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Can De-escalation Training Counteract “Siege Mentality”?

 

Police de-escalation training already does a remarkable job: According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 40 million people have contact with police each year. 1.9 percent of those people report the use (or threatened use) of force. In only, a vanishingly small percentage of cases (by even the highest estimates not more than .0035 percent of all police encounters) does that force prove fatal.

Nonetheless, we can do better. As was noted in the landmark COPS/IACP report Emerging Use of Force Issues: Balancing Public and Officer Safety:

 “Far too often the public’s perception of the use of force by police is different from those who are in law enforcement. This perception is heavily influenced by a variety of factors, including depictions in the media, and exacerbated by the increasing power of social media. In today’s age, incidents of use of force can create a false narrative for the public concerning the appropriateness of police actions, […] one that is not statistically representative or supported by data.”

 

The “Siege Mentality” and Rushing to Force Options

City of LaGrange Police Chief Louis Dekmar participated in the IACP symposium that produced that report. As he noted at the time, “recent police deaths are tragic, but the most violent year for police occurred in 1971. We need to take this data and examine it historically rather than take it raw and think we are under siege. Without proper analysis, there is a fear that is unwarranted.”

And that fear can often lead to officers—especially those with less experience—moving to force options too quickly. For example, according to the COPS/IACP report, of all 526 violent officer line-of-duty deaths that occurred between 2000 and 2009, officers drew their weapons less than half the time (in roughly 200 of the 526 cases). But less-experienced officers—those with under six years experience, who also tended to be younger—drew their weapons on almost every occasion, 96 percent of the time.

Several independent studies have also found that younger officers, in general, more readily resort to physical force options. Taken together, these data tend to imply that force used improperly can further escalate situations, proving deadly to officers as well as suspects or bystanders.

 

 Police De-escalation Training and Communication Options

The COPS/IACP report noted:

 “Some participants were concerned that more training needed to be focused on communication and command presence. Concern was shared that … younger officers relied too much on physicality as opposed to using verbal tactics to de-escalate and mitigate confrontational situations. … For training to be relevant, it was deemed essential to transition to tactical courses that replicate real encounters, requiring a choice between a variety of use of force options during stressful simulations as well as closely supervised tactical training environments.”

Integrated, immersive simulator solutions provide just this sort of training opportunity. The latest version of MILO Range has been specifically designed to fill this training gap. Every member of the MILO family of training simulators includes hundreds of interactive branching scenarios with dozens of outcomes—almost all of which include both police de-escalation training branches, decision points, and multiple force options. These are extremely flexible systems that help trainers’ pinpoint and correct gaps in your training, while simultaneously inoculating your officers to the stresses of these often complex encounters