Behind the Doc

Conflict resolution skills a modern necessity

Posted October 20, 2014 11:38 a.m. EDT

The statute authorizing law enforcement officers to use deadly force is clear: They have a duty to use it to protect their life and the lives others when a situation turns violent. Law enforcement officers need that authority to fulfill their duty to protect.

But in order to fulfill their duty to serve some say officers need more training to teach them how to prevent situations from turning violent in the first place, especially when dealing with the mentally ill.

In our documentary “A Call for Help,” we examine the death of Keith Vidal. It’s a tragic story for all involved – Vidal’s family and the law enforcement officers. The silver lining may be how Vidal’s death has put a spotlight on the challenges so many families face in getting help for their loved ones with mental illness and the challenges officers face in dealing with mentally ill people in crisis. After all, they’re not trained to be mental health counselors.

In the production of our documentary it was refreshing to see so many officers embracing Crisis Intervention Team Training. The training not only teaches officers how to de-escalate potentially volatile situations with mentally ill people in crisis, but also in any situation, including domestic disputes. It’s a stark contrast to the “command and control” training law enforcement officers typically use, and it reveals how the way officers communicate can determine whether a situation turns violent.

In watching CIT training, it’s clear that it would be useful to all law enforcement officers.

The training is similar to the “Crucial Conversations” course many of us in the corporate world take. That course is designed to teach people in a corporate setting how to communicate without conflict. That’s a skill that’s valuable for everyone, whether a law enforcement officer talking to a mentally ill person in crisis or a husband talking to his wife in a stressful situation at home.

Violence should always be a last resort making the skills needed to avoid it a valuable tool for everyone.

About this Blog:

Documentary producer and writer Clay Johnson provides some behind-the-scenes insight into the production of WRAL documentaries.