High Risk Critical Task / Person of Diminished Capacity

Every community can expect its law enforcement officers to encounter persons of diminished capacities. This group of special needs individuals presents deputies with different and often complex issues. These types of persons, whether from intoxication, suicidal potentials, medical complications or mental illness, present deputies with a wide range of behaviors that are usually different than those exhibited by other members of the community or persons involved in criminal activities. Persons of diminished capacities may display conduct that is bizarre, irrational, unpredictable and threatening. They may not receive or comprehend commands or other forms of communication in the manner that the deputy would expect. They often do not respond to persons of authority or the display of force. It is the primary task of deputies confronting these special needs individuals to resolve the encounter in the safest manner. It is the deputy’s task to bring these types of persons to professional resources, when necessary. It is not the mission of the deputy to diagnose the root cause for the person’s behavior. Every deputy can expect to encounter these types of special needs persons while performing their official duties. Deputies are expected to control the incident.   

Proper tactical and de-escalation techniques can assist in resolving the immediate field implications of the encounter and hasten the intervention by professional resources. Field control tactics: The ultimate mission of law enforcement when encountering a person of diminished capacity is to control the encounter and then determine the best course of action for the subject person.  This field tactical response can be segmented into four (4) distinct tactical responses: Containment, Coordination, Communication and Time.

  1. Containment: Before any reasonable control and defusing techniques can be used, the subject must be contained.  
  2. Coordination: This is essential for control of the encounter and is the foundation for the development of an effective plan and use of personnel and resources.
  3. Communication with the person of diminished capacity should be planned and controlled.
  4. Time is the concept of elongating the encounter, rather than hastening it.  

Scenario: Patrol deputies have been called by family members to a home where a member of the family is irrational and unpredictable. He has threatened suicide, is unarmed, and has locked himself in an upstairs bedroom alone.  

Question: What are some of the tactics deputies would be expected to utilize in successfully resolving the event?  


  1. History has shown that the longer the encounter is allowed to occur, the better the chance of a successful and safe resolution.
  2. Increasing the time of the encounter and defusing techniques allows the subject to reflect upon his predicament.
  3. Creating time allows responding deputies to be supported by deployment of additional personnel, specialized equipment, and emergency medical services.
  4. Time creates the opportunity to communicate with the subject, build rapport and resolve the incident with the least amount of force necessary.