Posts Tagged ‘police’

Police Psychology | Take the Operational Triangle Home

by Doug Gentz, Ph.D. Psychological Services

The operational triangle was developed to provide a graphic way to represent priorities for officers in the field. At the base operational-triangleof the triangle is Officer Safety which always comes first. The middle level of the triangle is about building Rapport which involves interacting with other people in a way that creates or enhances a relationship and increases your ability to exert the power of influence. Problem Solving is at the top of the triangle and could be as simple as giving someone directions to the bus station or as complex as making a successful case against a homicide suspect.

As opposed to influence, problem solving relies on the power of authority, meaning you can make something happen that eliminates the problem. Your directions relieve the lost pedestrian’s ignorance about the bus station and the case you build against the murderer takes him off the street. Somewhere in between is arresting a drunk driver. When you’re through solving a problem, you can usually go 10-8. (more…)

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Police Psychology | Emotional Pinball

by Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D.  ABPP


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Police Psychology | Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

by Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D.  ABPP


I can’t wait to see the polls this week.  Two weeks ago Trump was behind by 10 points, earlier last week by 5 points, the end of last week by 2 points and yesterday he was ahead by 3 points in the states that mattered.  Yeah right!  I can’t wait to see what kind of fantasy the news wants us to buy this week.  Not that these really aren’t the polls, but the metholine chartds and presentation do not seem very accurate anymore.  In fact, statistics do not seem accurate anymore in general.  You can’t trust them.  It brings back the old quote from Mark Twain “There are three types of lies:  lies, damned lies and statistics.”

In 2001, a student and professors dealt with rumors that Greek Hospitals were doing large number of appendix operations on Albanian citizens.  It was not reported in the statistics.  So they studied the rumors in six hospitals and in fact an Albanian was 3 times more likely to have a healthy appendix taken out of them than a Greek citizen.  Three times more likely to undergo an operation that wasn’t needed!  It was reported in an article called “Lies, Damned Lies and Medical Science.”  What would a “lies, damned lies and policing” look like?

It has been said that 92% of statistics are made up on the spot.  Sound a little high, maybe it is more like 76% of statistic are made up on the spot.  Actually, I have seen from 26% to 92% when talking about what is made up on the spot – sort of evidence that the premise is true whatever the number is.  So let me just point to four ways statistics can lie to you by looking at some of the myths of policing. (more…)

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Police Psychology | Punch a Wall, Not My Face


Police psychology: Frustrated Couple

Police psychology is invested in teaching people how to avoid reacting violently to frustration.

   Police Psychology is always dealing with how to keep officers less emotionally reactive, in particular not reacting out of anger, especially when dealing with police stress.  We all experience moments of frustration—moments where we just feel like lashing out at everyone and everything around us because things aren’t working out for us in the ways we wanted, or perhaps Notre Dame allowed a touchdown that shouldn’t have happen (sorry getting too personal). Frustration is the emotion we feel when we are being opposed, blocked from reaching a goal we want, or barred from doing something we want to do. Frustration is very common, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. Frustration can also range from mild to severe, depending on the circumstance. For instance, if you wanted to make it through a green light before it turned red, but by the time you got there it was too late, you’d probably experience minor frustration. On the other hand, if Notre Dame has another defensive lineman injured on a jet sweep from a stupid cut block and the referee refuses to call it because he hates the Irish when they have a supposedly inferior opponent… wait I am losing it again. I need to find a wall to punch.

Cycling your Frustration

Police psychology: Frustrated girl

Police psychology is always looking for new ways to make police officers and other individuals less reactive.

A typical response to frustration is anger—anger at your boss for making you redo your work, anger at your teacher for giving you a bad grade on a paper you spent hours doing, anger at the guy in the car next to you for cutting you off. When the anger comes from re-living the same incident over and over, I call this “Cycling”—spinning the frustration into anger, saying the same thing over and over until anger builds from your frustration, and then frustration from your anger. Cycling is a never-ending mess which can have some dangerous consequences, especially if it leads you to say something you know you will regret later. It is not uncommon for this cycling to turn into something psychologists call frustration-aggression-displacement. Frustration-aggression-displacement is when you are frustrated at something or someone, but you know you can’t do anything about it. For instance, it is not going to be helpful to yell back at your boss or teacher when they do something that frustrates you, because they have a higher authority than you do, and getting angry with them won’t help assuage your frustration. So, what do you do? You go home and yell at your wife, or your children, or you kick your dog or go into a mini-road rage by driving like an idiot—you lash out at people who can’t or won’t fight back. In doing so, you are alleviating your frustration through aggression directed at people who are not responsible for your frustration. This is not only unhealthy for you and the people around you, it is also dangerous, and can lead to a downward spiral of increasingly harmful behavior. And research shows it can lead to heart attacks, cancer, rashes, organ dysfunction, etc. Yes, the open expression of anger and frustration has been shown in statistical research to be worse than holding it in. Sort of the opposite of what shrinks have told us in the past.

