Police procedures for responding to calls involving special situations
Police officers as the principal public safety persons respond to a host of emergency situations, some ordinary others quite unusual (Ortmeier, 2006). In each of these situations, the responding officer is expected to either solve or at least contain the situation. Inevitably, an officer will be called or while on patrol respond to a situation they have never experienced (Ortmeier, 2001). In other instances the situation may be usual but requiring special attention owing to the circumstances. These situations are referred to as special situations and there are corresponding procedures for each situation.
Responding to natural disasters
Natural disasters bring a lot of catastrophe whenever they occur. Such as so, whenever there is a natural disaster people usually afraid and invariably hard to control. Though some disasters are predictable, majority are not. In order to respond effectively to such occurrences, it is imperative that the police maintain a contingency fund (Gaines and Worrall, 2012). Having such a fund is critical as natural disasters may last for a while, depleting the normal budget.
Additionally, the police department maintains a contingency plan detailing how to assess potential risk, priority tasks, and a recovery plan (Ortmeier, 2006). Every officer in the department has access to these plans. In some cases the department also shares the plan with the local community to ensure a concerted effort when the disaster occurs. Some departments also conduct drills to access the level of preparedness for each officer.
Lost and missing persons
The first thing an officer does while responding to a lost or missing person situation is to confirm if indeed the person is missing; this is because the person might have wandered from the usual place. The officer then obtains a description and photo of the person missing. It is then ascertained whether there are apprehensive circumstances. Information obtained is then shared with other public safety workforce (Ortmeier, 2006).
Where the missing person is a child the officer ascertains where the child was last seen. This helps in determining the search grid. The officer then relays details of the child to the nearest media. Additionally, the officer makes an AMBER alert to assist in coordinating the search for the child. Other personnel such as child services and the Federal Investigation Bureau are notified if it appears the child has been kidnapped. If the missing person is an adult, the officer ascertains if there are valid reasons for assuming that the adult is missing.
Elder abuse presents a rather technical situation to respond to. This is because correctly identifying instances of elder abuse requires specific knowledge on elder victimization. Most police departments have officers with some training in identifying warning signs of elder victimization. It is such officers that will respond to the call. Additionally, the officer requests for assistance from Adult Protective Services (APS).
An officer while responding to animal control calls encounters various animals, some of which are dangerous. Accordingly, the primary concern while responding is the safety of the officer and that of the public. The officer will usually quarantine the animal if it poses a real threat to safety. In jurisdictions where there are other animal control personnel, the officer will then alert them. Where there are no such personnel, the officer will assess the situation and call for necessary support.
Mentally imbalanced and inebriated persons
The common denominator for such persons is that their cognitive abilities are impaired. Accordingly, they cannot act rationally and may pose a threat to themselves and the public as well. In responding to a call involving either of them, the officer first assesses the situation to ascertain the cause of impairment. This enables them to determine how to respond. The officer then establishes a perimeter to reduce the threat of danger posed. The officer then approaches the subject calmly and cautiously. Where possible, the officer will restrain or confine the subject to a particular area. Support services will then be alerted. Where possible, the officer will take the subject to a help center, either a mental institute or a detoxification center.
Just like mentally imbalanced and inebriated persons, persons attempting suicide are invariably in a precarious or unstable state of mind. A person attempting suicide in most cases has lost hope in life. Accordingly, the responding officer ensures that they do not do anything that may aggravate the situation. The officer first establishes a perimeter to ensure that unnecessary persons are cleared as they may spook or exacerbate the subject. The officer then assesses the mental state of the person; this will assist the officer in knowing how to converse with the subject.
The officer will then introduce themselves in a friendly manner, state that they intend no harm, and enquire the reason for attempting suicide. As they converse, the officer can radio for assistance or support. For instance, if the subject is on the roof top, the officer can call the fire brigade. If the subject is within a distance, the officer will approach slowly and cautiously. In some instances the officer may request the subject to allow the officer to approach so that they may talk face to face. If the subject does not want the officer close, the officer remains where they are and stalls the subject to buy some time for the arrival of support.
Police officers act very carefully in instances where the subject threatens to use deadly force, either against the officer or other people. The officer will at all times avoid aggravating the situation as it may lead to suicide by cop (Lord, 2004). If the officer recognizes that the situation would likely result to a suicide by cop, they will usually wait for professional assistance, unless the safety of the officer or the public is in danger.
Responding to situations of fire presents an onerous task for police officers. This is because fires are hard to control and are very deleterious. The first thing to do on arrival is to alert the fire brigade. Secondly, the officer will try to manage the situation as best as they can. In such regard, the responding officer’s task is twofold; prevention and protection (Ortmeier, 2006). Prevention requires the officer to minimize the spread of the fire while protection requires the officer to lessen personal and property damage.
In case there are trapped victims, the officer will estimate whether fire fighter can arrive on time. If not, the officer cautiously tries to rescue the trapped persons, at all times having regard to their personal safety. The officer’s duty changes once the fire fighters arrive. The officer now focuses on support services such as crowd control, traffic diversion, and ingress and egress management for firefighters and medics (Ortmeier, 2006).
In summary therefore, it is imperative to note that it is not possible to document each special situation an officer may respond to. However, there are basic guidelines that apply to all special situations. These assist an officer while responding to any special situation. From the foregoing, these guidelines can be summed as: regard for personal and public safety; assessing the situation; calling for back up or assistance; and doing that which is necessary to contain the situation as back up or assistance arrives.
Gaines, L. K. and Worrall, J. L. (2012). Police Administration. New York: Delmar, Cengage
Lord, V. B. (2004). Suicide by Cop – Inducing Officers to Shoot: Practical Direction for
Recognition, Resolution, and Recovery. New York: Looseleaf Law Publications. Print.
Ortmeier, P. J. (2006). Introduction to law enforcement and criminal justice (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc. Print.
Ortmeier, P. J. (2001). Policing the Community: A Guide for Patrol Operations. New York:
Prentice Hall. Print.