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Reducing the Use of Force: De-Escalation Training for Police Officers

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Technical Report

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Naval Postgraduate School Monterey United States

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The use of force by police officers has captured the attention of society. Allegations of inappropriate or misapplied force happen with regularity. This thesis conducted a survey of the members of the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training to determine the number of training hours dedicated to firearms and force versus de-escalation topics. It analyzes the results through the framework of the Recognition-Primed Decision model, which asserts that in rapidly evolving, time-limited incidents, individuals make decisions based on prior experiences. This thesis hypothesizes that officers are primed to use force rather than de-escalation options due to an overemphasis on force during training sessions. The survey results showed an 8.9 to 1 ratio of training hours on force versus de-escalation. It recommends that police trainers strive to achieve parity in training hours dedicated to force and de-escalation topics. It also recommends that scenario-based training be emphasized to provide experiences to draw upon, and that the scenarios mirror real-world probabilities. Positioning Theory, Crisis Intervention Team principles, and de-escalation strategies of other countries are also examined for methods that could be implemented to reduce the occurrences of inappropriate use of force by police officers.

Subject Categories:

  • Sociology and Law
  • Psychology

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