Many officers have been taught, and continue to be taught, the philosophy of Ask – Tell – Make. You ask the subject to do something. If they do not comply with your request you tell them to do it. If they do not comply with your command you make them do it through the application of physical force.
Two key elements missing from Ask – Tell – Make are effective communication and decision making. Effective communication requires an understanding of how to talk to people and how to actively listen. Decision making is a skill that should be woven through all aspects of training. Decision making flows back to communication and officers need to be taught the art of articulation – the ability to explain why his or her actions were reasonable for them based on the totality of circumstances.
There are times when Ask – Tell – Make might be appropriate. There are other times where it is reasonable to engage in longer dialogue involving discussion, explanation and questioning. And, there are times where an officer needs to take immediate action and use force to establish control of the subject and the situation.
Too often what we see is officers asking the subject to do something. When the subject asks “Why”, refuses or simply does not comply, the officer immediately moves to tell (which is usually Yell) and then very quickly to make. During or after the make phase we sometimes hear officers tell the subject, “I asked you nicely.” as a way of justification for the use of force.
Lets be clear. There is a time for talk and a time for action. We cannot talk everyone into handcuffs. Sometimes the time for action requires immediate action, and occasionally extremely violent action on the part of the police. The key for the officer is to know when to use the range of options available to him or her.
That brings us back to the need to teach effective communication (beyond ask – tell – make) and decision making. Phrases such as Ask – Tell – Make, and the myriad of acronyms we use in law enforcement, too often shortcut both effective communication and sound decision making.
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