Three Tactics to Ensure Effective De-Escalation Training

Three Tactics to Ensure Effective De-Escalation Training


Law enforcement officers and experts agree that de-escalation training is essential for the safety of both officers and the public. However, given trends in violent altercations with officers, many understandably wonder if current training approaches are sufficient and effective.

Theo Chalogianis is Lead Police Officer at Michigan Medicine, with 25 years in law enforcement, psychology, and security training. He’s well aware that, in high-tension situations, people will always default to their most deeply ingrained habits. If we want to protect officers and enhance community safety, then we need to make sure that de-escalation is the deeply ingrained habit they return to.

Chalogianis has found that, in the right hands, simulation-based de-escalation training is uniquely effective in laying a solid foundation of tactics that transfer beyond the classroom and out into the field. In his experience, a highly customizable, instructor-led branching simulator is a powerful tool for improving outcomes in high-tension, high-stakes situations. MILO simulators are designed to create opportunities for instructors to engage the learner and facilitate deeper learning through dialogue. 

The MILO Range Pro, Advanced, and Theater systems include a Trainee Action Capture (TAC) system. This feature improves after-action review by recording the student’s video and digital audio during the training session. Instructors can replay the captured video at full speed, slow motion, and frame by frame. TAC can also capture instructor/student training comments during post-scenario debriefing for a comprehensive record of the entire session that can be used in future training.


Three Ways to Get the Most Out of Simulation Training

In his work, Chalogianis’ team has found the following three tactics to be consistently effective when using simulation-based de-escalation training for law enforcement and security:

#1 Ask Better Questions

Ensure that the conversation after a training scenario doesn’t just revolve around the daunting inquiry: “What should you have done in that situation?”

Instead, the instructor will want to deploy open-ended exploratory questions that help the trainee surface the why behind their actions:

What was your first gut reaction when she lowered her arms like that?

Why did you stand in this way?

Why do you think the subject looked to the left and the right?

What you said at this point in the scenario was very effective… tell us more.

“People stay longer after their session to engage in conversation about what they experienced,” Chalogianis says. “The longer people stay afterward to engage in this conversation, the more invested and interested they become. We find they like to stay longer because they talk about what they did and go over it, which empowers them. Even if the scenario went poorly, once we reiterate what they did well, most times they themselves will start identifying concrete things they could have done better.”


#2 Focus on Proxemics

Proxemics play a pivotal role in de-escalation and is consistently an area where people—even trained law enforcement—struggle.

“[Proxemics] is the proximity, our awareness of space, and the closeness we allow,” Chalogianis explains. “If you and I are facing each other with my chest facing your chest, and your arms are down at your sides or in your pockets, then when I start to move, you are already behind. You can’t protect your center or face. If you’re leaning forward closer than two arm lengths, that is too close.”

There’s no room to de-escalate if you’re blindsided or surprised, and the simple fact is that action is always faster than reaction.

Immersive simulators that include a TAC after-action review feature like MILO’s make it much easier to zero in on proxemics issues because the learner can see themselves in the ‘replay,’ make self-evaluations, and then decide to improve based on their own observations. In the safe space of the simulator, officers can develop a deep, intuitive feel for the strategy of safe distance and positioning in creating opportunities for de-escalation. 


#3 Practice Perspective Shifting

The key to de-escalation is communication. Communication hinges on ‘creating a bond’ in the moment, which is difficult in a high-tension, threatening situation. Nevertheless, law enforcement officers must arrive on the scene ready to do most of the work to build that bridge.

“When two people are talking, typically they are facing each other,” Chalogianis explains. “What I encourage people to do is imagine yourself standing next to the person you’re dealing with. You are doing several things by engaging in that mental perspective shift.”

First and foremost, you gain their perspective on the situation. Make a genuine effort to perceive what they are perceiving and envision their future direction, not for them, but with them.

Additionally, by mentally and physically positioning yourself as “standing with them,” you create a team in your mind—one with the shared goal of resolving the situation without anyone getting hurt.