In 2014, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office noticed that some of its young hires lacked the kinds of communication skills that are useful in eliciting information or defusing tense situations. The office decided to implement a course that would better prepare them for the various situations they would be facing.
“Some had trouble speaking with people, suspects and victims,” said Sgt. Martin Tucker, the Sheriff’s office training unit supervisor. “We were finding our people were not standing back and taking a good look at the people they were talking to.”
“They weren’t looking at the social cues and couldn’t gain common ground and trust,” he said.
This week, Tucker and trainer Tony Anderman visited the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs to teach instructors there the fundamentals of Tactical Social Interaction, the discipline the two have been teaching their deputies and others the last couple of years.
Washington State University developed the course and Anderman was sub-contracted by the school’s research team to assist with the development of the training.
The 40-hour course, which is split into five eight-hour increments, is used by the military and is also helping law enforcement officers in communication, adaptation and problem-solving in a multicultural context.
Anderman, the program’s system designer, said the program constantly coaches the officers and offers many hands-on lessons and simulations. In the 16-hour version of the course, eight hours are spent in the classroom and eight hours are in the field.
“It helps put them in a situation where nobody gets hurt,” Anderman said. “There are solid competencies put in place, with a focus on emotional and cultural intelligence.”
The program works on a seven-competency system, which includes observation and assessment, contact, engagement, self-control, adaptation and disengagement.
In one of the course’s segments, trainees are required to build a tower with notecards, tape and scissors without speaking or writing down numbers or letters, helping them home in on the body language aspect of their job. Another lesson was identifying their biases.
“I don’t think there is another program like that in the way it’s delivered,” Anderman said.