Phoenix Police train officers in unique de-escalation tactics

The Phoenix Police Department gave us an exclusive look at the unique way they're training officers on de-escalation tactics. FOX 10's Nicole Garcia reports.

- The Phoenix Police Department gave us an exclusive look at the unique way they're training officers on de-escalation tactics.

The Attorney General recently recognized the department as one of the best in the nation when it comes to this training. What's groundbreaking is the department is incorporating a lot more neuroscience into their program.

De-escalation training is designed to help the officer stay focused and calm during crisis situations.

From the rookies to the veterans, every single Phoenix Police officer on the force must take this course.

The lessons being taught today are quite different than in years past.

"24 years ago, it was you ask them to do something. You tell them to do something and then you make them do it and pretty much, an officer was expected to do all three by themselves," said Michael Malpass of the Phoenix Police Department.  "Now we want to get to the idea where yes, we may ask them to do something, we may tell them to do something, but we're going to tell them what the consequences are, if we can and start thinking about what resources are available to us to help solve the problem."

Part of the training is ingraining the importance of slowing down a situation. What else can an officer do before having to escalate to deadly force? Something the current Chief, Joe Yahner, prioritizes over numbers.

21st century policing is a whole new ball game and new recruits recognize they're signing up for one of the most controversial, criticized and critically dangerous jobs in the country right now.

"I have a lot of friends and family tell me, 'Hey be extra careful, we're worried about you, are you sure you want to go into this?' I tell them yes, this is something I always wanted to do. I finally achieved it, even though it does make me really nervous," said Gilbert Garcia, a new officer.

Another new officer, Joe Bartlett, added, "It makes me nervous. It does and makes my family nervous as well.. but I want to be that one to do it. I want to protect and serve here at home."

What they're learning in the classroom will be tested in the tactical village where they can test their skills with instructors acting out real-life calls.

These days, officers are being trained to become tactically sound therapists. They need to talk people out of potentially deadly situations. They also have to be able to physically restrain people if need be. Now the department is adding biology to their police course, exercising officers' brains.

"Control their stress, control their fear and make smart choices," said Malpass.

Recognizing how the brain works helps officers make smart, split-second decisions under extreme pressure.

"We're now bringing neuroscience into everything we do. We're understanding how we perform under stress, what it does to the brain," said Malpass. "We don't want our officers in extreme neurostress. We want them to learn how to control it because you're gonna make better decisions when you do."
 
It all comes down to being prepared for this -- preparing officers to think, have a plan, communicate and de-escalate before resorting to using their guns -- because reality is nowadays the law will not always give law enforcement officers the benefit of the doubt -- and a bad decision could not only cost someone their life, it could cost someone their career.
 
"Do not cause exigent circumstances by placing yourself in a tactical disadvantage.. If you create this exigency, if your conduct creates the exigency, if you used poor officer safety, if you used poor tactics, if you don't have a plan, if what you did created the exigent circumstances, then in the future, you're going to be held liable for it," said Malpass.
 
In the near future, the department hopes to use biometrics technology by hooking their officers up to machines that measure their brainwaves and heart rate, analyzing how they react under stressful situations. They hope to use that information to help officers to remain calm, cool and collected during high stress situations.

 


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