A new training program to teach street officers tactics to defuse tense encounters with people who aren’t wielding guns is being embraced by many big-city police chiefs as a way to prevent unnecessary fatal shootings each year, reports the Washington Post. The number of fatal police shootings in the U.S. this year is on pace to match last year’s total of 991. In about 40 percent of cases, the subject does not have a gun, and many police officials think that reducing the intensity of such encounters, establishing more distance between officer and subject, and simply talking to the person can result in no shots being fired and less trauma on all sides.
A de-escalation effort being rolled out Sunday at a the International Association of Chiefs of Police convention in San Diego could reaching hundreds of thousands of officers across the nation. Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum is seeking wide backing at IACP for calling on officers to take a “tactical pause” when encountering subjects who do not present an immediate threat. However, the IACP and the Fraternal Order of Police oppose the idea. “An officer can only de-escalate a situation if the person they’re dealing with is willing to de-escalate,” says IACP President Terry Cunningham of Wellesley, Ma., said.
Editors Note: See also George Hofstetter’s October 14 TCR Viewpoint: “LA Sheriffs: There’s No ‘Safe’ Use of Police Force.“