Law Enforcement Squad Stress Management: “Q-TIP” Theory Explained

By Mark Bond, professor of criminal justice at American Military University

Quit Taking It Personally (Q-TIP) is a tool to help reduce the adrenaline rush that often causes poor decision-making when officers find themselves in stressful situations (Bond, 1998).

Q-TIP theory was designed to be used as a code word to help officers stay focused when their body’s natural “fight or flight” defenses were activated. Stressful situations often cause a surge of adrenaline that can reduce an officer’s ability to think critically during heightened threats (Bond, 1998). Using the Q-TIP theory, officers can remind themselves—and their peers—to stay in control of their emotions.

When to Use Q-TIP
When fellow officers, supervisors, and dispatchers calmly say “Q-TIP” to an on-scene officer, it is an immediate reminder to remain within the laws, department policies, and protocols (Bond, 1998). Using a keyword or phrase such as “Q-TIP” during an incident can quickly remind a fellow officer not to let him or herself get caught up in the moment, but to instead rely on their muscle memory and police training (Bond, 1998).

Quit taking it personallyQ-TIP theory can be applied when officers are confronting an aggressive (vocally or physically) offender, during a high-speed pursuit, or when an emergency call is dispatched over the police radio system (Bond, 1998). For example, when officers are in a high-speed pursuit, another officer, supervisor, or police dispatcher can calmly state on the radio “Q-TIP” as a reminder that when the vehicle is stopped an officer needs to apprehend the occupants with the least amount of force. Incidents like high-speed pursuits can ramp up adrenaline levels, so Q-TIP is a reminder to an officer to regain control of emotions before going hands-on during the physical arrest (Bond, 1998).

How Q-TIP Can Help Build Squad Cohesion
Q-TIP theory is a way of policing the squad through its own members and it can help build squad cohesion (Bond, 1998). Officers develop trust in one another when the squad uses this type of de-escalation technique that is designed to help each other stay safe and compliant within the laws and department procedures, while still taking care of business (Bond, 1998).

Getting emotionally invested in a situation happens often in law enforcement work. Officers cannot control offender behavior, however, they can control how they react and respond to an offender’s behavior. Staying in control and within the scope of one’s duties can also help reduce the aftermath stress following an incident.

Besides using the “Q-TIP” theory, here are a few tips on squad cohesion for police stress management:

  1. Demonstrate loyalty to fellow officers by roll modeling positive behaviors
  2. Display respect to immediate police supervisors (build esprit de corps with your squad)
  3. Train as a squad and learn how others react as well as their habits
  4. Identify and embrace squad traditions (policing excellence and high standards)
  5. Take pride in your squad accomplishments (unit eliteness builds morale)
  6. Have a sense of mission
  7. Stay in personal shape (strength and endurance workouts also helps reduce stress)
  8. Embrace a sense of purpose (remember, what you do as an officer matters)
  9. Own your own behaviors (be accountable)
  10. Get to know your squad on a personal level (talking it out can reduce stress levels)
  11. Help others know their limits (patrol-buddy stress reduction)
  12. Conduct squad debriefings to discuss better tactics and better ways to handle situations that have a potential to be emotional

About the Author: Mark Bond worked in law enforcement and has been a firearms trainer for more than 29 years. His law enforcement experience includes the military, local, state, and federal levels as a police officer and criminal investigator. Mark obtained a BS and MS in Criminal Justice, and M.Ed in Educational Leadership with Summa Cum Laude Honors. As a lifelong learner, he is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in education with a concentration in distance education. Mark is currently an assistant professor of criminal justice at American Military University & American Public University and is one of the faculty directors in the School of Public Service & Health. You can contact him at MBond(at)apus.edu.

Reference

Bond, M. W. (1998). Quit taking it personal (Q-TIP) theory. Unpublished manuscript from the criminal justice department at Columbia Southern University.

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