Most Police Spend Little Time Training on ‘De-escalation’

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The recent spate of fatal police shootings of unarmed black men — including last week’s killing of Alfred Olango by El Cajon, Ca., police — is fueling a movement by agencies across the U.S. to expand the training officers get in de-escalation techniques. Through role-playing with real-life scenarios, they are taught better communication skills aimed at helping them defuse situations that might otherwise turn violent, reports the Los Angeles Times. “It’s the direction law enforcement needs to go,” said former San Diego Police Chief Bill Lansdowne. “We need to spend more time on when to shoot as opposed to just how to shoot.”

Although de-escalation has been a part of recruit training for years, it’s generally been just a small part. A survey last year of almost 300 law enforcement agencies by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) found that recruits on average receive 58 hours of training on firearms, 49 hours on defensive tactics and just eight hours on de-escalation. In-service training for veteran officers also gives little attention to it, according to the survey. Two weeks ago, police officials in Chicago, beset by use-of-force controversies, began sending all 12,500 of their sworn officers through mandatory, two-day de-escalation training. That follows similar efforts in Seattle, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles. De-escalation techniques can be especially useful while dealing with people who are mentally ill or emotionally disturbed. “We really have to take a second look at the training we are doing in this country,” said Chuck Wexler of PERF. “It’s not kept up with today’s demands.”

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