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Teaching police talk tactics

Paula Wissel/KPLU
Seattle Asst. Police Chief Mike Sanford, King Co. Sheriff Sue Rahr and Joe Hawe, Exec. Dir. Wa. State Criminal Justice Training Commission announce plans to teach cops better communication skills.

Police in Seattle and King County will soon be trained in the importance of talking.  They’ll learn to treat people with respect as a way of diffusing tense situations.  Law enforcement officials hope the new approach helps build trust with the community. At a news conference, King County Sheriff Sue Rahr said there’s been too much focus, not just in Washington but across the country, on the use of physical restraint and force.

“It used to be the teaching was to get in right away and get the weapon or person under control before you talk to them. Now, we’re looking at that a slightly different way. If there isn’t an immediate threat, you want to create some kind of voluntary cooperation by talking with them rather than going hands on first,” Rahr said.

Several thousand Seattle and King County police will be trained in the heightened communication skills in the next year.  The program is called L.E.E.D, which stands for listen, explain, equity and dignity.

If successful, the program will likely be extended to other local law enforcement agencies in the state through training at the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Center.

The new training comes as the United States Department of Justice investigates whether the Seattle Police Department’s use of force has violated civil rights

Paula reports on groundbreaking legal decisions in Washington State and on trends in crime and law enforcement. She’s been at KNKX since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.