Emotional States Encountered by Law Enforcement Officers: an Initial Test of the Schema Mode Concept in Police Actions

L. Deller-Wessels*, David P. Bernstein, C. Lorei

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Working with extreme mood states is a regular challenge for law enforcement officers. In their encounters during police actions, they very often face manifestations of anger and aggression, as well as vulnerable states such as ones involving fear, helplessness, or humiliation. In this study, we investigated whether officers could reliably identify emotional states in the persons they encountered, using the Schema Therapy concept of "schema modes." Although the mode concept has been extensively validated in the field of forensic mental health, this is its first application to police work. Twenty-seven police officers working for two different German police headquarters were asked to report about a recent operation involving a person showing intense emotional states. After receiving a short training in using the iModes, cards that facilitate working with modes, they retrospectively rated the presence and intensity of the schema modes of the persons whom they encountered. Two experts in Schema Therapy independently rated the same scenarios, using the Mode Observation Scale (MOS). Intraclass correlations showed moderate to excellent levels of agreement between the officers' and experts' mode-ratings. Modes involving anger (70%), aggression (70%), indirect hostility (44%), and arrogance/grandiosity (41%) were the most prevalent, while modes involving vulnerable emotions were less common. It can be concluded that police officers can reliably assess different modes in encountered persons, even without extensive training. This initial study suggests that the mode concept has applicability to police work and merits additional study for its potential for de-escalation and conflict management in police contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)699-710
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Police and Criminal Psychology
Issue number3
Early online date1 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


  • Emotional states
  • De-escalation
  • Schema modes
  • Law enforcement
  • Police psychology

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