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San Diego Regional Law Enforcement Agency Adopts De-Escalation Protocol

A protester kneels before a line of police officers in downtown San Diego, May 31, 2020.
Mike Damron
A protester kneels before a line of police officers in downtown San Diego, May 31, 2020.

The San Diego County Police Chiefs and Sheriffs Association announced Thursday its adoption of a collective set of strategies designed to "de-escalate" confrontational law enforcement situations.

The policies unanimously adopted by the group on Wednesday are the culmination of a project that began last June with the creation of a committee tasked with exploring the hot-button issue, according to the regional police leadership group.

The panel consisted of representatives from all countywide municipal police agencies, the San Diego County District Attorney's Office and a local psychiatric emergency-response team.


Guiding the development of the new program was "the overarching principle of reverence for human life in all investigative, enforcement and other interactions between law enforcement and members of the community," according to the association.

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The plan calls on all police personnel to "use tactics and techniques to persuade (crime suspects) to voluntarily comply (in order to) mitigate the need to use increased physical tactics to resolve the situation safely."

"Some situations require an immediate response, while other situations may allow peace officers the opportunity to communicate with the individual, refine tactical plans and if necessary, call for additional resources," the agency stated.

Whenever "reasonable opportunity exists," according to the association's strategy, peace officers should consider the following concepts:

  • "Pre-engagement considerations," which involve "the process of gathering and assessing information prior to deploying the available personnel, tactics, equipment and other appropriate and obtainable resources," so as to create "discretionary time, reactionary distance, communication and barriers ... to enhance the probability of a peaceful outcome."
  • De-escalation, which hinges on the use of strategies and techniques "to gain voluntary compliance from an individual in order to gain or maintain control of an incident while reducing the need for physical coercion."
  • Disengagement, or "tactical withdraw," an enforcement method that can "be a viable option for individuals in crisis who pose no additional threats to others, or resistant offenders who may later be apprehended under safer conditions."

RELATED: SDPD Developing New De-Escalation Policy Based On Community Feedback

The mission of the project "was to not only define best practices for de-escalation, but to do so collectively to ensure the county is of one mind on the philosophy," said Chula Vista Police Chief Roxana Kennedy, president of the police-leadership body.

"As part of this community, we understand the importance of violence prevention whenever possible, and de-escalation techniques are the best way to get there," Kennedy said.

District Attorney Summer Stephan called the renewed commitment to de-escalation in policing a government approach that "respects life itself and advances a blueprint for transformation we set in motion two years ago based on community input."

"When translated into action, de-escalation policies are the opposite of de-humanization and are an action-based response to calls for equality, fairness and dignity," Stephan said.

The association comprises the law enforcement leadership of the county and all local cities, as well as San Diego Harbor Police, the county Probation Department and the police departments of the San Diego Community College District, San Diego State University, San Diego Unified School District and the University of California San Diego.

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