De-escalation summit results in new California POST publication

The publication provides strategies for attaining safety and security while mitigating the potential for violent confrontations


By Andy Borello

“De-escalation is the PROCESS of using STRATEGIES and TECHNIQUES intended to decrease the intensity of the situation.” – California POST

Amid what has arguably been one of the most challenging decades in law enforcement, the broad recommendations made by President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, and pending changes to California law under Assembly Bill 392 and Senate Bill 230, the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) determined an important need to develop a publication on de-escalation.

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Keeping communities safe and enhancing officer skills and safety is of paramount importance for law enforcement, thus there is an ever-growing emphasis for the continued need to leverage de-escalation tactics. How law enforcement officers perform this obligation and how their actions are perceived by the community sets the foundation of their legitimacy in the eyes of the public. Focusing on this need for de-escalation will help facilitate trust within the community and reduce violent physical encounters.

California POST Summit

In October 2019, California POST convened a summit of over 100 subject matter experts from across the country to discuss de-escalation. Experts included law enforcement officers and dispatchers, mental health clinicians, attorneys and prosecutors, law enforcement auditors and monitors, and college professors.

Out of that summit came “De-escalation Strategies and Techniques for California Law Enforcement,” which summarizes the findings and recommendations of the experts and stresses the importance of cultivating positive community engagement and agency culture, creating achievable strategies and clearly defined policies, leveraging training and improving personnel wellness.

Recommendations identified by the subject matter experts and outlined in the report are intended to assist law enforcement personnel in attaining safety and security while mitigating the potential for violent confrontations.

The POST Publication

This latest POST publication packs an informational wallop at 134 pages covering seven detailed chapters including an executive summary.

De-escalation serves as a thread of commonality that is woven through many law enforcement topics and areas of training such as tactics, officer safety, ethics, communications, community policing, risk management, policy, liability and impartiality to name a few.

The chapters in the report cover:

  • The Legal Qualifications and Statutory Framework (SB 230 & AB 392)
  • De-escalation Defined
  • De-Escalation: Achievability & Procedure
  • De-escalation: Culture & Philosophy
  • De-escalation Training
  • De-escalation: Wellness & Emotional Intelligence
  • De-escalation: Methods, Techniques, & Tactics
  • Using the POST De-Escalation Publication

This publication is a guide for organizations to use as a valuable resource and serve as an ongoing reference to help agencies develop both standardized and effective policies. The content of this publication may serve law enforcement trainers, experts, supervisors and managers to better develop relevant and quality comprehensive training. At a minimum, such training is designed to:

  • Increase officer and public safety by reducing the use of force.
  • Establish and re-establish positive public perception and police legitimacy.
  • Mitigate liability and complaints, and alleviate the disconnection and misperceptions between the police and the community through improved communication.

Warriors or guardians? The relationship between use of force and de-escalation

Are officers warriors or guardians? They are both at their discretion based on the circumstances at hand and guided by law, policy, training and experience.

This ever-present duality (warrior/guardian or police/peace officer) illustrates the complexities of police work and illuminates the critical need for training, understanding, growth and policy.

Law enforcement’s use of force is a way to bring control to a situation or “to an escalating situation” that is out of control. Law enforcement’s use of de-escalation is a way to bring control to a problem before it requires force. They work together in succession: de-escalation to force and force to de-escalation and while de-escalation is certainly preferred instead of or prior to force, it does not restrict it, limit it, or replace it; they are both critical tools, among many, in a professional officer’s diverse toolbox. 

De-escalation is not new, and officers have used it in its many forms since policing started. De-escalation saves lives and careers every year, but with complex and ever-changing societal conditions, law enforcement must evolve, grow and adapt to do it better today than they did yesterday. This POST publication is designed to assist at this honorable and important endeavor.

Access the POST publication on de-escalation here: https://post.ca.gov/Publication-List.

NEXT: Realistic law enforcement de-escalation: Learning from the mental health profession


About the author
Andy Borrello is a retired police captain and served as a co-author/editor on the team who developed the publication.

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