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Police Driver Training: De-escalate at Every Step

 

Officers are expected to be on-the-spot social workers. That demands monumental presence of mind—which is completely at odds with the realities of the street, where a million things are happening at once.

Chuck Deakins—FAAC Training Group lead subject matter specialist (SMS)—points out, “When I go into a physical training or martial arts environment, what’s the first thing we teach? Slow down. Control your breathing. Relax. You can’t be in a fight and be tense and crazy and tunnel-visioned—you’ll lose because you’re gonna miss something.”

We all appreciate how vital this kind of “self de-escalation” is. But our police driver training routinely ignores the most escalating aspect of any call:

Getting to the scene

During that drive, an officer is juggling multiple tasks—relaying information, checking the MDT, imagining what they’ll encounter on arrival, preparing their responses—all while controlling a 2.5-ton vehicle in uncooperative traffic. It’s inherently extremely stressful.

“We consistently diminish the enormous challenges, liabilities, and risks of driving,” Deakins notes. “We have this attitude of, ‘Everybody drives; it’s not a big deal.’ As a result, we are losing almost as many officers to driving every year as shooting.”

Integrating De-escalation with Police Driver Training

Chuck Deakins is a 30-year veteran of law enforcement. He specializes in simulator instructor training for law enforcement agencies—and especially in helping trainers find the best way to more fully integrate all the elements of their existing training program—force options, decision making, pursuit driving, communication, and more.

Central to this, in his experience, is de-escalation. “We maintain this false sense of two separate entities,” Deakins explains. “We approach use-of-force and de-escalation one way, with one attitude and set of tools. But then we go and we practice driving with an entirely different attitude, in a different place, under controlled conditions—even though every night, all over this country, officers are out in the field doing both roles at the same time. We totally ignore the huge impact that the way we get to the scene has on what we do once we’re there.”

Deakins has found that every training program can benefit from focusing on building a smooth continuum of training:

Driving to the call—fast, under challenging circumstances (weather, traffic, interference vehicles, etc.)—while de-escalating yourself, engaging with uncooperative or aggressive individuals on the scene, de-escalating the situation to the best of your ability, possibly having to resort to a force option, then de-escalating yourself again as you get back into the vehicle to continue pursuit.