Lower the Stress

So what do we do about it? Police psychology is always looking for new ways to make police officers and other individuals less reactive. If frustration is a common, and often automatic response to different stimuli that occur to us, is there really something we can do to prevent it? The answer to this is no. Frustration is natural and normal—when we are faced with opposition, it is not unusual to feel thwarted and bothered. Indeed, frustration is not necessarily a bad thing. It can be used to motivate you to perform better in the future. Or it can be used as an indicator to point out what areas in your life need improvement. For example, if you find yourself constantly getting frustrated because you lose important items, this can indicate to you that you should try for some organization in your life, not letting the entropy consume your life. If you find yourself getting frustrated that you can’t communicate with your spouse as well as you did before, perhaps that is an indication you need to monitor the tempo of your life, and adjust your life’s paces accordingly.

However, frustration-aggression can and should be prevented. Frustration in and of itself is nothing to get concerned about, but the way you respond to frustration should be appropriate and reasonable.

procrastination23 Steps To Help Prevent Frustration Cycling

  1. Stop the Cycle. For frustration-aggression, the aspect that must be stopped in its tracks is not the frustration, it is the anger, the misplaced aggression you exhibit in response to the frustration. So, the first solution is to stop the cycle—prevent your frustration from spiraling down into anger and aggression. You can do this with a thought stopping technique that will be covered in a future post, or by actively suppressing your anger through different relaxation techniques.When something upsets or frustrates you, take a moment and inhale deeply.  Do this a few times until you calm down. Or close your eyes and count to 10. Self-talk is major asset when you are faced with frustration. Don’t act hastily, because that is how you end up doing something you’ll regret. Say to yourself, “is it really all that important and can it be accomplished despite this setback.” The cycle is not going to stop unless you actively take steps to prevent the wheels from turning. Your first line of defense is awareness—accepting that this is something you do, and this is something you need to work on. Once you are aware of this cycling behavior, you can begin to stop the cycle in its tracks.


  1. Look at the bigger picture. Sometimes, just embracing the idea that there is a bigger picture can help prevent you from lashing out in anger. If you are frustrated by something, you should take a moment to think: “Yelling back at my boss is not going to solve anything. It’ll just make the situation worse—I will get fired.” Or, “It is not my child’s fault that I did not get the promotion today.” Or even, “I know losing the car keys seems like the end of the world now—this is just a random bad thing that happened to me, but that doesn’t mean everyone is deliberately against me.” Stepping back and looking at the situation objectively, through the eyes of a zoomed-out camera lens, can prevent you from doing or saying something out of misplaced frustration.


  1. Think of effective ways to use the energy. In police psychology, we want people to understand that energy is everywhere and can be used effectively. Everything—every emotion, every movement, every feeling—has energy. The trick is to use the energy of your frustration in effective ways. Sublimation is when you take negative or dangerous energy and use it in a productive or constructive way. For example, if you are feeling frustrated, go for a run or go to the gym and let out all your grief that way. Or if you enjoy art, channel your unchecked emotions through art—paint or draw or write about it. Whatever hobbies you enjoy doing, use that to sublimate the energy of your frustration. This is a much healthier way of releasing the built up energy of frustration.


Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP

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Police Psychology:  When A Child Dies


Anne Bisek, Psy.D. is our first guest blogger. She is a police psychologist in Freemont California. Her specialty is calls for service involving the death of a child. For more information on this topic visit

It was obvious to the crowd of neighbors and in-laws that the young babysitter standing over the dead child was responsible for the toddler’s death. The woman was rambling incoherently about bugs, snakes, spiders and smoking a cigarette. Her thin face was covered in scabs and pockmarks; some were bleeding. The porch was littered with empty beer bottles and the front window had been smashed, leaving broken glass to cover the pack-n-play.

