Ohio police receive training in ‘verbal judo' to defuse tense situations

Ted Hart - WHITEHALL, Ohio (WCMH) - The public trust in police officers took a hit in the wake of several high-profile police-involved shootings and the riots in Ferguson, Mo. and Baltimore, Md.

That change in public perception is part of the reason that all Whitehall police officers recently received training in a tactical communication technique called verbal judo.

Sgt. Chad Wilder says the goal is always to avoid the use of force.

"Anytime we can talk somebody into doing something we need done as opposed to using force to do it - that's beneficial to everybody," Wilder said.

Verbal judo is using words to defuse or de-escalate a potential physical confrontation.

It has several basic principles as its core:

  • everyone wants to be treated with dignity and respect
  • everyone would rather be asked than told
  • everyone wants to know why they are being asked or told
  • everyone would rather have options
  • everyone wants to have a second chance

Sgt. Wilder puts the technique to use on a daily basis - even in routine traffic stops.

"When you went by me I noticed your front plate was missing off the front of your vehicle and the window tint looks a little dark. Is this your vehicle, sir?" Wilder asks a motorist he pulled over Monday evening.

"One of the main tenets of the verbal judo is to explain to people what's going on to reduce their tension," Wilder said. "If they're aware and informed, hopefully, they're going to be more cooperative."

Wilder says a police officer choosing the wrong words can inflame a situation. He says having to resort to the use of force creates liability and safety issues for police officers.

"With the current nature of things in society and the perception of police, we want to be ahead of the curve," Wilder said. "We wanted to get additional training before we need it as opposed to after we've had a problem."

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