TUCSON, Ariz. - Tucson Police work hard to sharpen their mental health skills to calm down a tense situation before it escalates into violence.
Now TPD's Mental Health Support Team is putting its skills on the bus----training SunTran workers to smooth out the anger some passengers have.
Every day thousands of people ride SunTran buses and not everyone is the happiest calmest passenger around. Now Tucson Police are helping workers here learn how to keep things calm and happy.
SunTran says it may have thirty incidents a year while passengers may get on a bus 15 million times a year.
But there's still a need to prevent behavior like an incident when a rider decided to sling a large drink at the driver.
Michael Wood has been riding the bus for about six years.
He says,”A lot of people are just rude and ugly. Of course fights break out on the bus every now and then you know. People just mad at each other bring their drama on the bus. I've seen it so where the bus driver has to stop and get himself involved risking his life."
Tucson Police put a lot of effort into knowing how to talk people down from a conflict.
Now they're teaching SunTran workers how to de-escalate tense times on the bus.
Sergeant Jason Winsky says make sure people know you're really listening to their concerns. That's common sense. But common sense can boil away when tempers get hot.
"The advice we give the bus drivers is the exact same we would give any police officer or citizen and that is try and slow down. Take the time necessary to try to figure out what the problem is with the individual that you're dealing with and then just really communicate very clearly and very calmly to de-escalate the situation."
Police taught SunTran workers just acting friendly can cut down the conflict.
Pat Richter of Suntran says, “Like a friendly greeting, you know, having soft eyes when you're looking at a person."
And that can help calm down a conflict before it really starts.