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New Techniques Train Officers To De-Escalate Encounters

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) -- Armed with a bat and mentally unstable, the person taunting cops on a St. Thomas University stage could just as well be out on the street.

The scene playing out is intended to simulate the dangerous and daily encounters faced by law enforcement officers nationwide. It's part of a role-playing exercise witnessed by 270 officers at this training session how to de-escalate tense encounters.

The relatively new training approach is teaching officers that not all of their encounters require split second decisions. Often times those quick and instinctual decisions lead to use of force.

The training module was created by instructors with the Police Executive Research Forum in Washington, D.C.

"But in other cases slowing it down, using time and distance and recognizing that not all situations are the same," Executive Director Chuck Wexler said.

Wexler says the new training model was created after deadly force cases across the country put conventional tactics in the public spotlight.

PERF's training module is called Integrating Communications Assessment and Tactics, or ICAT.

When members of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension attended an ICAT training seminar last summer, they recognized its value to officers everywhere.

BCA Superintendent Drew Evans was in the audience Wednesday.

"Force is a part of law enforcement and that's always going to occur," he said. "But if we can give our law enforcement additional tools to use force less often, that's good for everybody."

For many law enforcement officers it comes down to relying on what they already know. Simply put, ICAT teaches them to first consider the power of communicating with an individual. By so doing they will knock down the rigid silos of police protocols which too often leave scant little room for patience.

"Once you put it all together and you integrate the communications, the assessment of the situation and then really the tactics that go along with it, you don't have to rush in. Sometimes talking is all right," said Washington County Sheriff Dan Starry.

Talking with the individual can often lead to a diffusing, de-escalation of their emotionally charged state of mind. And in the end, save a precious human life.

"What we hope to do today is to get officers to think about options. What can I do to slow this down? And at the end of the day the most important thing is that everybody go home safely," Wexler said.

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