The de-escalation section of use of force policy 906 states:
“De-escalation techniques and tactics include, but are not limited to:
- Remaining calm and professional.
- Decreasing the exposure to the potential threat by using distance or physical barriers between an uncooperative subject and an officer.
- Engage in tactical communications including active listening. Communication with the subject should be limited to one officer at a time in order to ensure clear communication.
- Requesting and utilizing additional officers whenever necessary. If one officer is unable to build rapport with a subject, another officer may be given an opportunity to communicate with the subject whenever possible.
- Tactical positioning, repositioning and pause when necessary.
- Leveraging time by slowing down the situation:
When safe and feasible under the totality of circumstances, officers should attempt to slow down or stabilize the situation so more time, options and resources are available for incident resolution. When time and circumstances permit, officers should assess whether a person’s lack of compliance is a deliberate attempt to resist or an inability to comply based on factors including but not limited to:
- Medical conditions;
- Mental impairments;
- Developmental disability;
- Physical limitation;
- Language barrier;
- Drug interaction and/or intoxication;
- Behavior crisis; and
- Emotional response/fear.
An officer’s awareness of these possibilities shall be balanced against the facts of the incident when deciding which de-escalation and use of force options are the most appropriate to bring the situation to a safe resolution.”
In 2016, WPD began focusing on de-escalation techniques to resolve situations without the use of force by utilizing time, distance and communication. WPD has had significant success in using these techniques and diminishing, wherever possible, having to use force when dealing with those in crisis.
New officers, as well as veteran officers, are trained in de-escalation tactics. The training includes the use of active listening skills, commonly used by crisis negotiators, to de-escalate high-risk situations. WPD has ongoing training for the use of these communication techniques for all officers throughout the year.
Multiple steps have been taken over the past several years to emphasize de-escalation techniques:
- Since 2016, WPD has tripled the number of crisis negotiators with specialized training in communication and are able to assist with crises and highly volatile situations;
- Mental health training for officers is a priority. All WPD officers have received mental health training up to and including the comprehensive Crisis Intervention Team training;
- WPD has implemented de-escalation language into use-of-force policy 906.