POST De-escalation Strategies & Techniques for California Law Enforcement

The State of California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training published the document, “De-escalation Strategies & Techniques for California Law Enforcement” which can be found here:

Below is the introduction from the document.

De-escalation, in all its forms and definitions, is not a stand-alone remedy for conflict or force. Rather, de-escalation is an implicit commitment and explicit skill, one of many, that should be used whenever possible, but at the officer’s discretion and when feasible under the totality of the circumstances to minimize, divert, or eliminate conflict or force. Such discretion is guided by policy and law and enhanced through training and organizational culture. De-escalation serves as a potentially powerful tool, among others, with a diverse assortment of descriptors that will be explored in this publication. Dr. George Thomson (Founder of Verbal Judo) eloquently described the practice of de-escalation as:

“Redirecting behavior with words… staying calm in the midst of conflict, deflecting verbal abuse, and offering empathy in the face of antagonism”

Across the country, law enforcement officers collectively make upwards of 45 million of contacts each year under every circumstance conceivable. From a broad perspective, the vast majority of these contacts are successful and productive; business as usual. Unfortunately, the nature of the job, beyond public service, includes enforcement, protection, and the exertion of statutory authority (power). This professional burden is carried by police in the form of responsibility, duty, and public service. The simple reality is that sometimes police need to engage in conflict or physical force to gain lawful control and sometimes deadly force to protect their own lives or the lives of others. Most would agree that these options are always the last resort when lesser attempts to control have been attempted and failed or lesser attempts are not appropriate or safe based on the prevailing circumstances.

The concept of de-escalation is straightforward, simple, and direct. While its academic construction is important, the definition, history, and intellectual theories pale in comparison to its successful and tangible application in the field. De-escalation is always preferred over its alternative. De-escalation has saved lives countless times, thus the justification and necessity to explore and adopt this subject is without measure. Additionally, the desired byproduct for the successful training and application of de-escalation is less fear, reduced force, and fewer injuries. Further, the benefits of effective de-escalation include improved public/media image and relationships, reduced civil litigation, and of critical importance; a sweeping restoration of police legitimacy.

This publication is a call to action. Its content is meant to reintroduce and re-emphasize de-escalation, technique and philosophy, as a strategy based on real-world achievable skills to better address solvable problems; to do it better today than yesterday. The contents herein offer statutory requirements, clarification and definition, tactics, resources, diverse considerations for implementation, and illustrate the necessity and value of de-escalation as a tool to make policing more effective, safer, and to earn legitimacy in the eyes of the community that law enforcement serves.

The POST Commission’s vision for this publication is to provide peace officers and dispatchers the principles of de-escalation and how it can provide effective tools during contacts with the public and result in improved decision-making, reduction in situational intensity, and outcomes with greater voluntary compliance. As such, the mission is to improve the law enforcement officer’s ability to better understand the “facts,” in volatile situations and consider alternatives to measures of force, before the application of force.

About the Commission On Peace Officer Standards and Training

The Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) was established by the Legislature in 1959 to set minimum selection and training standards for California law enforcement. The POST organization, with more than 130 staff members, functions under the direction of an Executive Director appointed by the Commission.