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3 cases that show how peaceful de-escalation is possible without compromising officer safety

The Lenco BearCat gives officers an edge to implement de-escalation techniques that bring nonviolent outcomes

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De-escalation is more than just verbal judo – it’s an evidence-based practice in which officers try to avoid using force and instead focus on slowing the action down to respond more effectively.

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By Yoona Ha, Police1 BrandFocus Staff

As police shootings in recent years have gathered national attention, the relationship between police and the community has been under increased scrutiny. In response, departments across the nation have looked for new ways to build trust while also protecting officers whose overriding goal with each shift is to go home at the end of the day.

Some, like the Dallas Police Department, have embraced policing tactics that involve de-escalation techniques to minimize the use of force during critical incidents. De-escalation is more than just verbal judo – it’s an evidence-based practice in which officers try to avoid using force and instead focus on slowing the action down to respond more effectively. This is especially important to officers who are concerned about the Supreme Court ruling in Graham v. Connor that set the legal precedent for how an officer’s use of force is judged.

Although police de-escalation practices have obvious benefits, such as reducing a department’s use of force complaints, it can also be risky to use in some situations. Because of these risks de-escalation approaches can face a tough crowd among the rank and file, especially for officers who are worried about the possible confusion of when and how to use force in volatile situations.

That’s exactly why officers turn to armored vehicles like the Lenco BearCat to respond to scenarios where the stakes are high. Not only does it protect officers from high-powered rifles and even mines, it also acts as a de-escalation tool for over 700 agencies in the U.S. that have seen how the vehicle itself can intimidate highly volatile suspects into surrendering peacefully.

Here are some examples of how law enforcement officials have used BearCats to resolve standoffs without bloodshed:

1.Dickinson, North Dakota: Southwest Tactical Team

In 2013, North Dakota’s Dunn County Commissioner approved the purchase of a BearCat for the Southwest Tactical Team, which includes officers from the Dickinson Police Department and other local agencies. While its main use is to rescue and evacuate officers and citizens from high-risk areas, it was put to the test on August 21, 2014, when a fugitive wanted by the FBI barricaded himself in a building.

The Southwest Tactical Team parked the BearCat in the driveway and called for the fugitive to surrender – and within just one minute, the fugitive surrendered to the tactical team.

According to Sgt. Mike Hanel, the reason for this rapid de-escalation and surrender was due to the intimidating presence the BearCat brings to the scene.

“The psychological factor that the BearCat brings to this situation was enough in this instance to break the spirit of a desperate suspect and get him to surrender peacefully, without the use of any other force,” said Hanel.

2. Jackson Township, Pennsylvania: York County Quick Response Team

The Quick Response Team in York County, Pennsylvania, responded to an incident involving a suspect who fired shots through his wall that pierced the neighbor’s home.

This incident, on June 9, 2011, was especially distressful for resident David Hopkins, who, after living in the neighborhood for over four years, had never thought of evacuating his home due to stray gunshots.

In this situation, the BearCat was used to help evacuate Hopkins to safety. Then negotiators talked the suspects into a peaceful surrender. What made a difference to the York County Quick Response Team was having a Lenco BearCat that gave officers the comfort and confidence of responding effectively to a call involving dangerous suspect with access to some serious weapons.

“You can take [The BearCat] up close and personal, and once you’re buttoned up [in the vehicle] the guys don’t have the worries they used to have,” said Chief David Zink of the Jackson Township Police Department.

3. San Luis Obispo, California: Police Department SWAT Team

On March 20, 2014, the San Luis Obispo Police Department in California responded to a call regarding a suicidal suspect with a shotgun.

Although the suspect was threating to hurt himself and those who wanted to approach by shooting several rounds into his house, police were persistent in keeping near the suspect.

After nine hours, and with the help of other regional police departments, the suspect was talked into surrendering.

Thanks to the Lenco BearCat, the officers were able to approach the suspect’s home and get him to surrender.

“One week after we received the vehicle, its role in protecting our officer’s lives and potentially saving this man’s life is clearly invaluable,” said Steve Gesell, who served as the police chief of the San Luis Obispo Police Department at the time.

Tactical armored vehicles like the Lenco BearCat have become a necessary tool for modern policing. Not only does an armored vehicle protect officers, it empowers them to be more precise with de-escalation techniques.

These three peaceful resolutions show how the vehicle can be used so that officers don’t have to choose force and de-escalation to resolve a critical incident.