May 7, 2019

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Conflicting Commands

Gordon Graham
Category: Law Enforcement, Corrections

Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Today’s Tip is for law enforcement and corrections.

Commands should be clear and concise. Commands should be given by one officer only.

Today’s tip is for law enforcement and corrections officers and it deals with the issue of conflicting commands given to suspects.  

We know that officers can experience distorted perception in high-stress situations. This can occur with all senses, including hearing. You may hear things differently than they are. Under stress, you may not be able to hear even loud, clear, and seemingly obvious sounds. Because human attention is limited and selective, sometimes you may not hear anything at all. This happens when you are focused on something else that your brain has determined is more important. 

Well, guess what. Suspects are subject to these same human performance limitations 

Is there anything we can do to help ensure that a suspect can understand our commandsYes. Commands should be clear and concise. And commands should be given by one officer only.  

T.M.I. Too much information can cause misunderstanding or confusion. Commands should be short and easy to understandIf you want the suspect to get down, say so. If you want the suspect to stop moving completely, just say so.  

And don’t give conflicting orders. If you start yelling one thing and then something different, the suspect may not be able to process and respond. 

It may be difficult for a suspect to focus in a high-stress situation. Even a suspect who intends to comply. Asking a suspect to change focus from one officer to another can be confusing. When more than one officer is giving commands, it usually sounds like just a bunch of noise anyway. If another officer is already giving commands, bite your tongue. Resist your initial urge to join in. This will require discipline and practice.  

Well in advance, think about the commands you will use in high-stress situations. Use commands that are clear and concise. Talk this through with the other officers you work with. Practice the discipline needed to allow one officer to give the commands.  

And that is Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Gordon Graham, signing off. 

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