Curious Comedy’s team of actors are taking a break from making jokes to train Hillsboro Police officers.
The actors were called after Hillsboro Police tactics and training officer Roberto De Giulio recognized a need for officers to practice making quick decisions in high stress scenarios like those they often face in the field. De Giulio was discussing this with a brain researcher who said, “Get some actors.” So he did.
Stacey Hallal, artistic director at Curious Comedy said she was “immediately interested” when the department called to ask if Curious Comedy would be interested in helping this training. The improv team came up with scenarios based on case files and videos they studied, intentionally creating situations to challenge the officers.
Improv performers must be skilled at reading and responding to non-verbal communication from those around them-the same skills officers need on a day-to-day basis.
Officer Stewart Kelsey said the first few seconds of an interaction is incredibly important. “There’s that initial assessment: What do I think I’m getting myself into,” he said. “What am I seeing, and then gauging that command presence. Do I have to stand like I’m encountering a bear and be this formidable person, or can I be more relaxed and position myself verbally?”
This beginning interaction either on stage, or in a high-stress scenario is a determinate of its outcome..
“You communicate so much in that initial exchange,” Hallal said. “Am I going to trust you? Am I not going to trust you? Are you on my side? Are you not on my side?”
Currently the training is focusing on helping officers handle situations involving people expereincing mental health crises. Both De Giulio and Hallal are hoping to expand the training to include situations involving domestic violence and race relations.