3.4 Deescalating Violence
This series of blog posts was developed for the Fine Literature Book Club on Facebook. Crossing the Line was their April 2022 group read, and I was honored to lead the discussion.
"He needs ten milligrams of chill out."
The vast majority of street paramedicine (responding to 911 calls) is safe; however, the potential for violence is real and, sadly, sometimes happens. Being prepared is important. Vigilance, not paranoia.
We see two instances of such violence in this chapter. One is bystander-to-patient (which was interrupted by Megan and Thomas) and patient-to-medic (the patient behaving violently due to drug use).
While these scenes are interesting to read about, it’s critical that medics and other public safety personnel be trained in de-escalation techniques to prevent—as much as possible—those types of situations from occurring.
I’ll say it again: deescalation training is critical for public safety personnel, and it should be well funded in all jurisdictions.
In many places, such training does not exist. Medics are told to call the police department if there are issues, but many times, officers are not on scene when violence occurs. Even worse, without training, sometimes personnel can escalate situations. Some medics resort to carrying personal firearms or pepper spray. Some take training in martial arts (I take taekwondo). Some learn deescalation techniques on their own (I’ve found a few classes). But most rely on themselves and their teammates to ad lib as the moment arises. This is not ideal as we have seen repeatedly in the news over the last few years. Had those officers been trained in deescalation and advocacy would those incidents have occurred?
Policies for deescalation should be thorough and robust and the guidelines for the use of restraints, both physical and chemical, well defined and err on the side of humanity.
In writing “Crossing the Line,” I attempted to show some of the situations faced by medics to help people understand the risks they face and the ways in which a community can help prepare and support their personnel.