The news remains plagued with one violent story after another, but to put this in perspective, imagine how many calls police officers are responding to daily. Also, consider how the minority of the violent stories splayed across the news involve the police, and the instances it does include a police officer; it receives a great deal of scrutiny. The truth is the current state of policing has become a kinder and gentler profession. Gone are the day’s officers arrived and took over a scene by brute force, almost like a shock and awe. Today’s police officers are a hybrid of law enforcers, protectors, social workers, counselors, and at times even referees. Why is this the case? Along the way, the law enforcement community concluded the job could be safer for everyone (officer and civilian) if they tried to de-escalate a situation to gain compliance. So how do we go about de-escalation training?
What is De-Escalation?
De-escalation is just communication. Instead of shouting verbal commands, what happens if they communicate with the people? Now, if there is an immediate risk or danger, you’ll quickly find an officer shouting verbal commands. Some may be shocked at the same officer’s demeanor once the situation is rendered safe. He or she will probably seem downright kind or docile. It’s better to talk someone into handcuffs instead of fighting them into cuffs. Both methods have a place, and sometimes a fight is necessary, and yet most of the time, talking is enough.
De-Escalation Training Techniques
De-escalation is useful to defuse situations both inside and outside of law enforcement. The steps are relatively simple. Listen, repeat, respond, and continue this loop. First, listen to what the person is saying. Second, reiterate to them what they’ve just said to show the message was received. Third, respond with the appropriate feedback, question, or order. It’s vital that even the most egregious of offenders feel listened to and validated. Many times, an officer will arrive on the scene and know exactly how everything will play out, but they will go through these steps to make sure to gather all the details and to bring peaceful compliance.
Remember the old phrase, “you can catch more flies with honey?” It’s the same centuries-old proverb applied to the police. Even an arrestee will comply if they feel the officer hears them, understands their perspective, and acknowledges them as a fellow person with value. The brute force didn’t earn police officers any friends or allies on a scene. A softer approach brings around many allies on a scene.
When De-Escalation Fails
Some people or situations just can’t be de-escalated. Enter force. This is when the ask, tell, make approach rises back to the front regarding technique to bring a situation under control. Some people’s tempers are going to be too hot to calm them down. Some cases are going to be too dangerous to spend time having a chat. De-escalation isn’t effective 100 percent of the time, which requires the officer to be both a peacemaker and a peacekeeper.
De-Escalation Training in a Police Simulator
The SURVIVR simulator goes beyond training for use-of-force and shoot/don’t shoot decisions. If we want officers to de-escalate in the streets, it requires training and practice in the academy. The simulator’s design allows for a great deal of communication to take place between the officer and suspects or subjects. These scenarios are unscripted and controlled by the trainer managing the platform, which creates a seemingly endless amount of possibilities for the situation’s outcome. If the trainer sees the officer de-escalate the case, they may choose to have the subject comply. Inversely, if there’s too little effort to de-escalate, they can make the suspect non-compliant and escalate the scenario into a use of force situation.