California Police Chief- Fall 2013 CPCA_2019_Spring Magazine- FINAL - Page 32

DE-ESCALATION AND THE ADVANCED OFFICER TRAINING PROGRAM By Lieutenant Christian Le Moss The Santa Cruz Police department, like many agencies in California, gave officers Critical Incident Training (CIT) and exposed them to de-escalation training and tools. Yet, at 0300 hours when commanding officers are sound asleep, patrol officers are confronting a mentally ill man hearing only the demons in his head, waving a knife wildly. As leaders we need the confidence each officer is safe, well equipped, and trained to handle this incident. Chief Mills and I talked about our ability to reduce the potential for officer involved shootings. As we talked, one of the opportunities for reducing potential Officer Involved Shootings (OIS) are those people in crisis who are not capable of being talked down. There must be more than just talk and empathy provided by CIT. I was tasked to provide training that ensured each officer was adequately trained to tactically de-escalate these problems. My focus became giving officers an opportunity to de-escalate using Time- Talk and Tactics. We had previously trained in de- escalation concepts such as small team tactics, use of verbal de-escalation, and less lethal tools were standard. What we lacked was how the 32 California Police Chief | www.californiapolicechiefs.org concept of de-escalation was viewed organizationally; how incidents are investigated, documented, and recognized within our department. Like us, most law enforcement agencies run their training programs in a very compartmentalized format. Tactical de-escalation brings all these training concepts together, a more thorough and robust training experience. The goal was to elicit a comprehensive response to incidents from officers. For example, an officer is put under stress and then asked to communicate using empathy, active listening skills, while simultaneously coordinating a tactical response. My training and experience solely focused on the de-escalation of incidents and analyzing and debriefing use of force encounters. We made suggestions to implement change where appropriate. Police agencies proficient in de-escalation tactics are the ones that take time to analyze their incidents. In doing so, officers become better critical thinkers, and willing to adjust their tactics based on feedback. This does not seem common in policing. Officers that engage in this feedback and adjustment loop are more proficient and may take fewer lives exposing themselves and the departments to less liability exposure. After looking at our training programs and thinking of various strategies on how to best implement De-escalation Training into In-Service Training, I determined the following: