It's ironic in the aftermath of the Dallas Police Officer shootings/assassinations that given all the violence, the Dallas Police Department is actually a leader in trying to figure out a better way to de-escalate situations that have historically resulted in shootings.
Let that soak in a bit.
I have to say, I'm digging what they are doing in Dallas with this training. Work with me through this piece that describes what the DPD's initiative to drop shootings looks like (Italics are from this USA Today Opinion piece, bold with green background represents my comments):
Thanks to deliberate changes in tactics, such as officers training in de-escalation techniques and using less-than-lethal force in situations where they’d previously be instructed to fire weapons, complaints
about overly aggressive policing in Dallas had dropped from more than 150 in 2009 to fewer than 20 last year. And most dramatically, police shootings dropped too.
The root of the change, according to the Dallas Morning News, was aggressive and consistent re-training. Officers did not learn to de-escalate in classrooms. They practiced on the streets. Supervisors used footage from real-events — at least half of all department cars have dash cams, and many officers now have body video cameras— and came up with a set of de-escalation protocols that give officers more time (and more tools) to make judgments about whether to use force.
What's interesting about this is how true it rings for the talent pro in all of us. More training. More role play. Practicing skills as close to live as you can get. Watching others have success, fail and everything in between. The incorporation of video. This is all straight from the 2016 talent pro's notebook.
Time seems to be the key factor; no officer wants to get to the point where he or she has to decide in a split second whether the guy who is fishing through his pockets is reaching for a gun. The department wisely assumed that there will be moments during these confrontations when de-escalation techniques truly can work.
Something as basic as noise levels can affect the environment of a given situation. If officers all shout at the same time, that makes a suspect — hell, it makes anyone — really nervous. If an officer approaches that same suspect with open palms and a calm voice, the suspect will usually reciprocate.
Not always, of course. Officers need to have back-up here, and they will still face those horrible moments when only their guts can be their guide. But in Dallas, and increasingly in other cities, officers have a goal: unless the suspect is armed with a gun, don’t try to end the situation quickly; try to prolong it. Don’t rush the suspect. Give him space and give him time. The more time the police have to de-escalate, the better the odds that the situation will end without anyone hurt or dying.
Hey! Instead of shouting, let's take our time. Let's let that person be heard. Don't be in a rush when you're dealing with someone in front of you. Sounds like a best practice in manager of people training, right? Like cops, managers in Corporate America have become too used to simply using authority as the reason someone should do what they want. You know the answer - as a cop or a manager of people, but you're going to get a better result if you let the person in front of you participate.
If implicit racial bias still makes the lives of black men, women and children more threatened, then we owe their lives sustained attention. New police techniques and mindfulness help officers see suspects — or perhaps, confused people caught up in chaotic situations — as individuals. And although the evidence is tentative and still needs years of field-testing, it seems to work.
I don't claim to understand what's going on at the heart of all the police shootings, and I'm not here to throw in the cursory, "All Lives Matter" comment to the Black Lives Matter movement.
What I do know is quality training when I see it - that focuses on participation by all parties in any conversation. I'm sad that those police officers lost their lives. But I'm proud as hell of the Dallas Police Department for being the leader in de-escalation training in response to the trend of too many shootings.
The leadership in that organization must be smart as hell.