By Kyle S. Reyes, National Spokesman for Law Enforcement Today.
If we started seeing an uptick in the number of heart attack victims who died… would we get rid of heart surgeons? Or would we perhaps start looking at both the root cause – and the training of the surgeons?
As the National Spokesman for Law Enforcement Today, the largest police-owned news outlet in America, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the fact that we’re in some crazy times.
Let’s talk about the Floyd situation candidly, for a second.
There’s not a single cop I know that was ok with what happened. Not a single officer who condoned it.
Not a single member of law enforcement who isn’t willing to have a conversation about what’s happening in America right now.
But conversations aren’t what’s happening. Rage is. Anarchy is. And perhaps even worse is that there’s a mob mentality built around the only knee-jerk proposal that’s seriously being considered: “defund the police.”
It’s a catastrophic mistake.
And so today, I’d like to spark an actual conversation about what would actually help “reform” policing:
What the media tells you it is: “If you shoot the guy pointing a loaded gun at you, you’re a bad cop because you couldn’t convince him through gentle words to not kill you.”
What the Department of Justice says it is: “The strategic slowing down of an incident in a manner that allows officers more time, distance, space and tactical flexibility during dynamic situations on the street.”
Here’s the truth of it. There’s no nationally standardized, controlled manual of what that is. And there probably never will be.
That’s ridiculous, you say.
But is it? Every scenario is different. Every single person is different. Think about it like this.
Take two people. Two different upbringings. Two different sets of life. In this case, take a combat veteran. A young African American man.
As an officer, what do you know about them? Only what you can generalize, right? And your generalizations are going to come from your different upbringings. Different sets of life. Different experiences.
And that’s where we find ourselves getting into the nuances and complexities of de-escalation.
That combat veteran. It could be a well-trained Marine who is an incredible leader.
Or it could be a guy who just lost two friends to suicide and he’s battling a traumatic brain injury and PTSD. You can’t know by what’s on the outside. But one cop might have been raised to love veterans and have a military family history… and the other might have gotten the hell beat out of him by guys growing up who went on to become grunts.
The young African American. He could be a rising scholar. A man of God. A star sports player. Or he could have been lost to drugs at a young age after his dad left… and the kid turned to a life of crime and murder.
The cop could have grown up in a diverse neighborhood and have an upbringing that included a mix of all backgrounds and ethnicities. Or he could have been jumped and mugged by a group of young black men, and he still has prejudices and generalizations based on that experience.
So what do you do? How do you train them?
A program I got to go through recently might be the solution to that.
VirTra simulation training ensures officers are put into situations they may face in the field and better prepares the officer to do their jobs efficiently and safely for all involved.
VirTra’s curricula immerses them in real-life situations where an officer must practice judgmental use of force hands-on, rather than listening to hours of lecture in a classroom.
“We know that our focus on de-escalation and proportionality is creating more positive outcomes,” said Police Chief William Scott of the San Francisco Police Department.
He’s not the only one.
“It’s really impressive. I think back 25 years ago when I first got on the job to think where we have come and the type of training that the members need because of the situations they are put into and how quickly those situations change.
It’s not just about shooting guns, it’s the de-escalation scenarios and the real city experiences. I think our officers are going to be very impressed,” said Chief Dave Jansen of the New Westminster PD.
Cities like Tucson, which has dealt with rising crime and protests recently, has seen great success with this approach.
“Currently we use the system for Use of Force policy discussions, supervisory training, de-escalation, arrest and control tactics, situational awareness, critical decision making, gun safety, and more. The VirTra V-300 is and continues to be a valuable component of Tucson Police Department’s training academy” said Lt. Corey Doggett, Training Commander of the Tucson PD.
And the company is already working with police departments to get around the funding problems.
“The S.T.E.P. program allows law enforcement entities to request the money under their training budget, not under their equipment budgets. It is much easier to sell city leaders, city councils and communities on the need for increased training dollars in de-escalation and use of force measures than it is to convince them to purchase high-dollar equipment,” said Captain Jody Hayes of the West Des Moines PD.
Here’s another point to consider. At what point does “de-escalation” turn into “survival”? Is it when the suspect pulls out a gun?
What about a rock?
You do realize that rock can be deadly, right? And for those of you who think it’s not common… here are just a handful of cases in Arizona alone:
So I’ll ask this again: what IS de-escalation? And how can you practice something that’s so tough to define?
Force Science Institute is a great example of a thought-leader really helping advance that conversation today.
As a matter of fact, they have an entire course built around it. In their words:
“The Realistic De-Escalation Instructor Course thoroughly dissects the complex concept of “de-escalation” and the many elements in determining its feasibility or effectiveness in a variety of encounter types.
“This deeper knowledge of de-escalation is valuable to both line officers and the investigators and administrators called in to review force events after the fact. All these parties will need to determine to what extent using de-escalation techniques is feasible in specific high-pressure and rapidly unfolding encounters.
“This course is designed for law enforcement trainers, whether they deal with street officers, field supervisors, investigators, attorneys, administrators or any other group within law enforcement. Instead of being based on the rhetoric that exists around the emotionally charged subject of police use-of-force encounters and the specter of excessive force, the curriculum is based on unbiased scientific realities.
“The Force Science Institute’s research into human behavior as it applies to high-pressure encounters and de-escalation provides essential insights for law enforcement personnel at all levels and is designed to be the basis for de-escalation training for police.
“Participants in the course will learn concepts and methods that support de-escalation efforts when personal connections can be made between officers and subjects. These attendees will be given knowledge regarding ways to help people in a state of mental health crisis, or whose perception of reality is altered.
“Law enforcement officers using the lessons from this course will be able to better manage human beings with better skills around establishing contact, building rapport and gaining influence to achieve police objectives.
Read: We will help make better police officers by giving them the training they so desperately need – and want.
Do you really think “defunding the police” is going to solve the problem? Think again. Funding is one of the biggest reasons we’re doing such a lousy job on training at scale across America.
As we reported last week, “Defund the police” is one of the more ridiculous cries we’ve heard in the recent weeks.
The question shouldn’t be “how can we take away money from police?”
It should be:
“What’s it going to cost to give them the best training they can get… to save as many lives as they can?”
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