De-escalation is an integral part of our officers’ training beginning at the police academy. In the State of Illinois, the Police and Community Relations Improvement Act (50 ILCS 727) and the Illinois Police Training Act (50 ILCS 705) provide training mandates for police officers in a variety of relevant areas. These include:
- Civil Rights
- Constitutional and Proper Use of Law Enforcement Authority
- Cultural Competency (including implicit bias and racial and ethnic sensitivity)
- Human Rights
- First Responder Procedural Justice (including impartiality, reasonable use of force, de-escalation training, crisis intervention team training, verbal and non-verbal communication, bias awareness, language, and cultural responsiveness); and,
- Mental Health Awareness (including de-escalation training)
These concepts are then reinforced in ongoing online training officers receive annually. Further, the Hanover Park Police Department has set as a goal that all officers will receive the 40-hour Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training. CIT training has been a major training development in law enforcement in the past several years. CIT focuses on better preparing officers to work with people who are in crisis and employ alternatives to the use of force that can be employed when possible. While CIT is a comprehensive, multi-faceted program, the general focus of it is:
- Utilizing ‘verbal judo’ whenever possible to prevent situations from quickly escalating to a physical confrontation.
- Teaching officers active listening, rapport establishment, body language, and collaborative communication strategies to help defuse volatile situations.
- Employing logic, reasoning, and a calm demeanor to encourage cooperation and compliance.
- Recognizing the signs and symptoms of those in mental distress and recognizing the value of avoiding physical conflict when possible for both the officer and the individual’s safety.
- Focusing on not taking things personally and thereby separating emotion from the interaction on behalf of the officer.
- Being patient and committing to the de-escalation strategies as opposed to allowing frustration to guide use of force decision making.
Overall, we seek to train officers that the use of force, while sometimes unavoidable, should be a last resort when there are other strategies that can be attempted safely.