With police forces globally taking on an increasingly military appearance in the face of more frequent violent confrontations, the result has been a skyrocketing increase in the number of people shot dead by police each year.
While there is no question that law enforcement personnel should have the latest tools and equipment to work and do their jobs efficiently and safely, development of soft skills such as deescalating techniques are essential also.
Often criticised for their apparent lack of enthusiasm at putting their body in harms way to apprehend an offender — Bt12,000 (about US$482) a month plus uniform allowance only buys so much commitment — the Royal Thai Police (RTP) are masters at deescalation.
Perhaps it has something to do with the same Buddhist beliefs that see Thai veterinarians reluctant to the point of refusal to euthanaze a sick animal no matter how ill it is, but Thai police do not have a reputation for utilising deadly force at the first opportunity.
In the video above a Thai police officer is seen being held with a knife held close to his throat. The popular tune Panama by Matteo is playing loudly in the background.
The camera pans around to reveal another Thai police officer complete with gun belt, gun, and a vest… dancing to the music. Other police can be seen in the background laughing as their colleague shakes some really mean moves, even getting a smooth booty wiggle in to his routine.
Shouting from off camera has the it panning back to the police ‘hostage’, where the ‘hostage taker’ can be heard (in Thai) saying that ‘one man dancing is not enough to please him’.
The camera pans back to the dancing police officer to find that a second has joined in as demanded, displaying some smooth moves of his own.
The ‘hostage taker’ then says ‘one song is not enough’ and demands another. The Thai police officer attempts to negotiate. The ‘hostage’ can bee seen laughing. More demands are shouted. Suddenly the situation looks serious as the police step back, voice levels on both sides rise. At one point the ‘hostage taker’ threatens to “cut” the ‘hostage’.
A second song begins and from off camera the ‘hostage’ is pushed into frame and the ‘hostage taker’ can be seen fleeing on the back of a motorbike, being chased by police.
According to Thai language newspaper Khaosod, the above was a simulated situation for Thai police to practice deescalating techniques for use with youth offenders, with the music being chosen because of the tune’s current popularity in Thailand.
Despite obviously not being a youth, the back of the ‘hostage takers’ shirt is emblazoned in Thai with a name, and states that the wearer is 14-years-old.
Viewed more than 1.3 million times since it was posted on Facebook two weeks ago, the majority of the 1,600 or so Thai netizens who left comments have approved of the training, with many commenting on the ‘cute’ looks of the first ‘booty shaking’ police officer.
While the entire situation might look ridiculous to westerners, the tactic is effective in reducing the number of people killed by Thai police each year, with deescalating techniques being used more often than people realise.
In June a knife-wielding man walking into a police station and threatened the police inside (See: video below left). As other police stood back one police officer negotiated with the offender. After the man surrendered his knife the negotiator embraced him in a big hug. There was no rush of police jumping on the man. No beating or kicking.
In the video on the right Thai police and members of the public use a mobile traffic barricade to help subdue a disturbed man acting aggressively with two large machetes in the middle of a major Bangkok road. Despite the man’s aggressive behaviour towards the police, not a single firearm is drawn.
According to local media reports the man had fought with his family in Northern Thailand and run away to the city. No charges were laid and the man was sent to a homeless shelter. Thai and foreign netizens alike have praised the Thai police for the manner in which it was handled, with more than a few commenting that if the same situation had occurred in the USA the man would likely be dead.
According to The Washington Post 891 people have been killed by police in the USA this year, equivalent to 92.52 per cent of the 963 killed in all of 2016; which is 32 fewer than the 995 killed by American police in 2015.
At the current rate of 2.7 deaths per day the number of people shot dead by American police for the full 2017 year appears to be heading to somewhere near 980. If doing a booty shaking dance save just one life Thai police’ deescalation techniques are worth studying by some overseas police forces where the use of lethal force is a primary, rather than a last option.
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