There is currently a lot of pressure on law enforcement agencies to do training in de-escalation and implicit bias. I have expressed my concerns before about the gross misunderstanding of the politicians, media and special interest groups about the concept of de-escalation and about the rush to do de-escalation and implicit bias training without a plan to integrate these concepts into the culture of the organization so learning actually occurs.
Professional communications skills, empathy, emotional intelligence and self-regulation in confrontational situations are all important skills for law enforcement professionals. We certainly need to provide training in these areas and weave these concepts into the culture of agencies.
My concern however, is that what will get pushed aside and minimized in all the pressure and hype are the physical skills necessary for officers to deal with violence. At the same time as agencies are being pressured to do more de-escalation training, many agencies are dealing with drastic increases in violent crime, regular protests, often turning into riots and increasing attacks on officers. At a time when the term “Police Brutality” is continually thrown around, what few people are talking about is criminal brutality, which is a far great issue and on the rise. The police and community members are facing increasing levels of violence and brutalities from embolden criminals in their communities. When community members are the targets of this violence, they call the police.
A high level of competence and confidence with his or her physical skills enhances an officer’s ability to utilize their communications and EQ skills. While it is likely not a politically correct statement in today’s world, trainers need to ensure the men and women they train are comfortable with violence. That will come from realistic, context based training properly designed to increase an officer’s competence and confidence in the use of those skills. This training needs to be delivered regularly, not just once a year in a block of in-service training. Contrary to what the skeptics think, having a high level of competence and confidence in physical skills and being comfortable with violence will reduce, not increase, the likelihood an officer will overreact or underreact on the street.
Violence is not going away. As long as humans are part of the equation, law enforcement professionals will be required to deal with, control and arrest violent individuals. Not every situation or individual can be “de-escalated”. In some cases words and tools will fail, or will be inappropriate and officers will have to use force to control violent subjects. In some of those cases they will need to use high levels of violence to establish control or protect themselves, or others from serious bodily harm or death. In those cases it is critical that officers have a high level of competence and confidence in their physical and mental skills to enable them to perform at the highest levels. That competence and confidence comes with effective, ongoing, realistic training. Compromising, reducing or eliminating that training has the potential for tragic consequences for both the police and the communities they serve.
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