Q&A About AVERT
Training for Law Enforcement
Was AVERT Created for Law Enforcement Staff?
AVERT introduces law enforcement staff to the importance of personal
accountability by increasing their emotional self-awareness and empathy, the
most critically important qualities needed to develop institutional safety.
The project supports the establishing of system-wide standards of decent
human interaction in institutions whose staff members may now be at risk for
abusing those in their custody or care.
most institutions of law enforcement have not yet set standards for emotional
intelligence in the people they hire, there is a wide range of emotional and
social competence found in those now employed.
Some staff are self-aware and empathic, having entered the law
enforcement field, for instance, to help society and those they serve.
Others have little insight into themselves, their own behavior or
others’ emotional states. They
may have little understanding of or interest in how their own attitudes and
behavior affect those with whom they interact. The AVERT project
encourages institutional management to recognize the good behavior of
conscientious employees and to create an atmosphere
in which those employees who mistreat others stand out from the crowd because of
their actions. This results in a whittling away of the deeply entrenched
code-of-silence that pervades much of society’s institutions.
Does Empathy = Safety for Law Enforcement Personnel and Those in Their Charge?
Empathy allows us to comprehend another person’s thoughts and feelings about
us—while differentiating our own perception of them and how that might be
affecting the other. Empathic
expertise is an invaluable tool for any law enforcement officer.
It allows the officer to maintain safety by initiating and maintaining a
human connection with a detainee. This
process decreases any potential for violence, because in order for a detainee to
do violence they must first view the officer as being bad and threatening to
inflict immediate harm. This fear
will trigger the detainee’s need to cut off all rational communication, on
both a thinking and feeling level, in order to justify any violent behavior they
may carry out against the officer. This can happen very quickly, but by the
officer maintaining a humane and dignified connection with the detainee they
stop this violent process from happening. In
essence, they diffuse the detainee’s resistance to doing the right thing, thus
creating a safer situation for all concerned.
In addition, it is very important for law enforcement officers to
keep in mind that the everyday business of handcuffing individuals, inhibiting
their movement, and holding them captive, is more than just a routine procedure
for most detainees. In fact, for
the individual being held it may very well be the most frightening and traumatic
experience of their life and, depending on their emotional state, could lead to
violence or possible harm to the officer and/or detainee.
It is therefore of vital importance that officers gain the emotional
expertise necessary to comprehend the thinking and feeling processes of the
detainees in their charge. It
could mean the difference between life and death.
is Empathy and How Can it Prevent Violence?
Empathy is the process of stepping outside of oneself and into the shoes of
another. It is our human ability to
understand the thoughts, emotions, and perspective of another human being by
drawing on our own life experience for insight into their situation. It’s
understanding, both emotionally and intellectually, what it might be like to be
standing in the shoes of the other person and how we might respond if in a
addressing the issue of violence-prevention for law enforcement officers and
those in their charge empathy is extremely important because it allows officers
to do several things. First, it
gives them a chance to predict the behavior of the other, and second, it allows
them the possibility to affect the outcome before it’s too late.
Empathy Be Developed Through Training?
Through the use of
specifically designed role-training exercises, one can develop a cognitive
(thinking) as well as affective (feeling) understanding of another’s
experience. Social role-taking is an exercise that helps an individual or
group develop empathy by having them assume the role of another.
This method has two distinct components: cognitive role-taking, wherein
an individual becomes able to think about what another person is thinking, and
affective role-taking, wherein an individual becomes able to understand
another’s feeling states.
long is the Training?
The training is designed to be completed two in different formats.
The first is a (four-hour) training and the second a (six-
or eight-hour) training. However,
where special needs are concerned, the training format can be tailored to meet
the needs of the respective agency.