Abstract

Communication skills are an important component of the officer’s toolbox when responding to
frontline calls. Yet, research-based recommendations for officers’ communicative behavior to
facilitate personal safety are rare. Drawing from research on domestic violence, community
policing, police encounters with the mentally ill, and crisis negotiations, we suggest to see the
subject more as a fellow citizen endowed with civil rights, than as a potentially dangerous
adversary, without compromising sound tactical behavior. In conjunction with this perceptual
change, we introduce a set of professional communication skills that can prevent escalation to
physical violence, while enhancing officer safety. Such skills emphasize empathy and rapport
building and have successfully been applied in various contexts. Finally, we advocate that
further research is needed on the validation of effective communication on the frontline and on
situation-specific factors that influence it.