Scenario: You have just arrested a 19 year old male on a Failure to Appear (FTA) warrant. He is at his parent’s house and no weapons are visible. You have good scene control but he is “running off at the mouth” with fowl language and calling you every name in the book.
Key Question: What are you going to do? How are you going to handle the defendant?
Many agents at this point would decide to show this “punk” who the “boss” is and ratchet up the volume of their voice, cuss back at defendant, demean him or maybe even use a “little extra” physical force than is absolutely necessary. I have seen this happen many times in my career and, unfortunately, have also made the mistake of being the “boss” a few times. The situation always turned out the same- unnecessary confrontations occur as a result.
The lesson to consider for today is: avoid escalating this type of confrontation by staying in control of your emotions at all times. Using techniques of “positive public relations” such as thinking before speaking, giving simple direction with a firm, commanding tone and also making the effort to listen to the defendant and understanding the source of his or her aggravation will help defuse a tense or out of control situation.
Positive public relations helps make sure you are able to keep a scenario like this manageable and that you stay in control. Professional communication, which requires both speaking and listening and keeping a cool head, dictate that you to treat this young man with respect, no matter how vulgar his behavior gets.
Yes, I did say respect.
Many agents have never considered this an area in which they may need to improve. Remember, while he is calling you every bad word in his vocabulary, he is having a much worse day than you; after all, he is going back to jail tonight while you are going to eventually go home. Let him blow off some steam and don’t take it personally; he is under a great deal of stress and probably does not know how else to communicate his frustration. You are going to make it worse by treating him in any other manner than with respect and courtesy.
As the professional in this scenario, the outcome is up to you. Adopting the attitude of showing the “punk” who the “boss” is will likely spin events out of control until it becomes an unnecessary and unpleasant confrontation. Anger and frustration lead to violence. While you cannot fully control how others will react during an apprehension, you can show restraint on your part in an effort to keep the arrest as safe and manageable as possible. You have choices in how you handle yourself in every situation. By using positive public relations and exercising good scene control, you know that in the end you will be able to apprehend the defendant and take him in without an unnecessary fight.
Editor’s Note: This article makes the very valid point that professionalism is sometimes our biggest marketing weapon but a lack of professionalism can also be our ultimate downfall. One thing that I think bears mentioning here too, is that when we let the situation spiral out of control we are more likely to make poor decisions. Errors in judgment most often land agents in Civil and Criminal court!