De-escalation Techniques

America’s cities have become the battleground between communities and law enforcement with accusations of racism on the part of police. Common techniques involving the use of extreme force have resulted in the death of many individuals of color. A method of forceful contact, deemed appropriate in various cases, can escalate to life threatening situations for members of the community and the police. The accepted method used by police to circumvent violent encounters is de-escalation.

WHAT IS DE-ESCALATION?

Law enforcement training should revisit de-escalation techniques as part of training. The key is for police officers to respond to a situation prior to a suspect acting violently. Police training involves learning how to respect personal space, read body language and remain open to listening to the suspect(s).

Moreover, the idea is to effectively communicate and to disrupt aggressive behavior with psychological techniques. When police officers behave calmly and assuredly, they remain capable of recognizing and dealing with a suspects anxiety and aggression. 

SALT LAKE CITY SAVES THE DAY

One city in particular seems to have found a way to reduce violence by employing psychological techniques coupled with respect for the community. Reporting no casualties since 2015, The Salt Lake City Police department has put into practice techniques to save lives. America’s law enforcement should move away from “The Force Model” law enforcement uses force to gain control of a situation.

Hence, it is possible to achieve favorable outcomes when all stakeholders in the situation are perceived on the same playing field. Most noteworthy, this model nurtures communication, compassion and respect; therefore, it psychologically enforces a team motto – we are in this together.

WHERE DID THIS BEGIN?

The Pre-Ferguson Era included citizens recording excessive force methods police officers used on civilians. Commonly referenced is the police beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles. Most recently the police shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge. Abusive or excessive force remains unlawful even if police officers protect and serve the public. 

The de-escalation technique is not new to the police force. These techniques were not publicly addressed until citizens showcased the mistreatment and abuse from police officers as in the case; Ferguson Police Department vs the Brown Family. The case of the death of Michael Brown showcased patterns and practices of racial discrimination seen in the use of force by the Ferguson Police Department against African-Americans and Blacks.

It was implemented post-Ferguson era and praised by our previous president, Mr. Barack Obama. This policy initiated by the 44th president and his task force was intended to highlight the importance of de-escalation in a confrontational situation and to assist law enforcement agencies in collaborating with community members among other things. This initiation and push to not use the Use-Of-Force Continuum method has benefited communities and officers while keeping people alive.

While Salt Lake City has benefited from the de-escalation technique, bigger cities and states with higher rates of police related mortality seem to apply and benefit from this method. The idea is to use the de-escalation technique as a one-size-fits all police department approach; thereby reducing the need for violent encounters between community members and law enforcement.

Data of police fatalities referenced on the Police Shootings 2017 database by The Washington Post.

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