In Columbus, Ohio, residents are wondering how a police shooting of an unarmed man in December failed to offer lessons that may have helped to prevent another officer shooting an African American teenager last week.
The shooting of that teen, Ma’Khia Bryant, and Andrew Brown, Jr. in North Carolina, are two of the latest incidents that call into question the need for much more cultural sensitivity and de-escalation training for police officers and security professionals.
De-escalation practices are designed to slow things down enough to help keep everyone safe during a law enforcement or security encounter. De-escalation can be part of a well-rounded and effective use-of-force policy. Baltimore and Seattle are among more than 150 U.S. cities that include de-escalation in their training and policies, but there are thousands of law enforcement departments and private security firms across the nation.
I have been advocating de-escalation for many years, encouraging security professionals to start with their mouths. In Rent-A-Cop Reboot, I wrote about this. As I said in the book, I don’t want to second-guess someone’s actions when they are performing their security duties. However, there are too many instances where African Americans and other people of color see white individuals arrested in situations where African Americans have been shot. Too often, killed.
If you are a law enforcement or security professional, get de-escalation training. If it’s not offered by your employer, ask for it, or find a responsible organization that offers training you can take.
I know de-escalation can call for behavior that may feel like the opposite of what you may have been taught — like trying to talk someone down, reaching for your taser faster than your gun, or backing away while talking to someone who is holding a knife — but I am here to tell you that I am here because of situations where I de-escalated the situation. I usually did it just by talking to the person.
If you are not in law enforcement or security, contact your local police department and ask if they offer de-escalation training. They may need you to contact elected officials and support funding for this purpose, or to increase mental health supports for everyone in the community who needs it. That includes police officers.
Let’s get through this spring without another tragic police or mass shooting for any reason. At least that’s what I’m praying for. How about you?