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SDPD In Process Of Finalizing De-Escalation Guidelines

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The San Diego Police Department is implementing new training to prevent deadly encounters. The de-escalation training puts the department in compliance with a new state law. SDPD is the first agency to start the training but the guidelines for it are still being worked out.

Speaker 1: 00:00 The San Diego police department is implementing new training to prevent deadly encounters. The deescalation training puts the department in compliance with a new state law that raises the standard of use of deadly force. SDPD is the first agency to start the training, but the guidelines for it are still being worked out. Joining me to talk about how this will change what officers do and the way they interact with the community is David Hernandez, reporter for the San Diego union Tribune. David, welcome. Hey, thanks for having me. So first tell me about assembly bill three 92 and Senate bill two 30. That's the legislation, which is now law that's prompted this new deescalation training, right? Yeah. So combine the two measures are intended to reduce deadly encounters between police officers and the public assembly. Bill three 92 which took effect in January, sets a new standard. That new standard is that officers are allowed to use deadly force only when necessary when they fear for their lives.

Speaker 1: 01:00 And previously the wording was, um, a little more loose according to supporters of a B3 92. The wording was that, um, officers were allowed to use force when they felt that it was reasonable. So that's the new standard set. On the other hand, Senate bill two 30 will require police agencies across the state to up their, their training manuals and policies so that it complies with, um, assembly bill three 92. All right. So how is the SDPD changing the way it uses deescalation techniques? I mean, well, what does this training consist of? So a lot of, um, this is still, we're still seeing this play out and the real, uh, specifics, uh, in regards to what will be changing, I think will become more clear once the policy that they're working on is updated and released for now, they've rolled out training on deescalation and, um, oftentimes deescalation includes, you know, verbal commands, focus on training in regards to dealing with either suspects or individuals who are suffering from a mental illness.

Speaker 1: 02:02 Um, so those are broadly some of the concepts of deescalation, but in terms of what SDPD will consider deescalation tactics is still up in the air as they work on this new policy. Yeah, and that's interesting. So how are they able to, to do the deescalation training if in fact they're still working on what the guidelines will be? Like I mentioned there are broad, um, instances in, in regards to what is considered deescalation. So their stance is kind of rolling out this new training and tweaking it and then also tweaking it, revising it, bringing it for a public discussion. But, but yeah, they haven't yet fully finalized the policy and it doesn't seem like some members of the city council and the police department are on the same page when it comes to deescalation techniques. A council woman, Monica Montgomery, for example, is critical of the carotid restraint that officers continue to use.

Speaker 1: 02:54 What is it and what's the concern there? Yeah, so it's also known as a sleeper or a blood choke. A, it's essentially when an officer uses his arm, his or her arm to put pressure on the side of a person's neck. And please consider that as an option, you know, to avoid a deadly or force. But community members have stressed that it could lead to serious injury if not even death. And so certain council members, like community members are also concerned about the use of that a neck hold and they're pushing back against the notion that that should be an option in cases when officers are trying to deescalate situations. Um, so what's becoming really apparent and really interesting as well is that, you know, this conversation of what is considered deescalation is now at the forefront of, of this discussion as well. Um, so council members have said that they, they want a list of specific tactics that San Diego police considered deescalation concepts so that the public can kind of weigh in on that and that could be discussed as well.

Speaker 1: 03:57 Um, they, they said it's important to be on the same page about that counsel woman Vivian Moreno also had some concerns on the use of stun guns and, and physical corrosion, uh, as deescalation tactics. Can you tell me more about that? Yeah, so essentially again, it kind of goes in line with what is an option to not use deadly force and also what is considered deescalation. Um, Councilwoman Vivian Mareno said she felt that the use of a taser, um, whether it was fired or not and any sort of physical coercion was not a form of deescalation. Uh, she, uh, views, you know, deescalation, she said, uh, as a avoiding force at all. Um, whereas police officers on their end, uh, pushed back a bit and said that, uh, there are a lot of options on the table and it's, it'd be kind of focused more on the outcome.

Speaker 1: 04:46 If they don't use deadly force, then they feel that they've deescalated a situation. But again, you know, this kind of brought up the discussion of what should be considered deescalation. Are there other departments looking at deescalation training? Yeah. And deescalation, you know, has been a hot word for, for some time now, especially now that these two bills were signed by the governor. Uh, police agencies have started to look at the bills to see what must be done to comply. As I mentioned, um, Senate bill two 30 will require police agencies to update their training manuals to comply with assembly bill three 92, the new standard. So they are, they are discussing it. And um, in the specific case of San Diego polices new training and policy, um, the district attorney's office has, has worked with them as well as our County to work on this training and policy.

Speaker 1: 05:35 So I suspect that, you know, other departments will also kind of keep an eye on what's happening within San Diego and also work with the district attorney's office. So what's the next step in this process to finalize the guidelines for STDs? Deescalation training. The police department is going to work with state groups like, uh, police unions and also internally ensure that, uh, the top brass is on onboard and you know, happy with this policy. Um, it will fit under their use of force policy, which is in place now. It kind of dictates when officers, broadly, when officers can use force. Um, so they plan to implement the deescalation concepts under that policy. Um, but yeah, it's essentially written, it's just a matter of waiting for the department to officially approve it. And so David, they'll also return to the committee with that request of council members, correct? Yes. So council members have requested that this policy be brought before them for a discussion. Um, so I think that will lead to a very interesting conversation because of that topic of what is considered deescalation. But this will be brought forward before, uh, the city council specifically that public safety and livable neighborhoods committee. I've been speaking with David Hernandez, reporter for the San Diego union Tribune. David, thank you for joining us. Thanks for having me.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.