As I’ve written before, I get it. I really, really do. Being in a position of authority, especially with teens is a constant tension. All day you get pushback and challenges, some are good-natured, some are intensely hurtful and personal, some are threatening and potentially harmful. And yet, if you are in a position of authority (teacher, security, police officer, parent), it’s on you to deescalate a bad situation before it gets worse. Sorry, but that’s how it is.
This week there have been two situations that bring this into glaring focus: Anaheim and Baltimore.
First, Anaheim. An off-duty LAPD Officer said something obnoxious to a teenager and another teenager stuck up for her. This off-duty officer may well have misunderstood the teen (instead of “I’ll sue you” he may have heard “I’ll shoot you.”), and no matter what his reasons (bias, nerves, guilt for calling a teenager a disgusting word, ego, a need to make himself feel like a tough guy) for misunderstanding, his response was wrong and the opposite of de-escalation. Instead of ignoring the possibly misheard threat, walking into his house, calling 911, or asking for clarification, he decided to grab someone else’s 13-year old child and refuse to let him go. See the full video and aftermath here. Read the story of this disturbing event here.
That would have been more than bad enough, but after continuing to drag the teen around and scratch him, drag him over a hedge, and verbally abuse him, when other teens came too close trying to help, this off-duty police officer pulled out his gun and fired a shot.
AND GUESS WHO WAS ARRESTED. Not the cop.
Just last night another video, this one from Baltimore, came to light detailing the arrest of a 16-year old boy who had just been threatened by another, knife-wielding teen. The video is disturbing not just for the violence (closed fist punches, choking, slamming of body and head to the ground), but also for the frightened cries from the teenager. See it and details of the event here.
Both of these horrendous, potentially tragic situations could have been de-escalated with a dose of humility, proper restraint techniques, and a full assessment of the situation. None of the (armed, trained, authority figure) adults in these situations behaved as they should have. And in one situation, an off-duty officer discharged his weapon into a crowd of teenagers.
Please don’t wait until a tragedy occurs in your area. Contact your police department and town government and urge them to strengthen and further develop deescalation techniques, especially when dealing with minors. Even PoliceOne.com has sections of deescalation, for crying out loud.
Spreading the word at the yeah write moonshine grid.