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Letter: Training can prep cops for danger

It was a crime-filled weekend in NYC.

It was a crime-filled weekend in NYC. Credit: iStock

Psychology has measures to mitigate issues of police overreaction ["SC man killed by cop mourned," News, April 12]. Terms like desensitization and stress inoculation come to mind. The idea is to incorporate into training, and continuing education, situations in which suspects behave uncooperatively or abusively.

Simple verbal reviews would be inadequate. A well-designed program would make such situations as "real" as possible and include methods like role-playing and virtual reality.

Depending on the budget, you could have some officers play the suspect and act belligerently or try to escape, and have an officer being trained respond. There would have to be an education component: breathing controls, muscle relaxation and self-talk that would dampen the arousal of the situation.

Experts could work out scripts before training that would allow certain phrases to compete with the kind of self-talk that someone would naturally experience in a dangerous situation -- such as, "This guy's a criminal." Replace it with, "Let me stay in control of the situation. I need to rely on my breathing techniques, relax my muscles and be sure I don't overreact here."

This should be an important component of police training. Police departments spend hours training officers how to use a Taser. Equal time should be dedicated to stress inoculation.

Thomas V. Lysaght, Floral Park

Editor's note: The writer is a retired clinical psychologist, who has a doctorate in his field.