Orange County holds 'Verbal Judo' training seminar

ORANGE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- "How are you?"

It's a polite yet simple question that can invite a snarky response and potential danger during a routine traffic stop.

That's according to safety experts leading a two-day workshop with law enforcement and county employees in Orange County.

The Sheriff's Office and the county's Risk Management staff organized the training seminar in response to a recent employee survey and an increase in 911 calls.

County employees say their greatest fears when dealing with the public are encountering an active assailant and verbal altercations with the public.

From Animal Control calls to handling delinquent tax notices, Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood said his deputies have had to respond to more 911 calls requesting assistance with potential verbal arguments between the public and county staff.

"These are people delivering messages not wanted," explained Blackwood. "If we can mitigate those calls before they're ever placed to 911, then that reduces crime and allows us to focus our services elsewhere."

This week former New York Police Department trainer Joel Francis will instruct more than 100 deputies and other county employees in a technique called Verbal Judo.

"We teach them deflection techniques, how to deflect the verbal attacks, and not internalize," said Francis, adding that professional language can encourage people to comply with an officer's or a county worker's instructions.

Verbal Judo also emphasizes the use of body language and persuasion techniques. The training is used by agencies worldwide, but experts say consistent training is key. Some departments with limited resources struggle to do this.

"Everybody knows what's going on all over the country," said Francis. "We have to keep our eye on training. Our officers need the right tools. It's very easy to point the finger at our officers when they do things wrong, but have they been equipped with the right tools? Have they been trained properly?"

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