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De-escalation tactics and excessive force charges

Last September, a Rocklin police officer was arrested following his use of excessive force during a DUI arrest he performed. Other officers reported his behavior after noting the disproportionate use of his baton while making the arrest. After reviewing the dash cam footage a formal review was performed. The Place County District Attorney’s Office determined the use of force was criminal and ordered the officer’s arrest.

With the implementation of body cams and dash cams, recording an officer’s behavior while on duty has become easier than ever before. Officers are facing scrutiny from all sides while attempting to do their jobs. As public outrage over police brutality and shootings surges, de-escalation tactics are gaining popularity, but are they effective?

Use of force

The standard approach to policing is to use the problem-based policing approach. Under this training and way of policing, officers are trained on when and how to use force that is objectively reasonable. While some situations allow an officer to step back and access what is going on most do not and officers must make snap second decisions on how to handle potentially violent people. Every year around 1,000 people are shot and killed by police and over half are wielding guns. Officers need to know how to respond to these threats.

What is de-escalation?

De-escalation policies are meant to slow down situations when officers may need to use force in order to avoid or lessen the use of police force. During de-escalation training officers are taught that they need to control themselves before attempting to control others. The training teaches officers to identify their personal triggers and work towards recognizing and overcoming the triggers. In a de-escalation situation the goal is to gain compliance by will, not compliance by force.

De-escalation tactics are impractical for every situation and could endanger an officer’s life. For officers making an arrest, use of force in the heat of the moment may seem completely reasonable. However, the use of force may come back to haunt them in the form of an arrest afterwards. Police officers walk a fine line between keeping the peace and contributing to the problem and it can be difficult to be objective about your own actions. If you have been arrested for using excessive force there are legal options. Don’t let an arrest end your career.

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9.3Lisa Victoria Houle
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