Police Officers & Mediation

The daily activity of Police needs the application of mediation skills for the management of troubled situations. Then, when the sound of the issuer puts in alert to the components of a patrol, most times does not treat itself about actions called to open a television newscast, but to intervene in the small conflicts that arise from the cohabitation, an intervention that, in most of the cases, limits itself to arbitrate between two opposite positions and is not necessary to involve the Court of Justice.

A conflict is: “a situation in which two or more individuals come in opposition or disagreement, due to the fact that their positions, interests, needs, desires or values are incompatible or perceived as such; in that situation, feelings and emotions play an important role and the previous relation between both parts can result deteriorated or fortify” Inside this wide conception there is room for the most complex situations of the international politics, even the discussion between two neighbours because of the conduct that the dog of one of them had while walking in the park. Today, each of them has gone out to carry out his daily routine, but in its course, something has changed and precipitated the emotions against each other- What to do? How to do it? Who will do it? – the response to the last question usually implies some Police Officer, because generally he ends up by being needed by some of the parts or for an alarmed third party.

Safety, besides a reality is a sensation and as such, highly subjective. Therefore, the citizen must be convinced that his problem- small for the magnitude of the State, but in many cases overwhelming for him- will receive full attention from the Officer as he posses certain negotiation skills. The Police Code of Ethics contains instructions as: ” … they have to act with the necessary decision, without delay when on it depends to avoid a serious, immediate and irreparable hurt; being ruled on having done it for the beginning of congruity, opportunity and proportionality … “.

The conflict, as the bibliography indicates, is a consubstantial element to life itself. Not all the conflicts are going to need the re-course of law, specially the derivatives of breaking informal rules, which normally produce an escalation from the verbal aggression to the physical one, needing the intervention of the Police Officer which besides of chasing the delinquent, it develops great part of his task closer to the citizen, answering calls related to conflicts between neighbours, patients with mental disorders, etc. Because of it, as he is provided with a weapon, he must be provided with means and technologies to face this type of incidents.

On the other hand and apart from crimes and critical incidents that need another type of intervention, we understand for ‘troubled situation’ those daily circumstances in which present discrepancies arise between people or with the State – whose solution implies a sanction or not-, but in those that emotions that free themselves need of special attention, they will prevent his resolution and in that the officer who acts has aptitudes to solve them completely.

Its essential characteristics are: sudden appearance, at any time and space; the implied parts may or may not have a previous relation; they happen in public or private situations; the aggressiveness can go from the insult and the disqualification up to the physical and even homicidal violence; not always a concrete demand exists on the conflicting parts; the intervention of the officers neither is subject to the wilfulness of all the parts nor can close up the case without getting the situation solved .

Examples of this type of situations are: the conflict that arises between the ticket checker and the traveller who has not paid his ticket, the originated between the citizen and the civil servant who drives the tow truck which has taken away his car, the one between two citizens when one of them does not respect the prohibition of smoking in a public space, etc. Situations that, a priori, do not present any difficulty to be solved by the implied ones, in agreement to the legal regulation or to the guidelines of civil behaviour. If those arise, the conflict takes place, not so much in relation with the bedrock but in relation to the forms of conduct of another part.

It is important to distinguish between instrumental behaviour (it looks for a concrete end) and expressively (basically emotional), since the boarding of both types presents determining differences for the police officers. In both cases, though in major measure in the expressive ones, it is necessary to keep in mind that the implied ones stop thinking only about the present moment and that they project his conduct towards the future in which his acts are going to have consequences.

Summarising, being able to lose the subjectivity of human beings in a conflict is perfectly described by Lewis: … ” Your patient must demand that quite all that he says takes in literal sense, and that is judged simply for the exact words, at the same time as it judges all that his mother says after the most meticulous and hypersensitive interpretation of the tone, of the context and of the intention that he suspects. And it is necessary to encourage her to which it does the same thing with him. Thus, both can work out convinced, or almost, after every discussion, of which they are totally innocent “.

Overcome the impact of the limbic system, it is important to be able to bring both positions near, in such a way that one of the parts feels repaired, and the other one does not feel humiliated.


It is clear that Police Officers act with efficiency in what we have defined as troubled situations and they need to have tools adapted to the characteristics of the above mentioned crises and simultaneously to the peculiarities that his professional obligations impose on them.

The procedures of intervention must expire with the following conditions: to allow a rapid application (maximum 30 minutes) and to be able to develop in anywhere (no need of physical contact in certain locations). The training of officers has to be concrete in an initial phase of acquisition of basic knowledge and later meetings of recycling, designed to the effect for qualified trainers in mediation skills. It will be basically from the field of psychology from which they could be developed, and also from the collaborations between the Police psychology experts and academic instances.

The original article on which this article is based can be consulted in the magazine called ‘Informació Psicológica’(Original Language):

‘Rizo, R. (2010). Un modelo breve de intervención en situaciones de conflict para Agentes de las Fuerzas y Cuerpos de Seguridad. Psychological Informació, 96, 54-67.’ (Original Language)

References: (Original Language)

‘De Diego Vallejo y Guillen Gestoso (2006) Mediación: Proceso, tácticas y técnicas. Madrid: Pirámide.’

‘Rizo Gómez, R. (2002) Psicología y utilización de las armas de fuego. Cuadernos de la Guardia Civil. XXVI (2) 39-49

Argyle, M. (1990) Relaciones Sociales. En Hewstone, M.; Stroebe, V.; Codol, J.P. y Stephenson, G.M. (Ed)’

‘Introducción a la Psicología Social: Una Perspectiva Europea. Barcelona: Ariel.’

‘Joyner, C. and Basile, C. (2007) The Dynamic Resistance Response Model: a Modern Approach to the Use of Force. FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin. September 15-20.’

‘Rizo Gómez, R. (2006) El psicólogo en el equipo de negociación. Cuadernos de la Guardia Civil. XXXIII (2) 39-49.’

‘Lewis, C.S. (1993) Cartas del Diablo a su Sobrino. Madrid: Rialp.’

Dr. Ramón Rizo Gómez

Doctor in Psychology


 Research Associate & IRIANS’s Representative

for the Iberian Peninsula.

IRIANS- The Neuroscience Institute


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