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Reveal Looks Into Why Not All Police Officers Get Trained In De-Escalation

De-escalation training is designed to teach law enforcement officers techniques to reduce fatal use of force. Officers are trained in how to slow down and verbally engage with the people they encounter.

In California, police officers are required to participate in two hours of de-escalation training every two years, but in most states this training is not required.

The Center for Investigative Reporting teamed up with American Public Media Reports to dig deeper into the issue. The resulting reporting was broadcast on CIR's "Reveal" podcast, "What Cops Aren't Learning," on Saturday.


On Tuesday's Midday Edition, American Public Media reporter Curtis Gilbert discusses how well de-escalation training has worked in practice to reduce the number of officer-involved shootings in the U.S.

FULL REVEAL PODCAST EPISODE: What cops aren't learning

Reveal Looks Into Why Not All Police Officers Get Trained In De-Escalation
Reveal Looks Into Why Not All Police Officers Get Trained In De-Escalation GUEST:Curtis Gilbert, correspondent, APM Reports

The San Diego Police Department is among many in the nation that says there officers are being called out to an increasing number of mental health incidents. Many questioned if officers are adequately trained to handle these volatile situations without resorting to the worst. In California classes and de-escalating potentially violent encounters are required in police training. Critics say it is not enough. Recently the Center for investigative reporting take an in-depth look at how some Police Department are training officers to slow down and reassess their responses in erratic situations. In the reveal podcast reporter Curtis Gilbert and his colleagues for a look at how this training actually works. More than 40 people attended this including both cops and county social workers. This focuses on how to resolve a mental health crisis without resorting to violence. One of the instructors for this training teaches officers to slow down the situation through better communication. He advises them to avoid asking yes and no questions. You need to avoid leading questions. Social workers get up -- chance to practice. Gene works in the County human services Department. She is to -- assigned to play an agitated Alzheimer's patient. I am having a temper tantrum. The nurse just made me mad. A deputy place himself. Why did she make you mad. I don't know. I don't know where it is. I have not seen my stuff. Maybe clear knows where that -- where it is. He is trying out and active listening techniques. The idea is to show you are paying attention by repeating the last thing somebody says and terminated and Reporter: Western. She works for me. She works for you? He took another de-escalation training a couple years ago and said he never learned this stuff when he started his career. The did not have the same or similar topics. More like hands-on use of force not communications and active listening. We did not touch much on that at all. You've been to training like this before Eddie had an opportunity to apply? Everyday. Doesn't work? It works really well. It is hard to measure exactly how well this kind of training works especially when it comes to reducing deadly police shootings. Recent police shootings have gained a lot of media attention usually after a video of the incident surfaces. The fact is most police officers will go through their entire area without ever firing out anybody. You cannot take the department entering the officers and then check back to see whether they shoot fewer people the next year because it probably would not have shot anyone anywhere Police departments who have embraced this training say it is working. And department saw an 18% drop in the use of force. That means more than just shootings. Also includes everything from wrestling with a suspects to teasing them. Las Vegas also made a major push. The most powerful evidence that training works comes from the cops who have done it. Jennifer joints the Minneapolis Police Department 21 years ago. Back then she said officers were not trained to empathize with people or understand mental illness. She remembers she was taught preset -- steps to get people to comply with their orders. Ask, tell, make. Ask them to do what you would like to tell them if that doesn't work, and then you make them. Make them means use physical force. All of those fights have taken a toll. I stubbed my toe ones which has damaged it to the point where it is fused. I have arrest issue that when I was trying to arrest somebody he squealed out of his local thing and I sell landing on the palms of my hands and injured my wrist. It will always hurt. The officer is not getting into as many fights that she used to. She says the reason is a few years ago the department put her through de-escalation training. I should probably begin by having you tell me where we are and what we are doing. Even cops have a hard time navigating the means of the system. It is a series of elevated and enclosed bridges. You can walk from one end of downtown to the other without ever going down -- outside in the cold of summer -- hot of went -- hot of summer or cold of winter. I met the officer here because it is one of the places where she put her de-escalation training to work. In January she and her partner answered a 911 call from a security guard a homeless man was screaming at the crowds accusing people of trying to steal his cell phone. She and her partner found him in the lobby of the finance room. As we approached I could see a group of maybe 10 to 15 people standing in a circle kind of between the parts and the pillar right there. At the center of the circle was the man still agitated and screaming. He was sitting on the ground. 