 2014 is devoted to, arguably, a police officer's most powerful tool: his or her voice. And while communication isn't the only tool at an officer's disposal when faced with an upset or non-compliant person, it's often the first to be used. And using it well can make all the difference.

Mallory Procunier writes about the exceptional active listening skills used by RCMP crisis negotiators in three real-life situations that may not have ended well without such deft handling.

And once acquired, these skills need to be refreshed.

Sigrid Forberg describes a Canadian Police College course that helps negotiators stay at the top of their game and share what they've learned with others in the field.

But savvy communication isn't just for trained negotiators.

RCMP members in Klappan Valley, B.C., erected a makeshift detachment between a mining company doing exploratory work and environmentalists who opposed it. They listened with impartiality, mediated when necessary and kept the peace.

And in our Q&A, learn how RCMP cadets benefit from an integrated approach to critical thinking and de-escalation skills during their training. Later in their careers, seasoned officers can continue to challenge the full spectrum of decision-making and use-of-force skills by using simulators with numerous outcomes.

We also hear from agencies who've tried unusual and sensible ways of reaching out to defuse tense situations.

The Toronto Police Service and a Toronto street nurse are leading a grassroots effort called Real-Time Crisis Intervention, which uses social media to reach out and respond to suicidal tweets and calls for help.

Sometimes, looking back on an event can provide critical clues to improve how we work. Two members of the Los Angeles Police Department spearheaded voluntary post-incident debriefs with people in crisis who had come into contact with police. The information gained from these interviews helps officers adjust their own responses to reach a non-violent resolution.

In Sweden, the Stockholm Police Department is taking communication a step further during large demonstrations with the creation of dialogue police officers. Their role – build trust and make it more advantageous for protestors to choose non-aggressive ways to achieve their goals.

And police agencies are bolstering their crisis intervention training to better understand mental illness.

Researchers at the University of Alberta have partnered with the Edmonton Police Service to help its officers improve interactions with people in crisis. The training uses actors to portray realistic interactions with police, who are later provided with feedback on their verbal and non-verbal responses.

While no one tool is the solution to interactions that turn violent, using each tool with skill and confidence can change outcomes.

MarCom Award winner

Gazette magazine has been named a Platinum winner of the 2013 MarCom Awards in the category of Magazine/Government for its issue on police and academia (Vol. 74, No. 4, 2012).

MarCom Awards is an international competition that recognizes exceptional achievement by communications professionals for excellence in quality, creativity and resourcefulness. As a Platinum Award recipient, Gazette magazine was judged to be among the most outstanding in the 2013 competition.

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