Alpharetta Police Use Compassion to Help Boy in Crisis

Alpharetta officers responded to a crisis situation involving an 11-year-old boy with a developmental disability who had run away from a hotel and walked into traffic. Officers used a compassionate approach, engaging the boy in conversation and guiding him to safety without using force.

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Nitish Verma
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Alpharetta Police Use Compassion to Help Boy in Crisis

Alpharetta Police Use Compassion to Help Boy in Crisis

In April 2024, Alpharetta officers responded to a crisis situation involving an 11-year-old boy with a developmental disability who had run away from an Extended Stay hotel on Rock Mill Road. The boy walked into traffic on North Point Parkway, prompting a response from Sgt. Mark Tappan and Officers Bice and Frank.

Why this matters: This incident highlights the importance of crisis intervention training for law enforcement officers, which can help de-escalate potentially dangerous situations and prioritize the safety of all individuals involved. By adopting a compassionate approach, police officers can build trust with the communities they serve and reduce the risk of violent confrontations.

Sgt. Tappan used a gentle and compassionate approach to de-escalate the situation, grabbing the boy's wrist and talking to him to guide him to safety in the North Point Mall parking lot. "I knew that there was a mental health crisis that was going on at the time, but at the same time I had to protect him and other motorists. So that's where I grabbed him by the wrist and I said, 'Hey, buddy, we got to talk to you'....and he would take my hand off and I'd just grab with the other hand and say 'I can't let go, buddy. I can't let go,'" Sgt. Tappan said.

Officers Bice and Frank, along with licensed therapist and part-time officer David Febles, sat down with the boy and engaged in conversation about his interests, including video games and movies. "We talked about everything from video games to movies, and it was really one of the best days at work that I've ever had," Sgt. Tappan said. The officers' approach allowed them to determine the root cause of the boy's distress, which was a comment made by a teacher that made him feel like a failure.

The officers' approach was guided by Crisis Intervention Training, which all Alpharetta PD officers receive. "The approach that we take in Alpharetta and as a supervisor, I've always said to my guys, in any call that I go on, to me this is the most important thing that's going on in the world right now and that's why I'm here. And so that's the approach that you take. You try to have the best possible outcome for the situation that you're in at the time," Sgt. Tappan explained.

Officer Febles emphasized the importance of the officers' compassionate approach, noting that using force would only make the situation worse. "He's already highly agitated. And so, when you use that type of force, it's just going to make the situation worse," Febles said. "This is actually more effective than chasing this kid down, putting him in handcuffs, because what's going to happen is he's most likely going to go home with mom and then end up running away again anyways."

The boy's mother was present and trying to entice him to get into the car, but he was refusing. The family was in a difficult situation, with the mother raising the boy and his siblings on her own and staying at an Extended Stay hotel. Sgt. Tappan credited his approach to his experience as a father, saying, "I kind of learned on the job as a dad of three different kids that a lot of times just kindness and listening is much more effective than trying to make someone do it your way."

The Alpharetta police handling of the crisis situation safely and effectively was praised as a key factor in resolving the crisis situation safely and effectively. By taking the time to listen and engage with the boy, the officers were able to determine the root cause of his distress and guide him to safety without the use of force.

Key Takeaways

  • Alpharetta officers responded to an 11-year-old boy with a developmental disability who ran away from a hotel.
  • Sgt. Tappan used a gentle approach to de-escalate the situation, grabbing the boy's wrist and talking to him.
  • Officers engaged the boy in conversation about his interests, determining the root cause of his distress.
  • The officers' approach was guided by Crisis Intervention Training, prioritizing the boy's safety.
  • The compassionate handling of the crisis situation resolved it safely and effectively without the use of force.