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Does De-escalation Training Work?

De-escalation, Crisis Intervention

In today's climate of heightened scrutiny over law enforcement interactions, the significance of crisis intervention and de-escalation strategies cannot be understated. In fact, no one is safe from ridicule. Social media videos are uploaded daily of average everyday citizens struggling to communicate with someone who is struggling to regulate their emotions. The comment sections of these videos are littered with internet experts of how the person should have handled the situation. As if the person who unfortunately found themselves on cell phone camera had prepared themselves to be in such a situation.

A pressing question often arises: "Does de-escalation training actually work?" In this briefing, we delve into this inquiry, examining the effectiveness of de-escalation training and its role in shaping modern policing.

Understanding De-Escalation Training:

De-escalation training transcends mere buzzwords, encompassing a holistic approach that equips people with the necessary skills, tools, and mindset to navigate high-stress scenarios and defuse potentially volatile situations. Rooted in communication, active listening, empathy, and adaptable assessment, de-escalation training empowers officers to respond effectively in real-time circumstances. Although often referred to as verbal de-escalation, true de-escalation efforts are anything but. Effective de-escalation efforts control the environment, people present, their own body language in addition to all of the verbal techniques in an effort to arrive at a positive outcome.

Substantiating Efficacy:

Numerous empirical studies and real-world instances substantiate the potential transformative impact of de-escalation training on modern policing:

Reduction in Use of Force: Insights from the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) study highlight that agencies implementing de-escalation training observe a marked decrease in use of force incidents. Officers adept in de-escalation techniques prioritize verbal communication and non-lethal tactics, diminishing instances of physical confrontation (*PERF, "30 Guiding Principles on Use of Force").

Augmented Officer Safety: The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) study demonstrates that de-escalation-trained officers exhibit heightened situational awareness and decision-making acumen. This leads to reduced risks for both officers and civilians in high-stress scenarios (*NIJ, "De-Escalation Techniques").

Mitigation of Tragic Outcomes: The Police Executive Research Forum analysis underscores the pivotal role of effective de-escalation training in averting tragic outcomes during confrontations that might have otherwise escalated lethally. De-escalation-trained officers deftly navigate tense situations without resorting to lethal force (*PERF, "Use of Force: Taking Policing to a Higher Standard").

Cultural Shift Towards Safety: The CNA Corporation report emphasizes that de-escalation training is an essential facet of the broader cultural transformation within law enforcement. By fostering communication, empathy, and crisis intervention, investing in these programs leads to lasting enhancements in community policing (*CNA Corporation, "Implementing a Culture of De-Escalation in Policing").

Not Without Challenges:

While the affirmative impact of de-escalation training is evident, challenges persist. Implementation across departments, ensuring uniform technique application in high-stress situations, and refresher training necessitate ongoing attention. Regular training updates, continuous evaluation, and open dialogues about strategy effectiveness foster continuous program enhancements.

The Dirty Secret of De-escalation:

Acknowledging the reality, it's important to recognize that not all situations can be resolved through de-escalation. Although its unlikely you will see this on the news or read it in a media publication, not everyone can be de-escalated.

Encounters involving individuals in crisis, under the influence, or actively resisting cooperation may require alternate approaches to ensure safety for all. De-escalation training is a valuable tool within a multifaceted policing approach.

Clearing Up:

In response to the question, "Does de-escalation training work?"—undoubtedly, it does. Evidence supports the notion that comprehensive crisis intervention and de-escalation training equip law enforcement officers with indispensable skills for navigating complex situations, safeguarding lives, and fostering community trust. While de-escalation techniques prove effective in numerous cases, it's paramount to recognize that complementary strategies remain indispensable for handling diverse scenarios. If there was one tool or technique that worked every time, we would just use that one thing. Until then we need options.


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