How Kansas City Police “Tactical Disengagement” Can Save Lives


When two patrol officers arrived at a Kansas City house last month, a 24-year-old woman armed with a knife already had begun slicing her wrists. She threatened the officers with the knife and a hammer as they approached in the basement. Instead of weapons, says the Kansas City Star, the officers used words to defuse the situation and convince her to surrender. That is the type of scene — officers showing restraint in a volatile situation — that Police Chief Darryl Forté wants to see play out more often. “We want to make sure that officers understand it is OK to tactically disengage,” Forté said. “We take an oath to protect life and property but we don't want to hurt anybody unnecessarily,”

Police are trained to protect themselves against armed or dangerous individuals, especially in tight quarters, like a basement. They learn at the police academy that they only have a few seconds to react when a threatening person charges them. They train on when to shoot to make sure they go home safe. In the aftermath of the police shooting last summer of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., many law enforcement agencies now are teaching officers how to delay or even prevent shootings by backing away or finding cover until other officers arrive. That used to be considered cowardice, Forté said. The public wants officers to save lives, not take them, recent events have shown.

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