In Spirit of Collaboration, 11 Police Groups Agree to De-Escalation Policy

Officials representing the International Association of Chiefs of Police and 10 other groups released a model policy document meant for police departments to use. The document represents the first time that groups have specifically recommended de-escalation before the use of force.

In recent years, relationships between police officers and the public have been increasingly strained, in part because of publicized incidents in which the use of deadly force by officers took things a step too far.

Now, a coalition of 11 major police groups—among them the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Fraternal Order of Police, and the National Tactical Officers Association—hopes to address this problem by teaching officers the best ways to calm nerves.

The groups this week announced a National Consensus Policy on Use of Force, which spells out policies that local police departments can use in building out their own standards. A key element of the policy discusses de-escalation techniques—which it recommends using as an alternative to physical force.

“An officer shall use de-escalation techniques and other alternatives to higher levels of force consistent with his or her training whenever possible and appropriate before resorting to force and to reduce the need for force,” the document states [PDF].

Additionally, the policy emphasizes that the goal of a law enforcement agency is “to value and preserve human life.”

The Washington Post notes that it’s the first time a de-escalation policy has been included as a concept in a model document meant for police departments.

In comments to the Post, former IACP President Terry Cunningham, who launched the working group that came up with the new standard, said the move to put de-escalation into the new policy was decided upon collectively by the group as “a necessary part of what we do.”

“Ultimately, it all came back to, we get it. If we have the opportunity to de-escalate, we should. And they agreed with that,” he told the newspaper.

While Fraternal Order of Police Executive Director Jim Pasco and others felt the de-escalation policy to be a basic part of policing, he nonetheless applauded the initiative to bring together a wide variety of groups, covering both officers and police executives, to discuss the issue.

“It may well portend a positive working relationship going forward,” he told the newspaper.

Although a broad number of groups took part in the policy building, there were some outliers. The National Sheriffs’ Association and the Major County Sheriffs’ Association both said they did not sign on to the effort because it was a “one-size-fits-all policy” that didn’t account for different sizes of police forces or communities.

“What is proper and accepted in one city or county may be contrary to law and/or community tolerances in another,” the heads of the two groups stated in comments to the Post.

The full document is available to view on IACP’s website [PDF].


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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