Your friend is drunk- like really drunk. You’ve done your best to control him and help him get to bed, but his brain is now in a convoluted state that has a primitive need to be insanely loud and physical.
You feel that there’s nothing further that can be done, so you make the decision to call Public Safety. Good thing Public Safety leaders have been working on being better equipped for exactly this sort of situation.
“I can sometimes have more power or control over a student than a police officer has,” says Floyd Morey, a 10-year veteran of Castleton University Public Safety. “If you act professional, if you give them options, you can deescalate a situation … de-escalation is the main goal of this program.”
A year ago, Keith Molinari, director of Public Safety, came across a training program called Verbal Influence and Defense. The program was created by Vistilar, a company specializing in the development of training courses on human conflicts. The program is used to train law enforcement officers around the United States, he said. Its main goal is to teach officers how to assess a situation, develop a plan on how to go about it, and then how to keep the situation from escalating further.
“The guys who have never been trained before really benefit the most,” said Morey, who served 30 years on the Ansonia, Connecticut Police Department and had been through this type of training more times than he can count. “What it does is it gives them a plan. You don’t just sit there in front of a mirror and say game face before you leave. The hope is that you know the plan to approach and you know how to keep everyone calm.”
With the tools that officers learn in this program, not only does it lend itself to the safety of the students and the officers’ “hands-off” policy, it will also work wonders for the image of Public Safety at Castleton, Molinari said. If the officers and advisors know about confrontational situations and how to direct them, there’s less of a chance for a situation to go wrong.
“What this program does is take this common sense that we know and developed over the years and kind of packages it, in a pre-planned, practiced response so that if you do that on a regular basis, and do it over and over, it becomes almost muscle memory,” Molinari said.
Molinari is the first to bring this program to Castleton, and he made sure it wasn’t only for his officers. This year’s Residence Life staff also went through a shortened version of the VID program prior to the start of the year. First year CA Eric Coslett found it useful.
“It helps calm down whomever we are talking to and brings them to a level where we can then have a normal conversation with them,” said Coslett, a sophomore. “Then they understand where we are coming from and what we are trying to inform them about.”
Molinari has worked with all of his public safety officers getting them certified and has even taken all of his community advisors through an abridged version of the course. He also recently finished his certification to be an instructor of the program. His goal is to bring the program to Johnson State, Lyndon State, and Vermont Tech in hopes of improving their campus safety offices as well.
“It wasn’t like we said we need to learn how to talk to people,” Molinari said with a laugh. “It’s a mesh for community policing. If you don’t have this, if you don’t have the basics, you don’t have anything.”