The Rodney King Effect

Why we need to understand the reasons why some techniques don’t work and why some staff over-react during restraint situations.

I recently received a report about a restraint incident where a member of staff during the restraint hit the person being restrained and told them to shut the f*** up. This was because the person being restrained bit into the member of staffs arm. Post the restraint the member of staff was suspended from work whilst an investigation took place under child protection procedures.

I can also recall a dynamic pressurised training scenario a while ago where two very large male police officers were attempting to physically control a smaller and slightly built female instructor. During the scenario the female instructor said; “your hurting me” to which one of the two men replied; “if you don’t stop struggling I’ll break your f****** arm”.

From one perspective it would seem that such behaviour is unacceptable, especially from staff expected to be ‘professional’ and ‘caring’ in their approach to dealing with situations of high arousal, and particularly if the staff had been given training in how they should react and how they should behave.

So why would this occur? Why would staff hit and swear at a restrained person and why would two large, and supposedly well-trained police officers threaten to break a small females arm?

To read more about the ‘Rodney King Effect’ article go to:’Rodney-King’_Effect


I am the Director and National Coach Tutor of NFPS Ltd., a specialist provider of Conflict Risk Management Consultancy and Training with specific expertise in Physical Restraint, Breakaway and Self-Defence. In addition to providing training, advice, consultancy and guidance on the physiological aspects mentioned above, we also provide training in NLP, Hypnosis and Meditation as these skills combined provide a holistic way to improve our psychology. By helping people improve both, their physiology and their psychology, we provide a complete and holistic approach to training and development.

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Posted in Reasonable Force, Uncategorized
2 comments on “The Rodney King Effect
  1. Mish Burgess says:

    If we are to accept that the Rodney King Effect exists and that in situations of high arousal people who are supposed to ‘care’ and behave in a professional manner may, due to the physical and psychological changes their body under goes, become threatening and inflict excessive pain or be verbally abusive; then is it not also possible to accept that if those same staff are taught techniques of restraint where it is accepted that pain can be used to gain control that they are more likely to use these pain based methods when they feel out of control?

    To read more please visit my blog x

  2. Training staff in techniques is the first step of the process. It’s tough (even for trained soilders who are more used to working in high adrenalin situations) not to revert to natural instincts when put under pressure.

    The training has got to be part of a bigger package that includes pressure testing, de-briefing after restraints, understanding the psychology of the fight or flight response, analysing incidents and on-going supervision.

    The police officer example reminds me of Milgrim’s psychology experiment, where people were put in a position of authority and made to feel confident that their actions were sanctioned by the system (lack of personal responsibility) and went on (in their beleif) to administer lethal electric shocks to other participants:

    Similarly, I recently heard of an experienced security officer, who when asked if his excessive use of force was reasonable in the circumstance, argued that it was “a recognised technique”. i.e. the system will back me, regardless of the circumstances.

    I’d better sign off now because I can see my “taking personal responsibility” soap box on the horizon and getting closer 🙂

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