L.A. Officers Study the Mindsets of People Involved in Police Standoffs


Los Angeles police officers Teresa Irvin and Michael Baker have interviewed about 40 people involved in potentially violent encounters with the police over the past four years to gain understanding about their mindset, says the New York Times. They hope the information will help law enforcement officers, especially those who are the first to respond to a scene, learn to diffuse volatile moments rather than escalating them. “Cops like to solve things right away,” said Baker, a senior SWAT team negotiator who in more than 25 years has responded to hundreds of “barricade” situations. “But I think that attitude sometimes causes a response that isn't appropriate.”

“Just the way you approach a situation verbally or with your body language can put people on the defensive,” Baker said. “It's been my experience from talking to people that a lot of them get scared, and that's why they react the way they do.” The interview project began in 2007 when Detective Irvin, a field supervisor with the Mental Health Evaluation Unit who has been with the department 18 years, started following up on some cases, visiting people at their homes, in prison, or in psychiatric hospitals and asking them what led them to such drastic actions and how the police could have handled the situation better. Irvin and Baker speak about the project at law enforcement conferences and military training programs and have been contacted by police departments interested in doing similar interviews themselves. They are developing a training program for the Los Angeles department.

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