From his squad car Jake could see a muscular man in a white tee shirt approaching the house with a baseball bat. His stride was purposeful, his shoulders hunched.

“Oh here we go,” thought Jake as he exited the vehicle, “Let’s not make this any worse.”

 The man glared at the babysitter and skipped two stairs up the front porch toward her. From behind the man Jake grabbed the baseball bat just before it struck the bewildered babysitter. The small crowd of onlookers seemed to have the same idea as the man with the baseball bat. Jake was outnumbered. He grabbed the babysitter and whisked her away through the shouting, crying crowd to his squad car. He saw his back up arrive, followed by an irrelevant ambulance.

For days following the call, Jake had a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach; the kind of guilty sickness he hadn’t felt since he broke curfew as a kid the night his younger brother was badly beaten by some older boys. Jake reviewed his report over and over trying to remember any other detail he could add to it.

 Pedro the Peer Supporter noticed that Jake had not been joking around in the locker room as usual and was now quietly doodling during briefing. Pedro walked out of briefing behind Jake and asked him to meet up for lunch. “Yeah sure,” Jake replied as if he had not heard Pedro at all.

 At the end of the shift, Pedro sought out Jake in the locker room. “Up for a quick pick up game?” Pedro asked tapping his basketball.

 “It’s been a long day,” replied Jake.

“Come on man, I can tell you are off your game today, and I don’t mean basketball. What’s up?” Pedro sat down next to Jake who was changing his shoes.

“I’ve been thinking maybe I’m not right for this job.” Jake sighed.

 “Oh, one of those days. We all have them.” Pedro bounced the basketball twice.

Jake looked surprised but then told Pedro about the dead toddler and having to protect the suspect from a “mob of righteously angry family and friends.”

 “I get it Jake.” Pedro nodded. “In this job we are the sheep dogs. We feel good about protecting the sheep from the wolves. But we can’t always do that.”

 “No you don’t get it Pedro. It isn’t like that. Never mind.”

 “Give me another shot at it then.” Pedro tossed Jake the basketball.

Jake spun the ball in his hands. “If I was a good sheep dog, I would have protected the sheep not the wolf. I protected the suspect, not the victim, Pedro. I got it all wrong.”

 “So you think you are a bad cop because you put the suspect in the car instead of letting her be slaughtered out there?” Pedro asked.

 Jake tossed the ball back to Pedro and his shoulders slumped. “I was useless on that call. Didn’t even interview the R.P. I can’t shake this feeling in my stomach.”

“And that means you aren’t right for this job?” Pedro asked.


 “Want my opinion?” Pedro asked, rolling the basketball toward Jake.

 “Sure coach.” Jake stopped the ball with his foot.

 “You are a good cop Jake. You are a good person. A good sheep dog usually protects the sheep from the wolves. But in this case you had to protect the wolf. Sometimes you have to do that and when the tables get turned it can feel pretty messed up. But it doesn’t mean you aren’t right for this job. It was the call that was messed up, not you.”    

 Cognitive dissonance is the feeling of uneasiness, which results from holding two conflicting beliefs. Leon Festinger proposed this theory in 1957. Everyone holds ideas about the world and themselves. When a belief and concept collide with reality, it is unpleasant so we want to make it consistent again, sometimes by adapting unhealthy or irrational beliefs.

Bisek 1

As a law enforcement officer, Jake wants to believe he is a good person. Jake’s concept of a good law enforcement officer is someone who protects the prey from the predators, not the other way around.

Bisek 2

Since Jake cannot change the reality of this call for service, he changes his belief, “I’m not a law enforcement officer, or I’m not right for this job.” Woulda coulda shoulda thinking enters the scenario as Jake goes over and over the report.

Bisek 3

 Jake may not realize it, but he is acting like he believes he is not a good law enforcement officer, or a good person. Pedro the Peer Supporter notices the change in his colleague and can help Jake by listening, and reflecting this belief back to him. Pedro points out that the healthier concept is “a law enforcement officer usually protects the sheep from the sheep dog,” and shows Jake that the call for service was messed up, not Jake.



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