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The art and science of crisis negotiation

Dr. Jeff Thompson, a retired NYPD detective and current scholar at Columbia University Medical Center, discusses the challenges and strategies in de-escalating crises

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In the complex and often high-stakes world of law enforcement, officers are frequently called upon to navigate crises involving individuals who may be armed, in severe emotional distress, or posing a danger to themselves and others. The expectation is clear: resolve the situation swiftly and with minimal force. However, this is easier said than done.

In this episode of the Policing Matters podcast, host Jim Dudley delves into these challenges with Dr. Jeff Thompson, a retired NYPD detective who now serves as a research scientist specializing in de-escalation and hostage situations at Columbia University Medical Center. Dr. Thompson shares his valuable insights into the art and science of crisis negotiation, the importance of resilience, and the mental health practices that can help officers perform their duties effectively while maintaining their wellbeing.

About our sponsor

LETS Corp is the technology company behind LETS Respond, one of the most sought-after smart solutions by law enforcement to prevent and de-escalate crises. Endorsed by law enforcement agencies from LA to New York, LETS Respond helps bring enhanced awareness and safer resolutions in response to hostage/crisis situations. With LETS Respond, you’ll instantly save costs, and improve time to response and resolution, without ever needing to deal with the hassle of setting up a throw phone. Explore the benefits by visiting today.

About our guest

Jeff Thompson, PhD, is a research psychologist and scientist working in translational research – conducting research for the purpose of developing evidence-based and practical interventions, strategies, and practices for people to enhance their resilience; support their ability to manage crises, conflicts, and disputes; and prevent suicide.

Dr. Thompson is part of the Psychiatry Department at Columbia University Irving Medical Center working in the Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Depression as well as Molecular Imaging and Neuropathology Division. He recently retired from the New York City Police Department (NYPD) after serving for more than 20 years including as a detective, their first-ever mental health and wellness coordinator, and as a hostage negotiator.

Key takeaways

  1. Importance of empathy in de-escalation: Dr. Jeff Thompson emphasizes that genuine empathy and active listening are crucial in building rapport and trust with individuals in crisis. Understanding their perspective can help de-escalate tense situations effectively.
  2. Balancing de-escalation and physical intervention: The discussion highlights that while de-escalation is vital, there are instances where physical intervention is necessary to ensure safety. Officers must balance these approaches to manage crises effectively.
  3. Resilience and mental health: Dr. Thompson stresses the importance of building resilience and maintaining mental health for law enforcement officers. He advocates for daily practices that help officers prepare for and recover from traumatic incidents.
  4. Narrative psychology in crisis response: The episode delves into the concept of narrative psychology, where understanding and positively influencing the stories individuals tell themselves can be a powerful tool in crisis negotiation and resolution.

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Policing Matters law enforcement podcast with host Jim Dudley features law enforcement and criminal justice experts discussing critical issues in policing