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Syracuse Police first to adopt de-escalation focused firearms training

SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Saving Lives USA Foundation, a non-profit focused on reducing the negative impacts of police and security service use-of-force, has announced the successful implementation of a de-escalation-based firearms training paradigm at the City of Syracuse Police Department. Saving Lives USA donated specialized training and equipment that helped enable this effort.

In December of 2022 the New York State Municipal Police Training Council approved a new Basic Course for Police Officers (BCPO) firearms program that is structured to match how the brain learns and retains skills. The course is also unique in that visual stimulus is used throughout to drive officer decision-making and de-escalation relative to subject behavior. Syracuse is the first training academy to fully implement the program. It is also the first department in the nation to bring these training methods into its in-service training for existing officers.

The curriculum changes were highlighted during September’s Public Safety Symposium in Albany, New York. “It cannot be overstated how big of a deal this is,” said Justin Smith, a data science leader and neuroscience Ph.D. whose research focus is the molecular processes for decision-making and stress. “Using visual stimulus to control range training develops firearms skills that are different, at a synaptic level, than anything we have seen before in law enforcement. The advancement in de-escalation capability for new officers is truly ground-breaking.”

“The ability to visually initiate and de-escalate on every training repetition is a game changer,” stated Lieutenant Benjamin Conklin, who oversees training for the Syracuse P.D. “On the street no one is going to tell you what to do—you decide based on what you see. That mental process is occurring over and over on every call, but we have never been able to replicate it during firearms training. With the new curriculum and the tools donated by Saving Lives USA we are much better at both preparing new recruits for that reality and improving the de-escalation capabilities of our existing officers.”

About Saving Lives USA

Saving Lives USA Foundation is a 501(c)(3) dedicated to reducing the negative impacts from police and security service use of force within the United States and its Territories. The non-profit focuses its efforts on reforming law enforcement use-of-force training by providing funding for instructor training and equipment that requires decision-making and de-escalation to become the primary focus of use-of-force training. Learn more at