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Dallas ISD police train in ‘verbal judo’ to de-escalate conflicts

VIDEO: Dallas ISD police officers learned a form of judo Tuesday. Not the physical kind, but a verbal one to defuse conflicts before they get physical.

DISD Sgt. Roderick “Tre” Montgomery is trained in verbal judo, and he led the class. Officers engaged in role-play scenarios, such as dealing with a parent who is upset that a child’s cellphone has been stolen. They also practiced using calming techniques, in both their tone and body language.

Montgomery advised the officers to try to reach people on a personal level.

“A lot of time I tell people my first name because it makes it personal,” he said.

Montgomery said police officers also have to slow down and not take the stance that because they are officers they have to be respected.

“Explain to them why you are there,” he said. “We really have to start thinking, how do I talk to this person vs. fighting with this person?”

Phrases that can make a situation worse: Calm down. Hey, relax. “Do not use those words,” Montgomery said.

Want to make the exchange better? Talk in a calming manner. Ask what happened. Empathize. Watch body language; don’t talk with arms folded.

Some community members are unaware that DISD police are certified peace officers. Montgomery said officers should build relationships in the community they serve.

Miller said officers are being watched while on duty, and their actions recorded by bystanders with cellphones.

“If you’re doing right, you’re not concerned,” he said.

Miller was unaware last fall that he was being recorded by a man who had been concerned about heavy traffic near a DISD campus. Miller stopped by to address the man’s concerns and remained calm throughout the exchange.

Montgomery said officers should be most concerned about their safety and professionalism.

“You’ve got to look good, be good, and do good,” he said. “You have to see through the eyes of others. How would you want to be treated?”