20 years ago that would've been you go on one side I will go on the other and we will both grab an arm and cuffed him and taken to the hospital. Most of the time that goes okay but there are a few times where it does not go okay and I start to fight with you. Instead the officer asked the crowd to backup. She kneeled down in front of the man and made eye contact and started a conversation. I was very honest and I let him know that I thought his behavior appeared paranoid and I pointed out that he was sweating and it was cold and it wasn't normal. He basically started crying. Having this conversation with him continually reassuring with them started to talk about wanting to go to the hospital. She said she got him to the ambulance without even using handcuffs. Listening to the story I was touched by another story of a man who was shot by a sheriff's deputy. Like the man in Minneapolis when the officer in Georgia arrived he went old-school. Ask tell make. It ended 35 seconds later with him dead in the middle of the road. Not on his way to the hospital. The officer said she spent 35 minutes talking to the homeless man. Officers and had to do the same thing. Some of them were deeply skeptical at the start of the sessions. I had so many people that were negative. Old-timers have been traded -- trained and they said that I couldn't do that. We were talking thrown at the end of the training they would say I get it. Joining me is the featured reporter in the reveal podcast. Welcome to the program. In 2015 the San Diego DA released a report on shootings that found that nearly half of the shootings for the past 12 years the officer fired almost immediately upon arriving on the scene of the incident. That is apparently part of the way police have traditionally been trained to respond. I think a lot of police officers like you who did not Minnesota portion were taught basically a series of techniques to get people to respond to the commands. It was ask and then tell and then make. There's a lot of research that was looked at police shootings. A lot happened in a compressed period of time so there is a theory that if we can buy ourselves some more time some of these tragic shootings could provincially -- potentially be prevented. The state only requires two hours of de-escalation training. There's a crisis intervention team training which is a 40 hour training. I don't think there is any state that is requiring 40 hours right now. There are states of Minnesota better requiring 16 hours for every officer in the state. They are required to do training and de-escalation. The majority of the states do not. They refer to this training as hug affected. Is there an argument to be made that says we are asking too much of our officers. If you go to the training I do not think they tell you to hug anyone. There is a message that is hammered in the trainings that says be safe. It is important that you maintain public safety and her own safety but there is also another person safety at stake in his interactions. That is the person you are dealing with. The philosophy of de-escalation training does say that it is important for that person to get through this interaction unharmed as well. I think there is a difference in emphasis but there's a bit of exaggeration that somebody thinks the de-escalation training means telling police to close their eyes and count to 10. I have been exposed to some of the trainings and I have never said to do anything like that. Do you know of any police injured because they did not use force and try to de-escalate? There was an example in Los Angeles recently where an officer was trying to not use deadly force before his partner finally shot the person he was dealing with pets why the Los Angeles police unit actually opposes the emphasis that Los Angeles has put on de-escalation and I think it could potentially endanger officers lives. Last month the LA the Police Department changed its policy and I requires police officers to use tactics that avoid the use of deadly force is a reason to believe that police departments that do that actually receives -- reduce the use by force by police across the board not just deadly force? There is limited data that suggest that this kind of training will reduce the use of force. Particularly the city of Dallas son 18% reduction in that is not just shooting. After the training in Dallas they saw the use of force to client. Las Vegas or something similar. There's a lot going on to look more closely at the link between de-escalation training and reducing the use of force. A lot of this emphasis has urged to the mindset when it comes to policing the public. Urges police officers to change their mindsets from warriors to guardians. Do you find that that idea is taking hold? I think in some bigger cities you will see that larger cities in the United States are leading the way on de-escalation in this Guardian mindset. Places like Chicago New York Minneapolis Los Angeles they are making concrete changes to training and department policies along the lines. When we look more broadly at police departments around the country we found that most departments devoted hardly any time to training in this area and that most states as I said earlier do not make the Police Department do this. But I learned is if you do not make them do this most will not do much of this. You can hear the entire show by subscribing to reveal for the center of investigative reporting. Thank you so much. You are welcome.

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