DennisBeaverJuly 21, 2012 (Original publish date) • By Dennis Beaver

Sergeant David Lostaunau of the Kern County Sheriff’s Office can easily describe how the use of any weapon — from a .22 pistol to a .50 caliber machine gun — will bring a quick resolution to many issues facing police on the streets.

“But often, there is a much better way than force,” Lostaunau tells You and the Law.

His resume is impressive: 28 years as a deputy sheriff, range master and use of force coordinator. “While peace officers need to know when they are authorized to use force, there is one technique, one tactic, that can be just as effective, and where no one is hurt,” he points out.

“It is simply by using our voice. If ever the saying, ‘You get a lot more flies with honey than with vinegar,’ applies, it does to both the stress and conflict which peace officers face and to family life as well.”

It’s called Verbal Judo

That tactic is called Verbal Judo and has many similarities with judo, the martial art, as the deputy sheriff explains:

“In judo, an opponent’s force, strength and movements are used to your benefit. While it is a contact sport, winning is dependent upon mental skill, not force. Verbal Judo uses some of the very same tools of the judo masters, but without laying a finger on anyone.

“A parent, screaming at their 15-year-old son for refusing to clean his room, has a great deal of similarity to a traffic officer trying to get an irate driver to sign a speeding ticket. Or to go a step further; to arrest and handcuff a husband who has just been in a physical fight with his wife, or arresting a drunk in a bar.

“While cops have the training, and legal right to use force in certain circumstances, today police officers throughout America are being taught to ask themselves this question: Does the risk of using force outweigh the benefits? How can I redirect someone’s anger and frustration into voluntary compliance and achieve the best possible outcome for everyone?

“The same type of thought process is what families need to look at when faced with the child who won’t clean his room, or a husband and wife dealing with far more serious issues and are prepared to get into a verbal knockdown, drag-out [fight],” he reasons.

Redirecting the force

“In judo, we redirect an opponent’s force and weight to achieve a takedown and win the match. In families, the real win is a constructive outcome for everyone, and it can be accomplished by applying the same rules of judo. So practically speaking, here is what law enforcement officers are taught, and how your readers can apply these concepts at home:

1) “Acknowledge feelings and right to be upset. Neighbors call the authorities because they hear screaming coming from next door. Deputies arrive, enter the house and the husband is yelling at them for being there. A well-trained officer might say, ‘I understand you are upset that we are here, and with your help and cooperation, we can leave quickly.’

“By verbally recognizing the husband’s understandable anger, this communicates the officer’s good faith and desire to be problem solver. The result? Just as in judo, we take the aggression and use it to the advantage of everyone in that room. At home, empathy goes a long way. By simply admitting that your son or spouse certainly has a right to be upset, we can focus on dealing with real problem and not ego.

2) “Avoid responding to anger and frustration with more of the same: Name-calling and emptying the gunnysack filled with all of the past perceived sins will do nothing to solve today’s problem. So, by agreeing that perhaps you are a bit of a jerk, but right now we need to solve this problem, no one will become inflated with adrenaline.

3) “Use positive feedback when you least want to: A law enforcement officer might thank someone for not fighting after chasing that person to take them into custody. Of course, the cop is no doubt very upset, and saying thanks would appear to be the last thing in the world anyone would think normal. The perpetrator can’t change the fact that he ran, but when the officer acknowledges the little bit of good he did by not fighting, you increase the chance of future compliance.

“By focusing on positive performance rather than negative, we develop an atmosphere of growth and good faith. As important as it is to correct deficiencies, it is more important to acknowledge accomplishments. In so doing, we increase the chance for future success,” the Kern County deputy sheriff maintains.

Closely related to Verbal Judo is yet another law enforcement technique with direct application to family life, and we’ll tell you about it next week.

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.