Written by Michelle Henderson – December 9, 2020

Are your officers aware of your de-escalation policies?

In light of numerous active shooter situations, many police forces are reevaluating their de-escalation policies to determine if they’re still relevant in today’s volatile climate. De-escalation policies should include discussions of proportionality, using distance and cover, tactical repositioning, “slowing down” situations that do not pose an immediate threat, calling for supervisory and other resources, and much more. Officers must be trained in these principles and be ready to be held accountable for them after the fact, if ever such a situation were to happen to them in the field.

Teaching officers to “slow down” in some situations can help them avoid feeling their only option is to use deadly force. Decelerating a situation often allows more time to bring in supervisors and additional personnel, added equipment and other resources to the scene. This results in the development of a coordinated response plan, all of which promote officer and public safety.

For example, if officers were responding to a call about a man with a mental illness and brandishing a knife, would they know to ask themselves these types of questions:

  • What do I know about the person I’m responding to?
  • Have they been the subject of previous calls to the police? What was the nature of those calls?
  • What exactly is happening?
  • How can I communicate with this person to get an idea of what is going on in his mind?
  • Is this person presenting a threat to me or anyone else? If so, what is the nature of the threat, and how serious is the threat?
  • Do I need to take action immediately?
  • If I do not need to take action immediately, are there additional resources that could help resolve this situation? Additional police or crisis intervention personnel? Should I ask a supervisor to respond?
  • Is there special equipment, such as less-lethal tools, that could be helpful?
  • What are the department policies governing this situation?
  • What am I trying to achieve? What options are open to me?

Asking and answering these types of questions will help officers determine the most effective and safest actions in times of strife. Even after taking an action, officers continue to ask themselves questions about whether the response had the desired effect and what lessons were learned. If the desired outcome was not achieved, they begin the process again. It’s imperative that when training an officer for duty, their de-escalation policies are fully reviewed and well versed by the trainees. That way when they enter a stressful situation, the goal is the knowledge they obtained in training will return and be put into place in a successful manner.

To learn more about training your officers on de-escalation of force, visit this page.