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De-escalation training for Washington law enforcement taking shape

Elaine Thompson
The Associated Press
In photo taken May 6, 2015, at the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission police recruits working through a training scenario stand in non-threatening postures as they talk with another recruit portraying a mentally ill subject.

Washington Initiative 940, known as the Police Training and Criminal Liability in Cases of Deadly Force Measure, was passed by voters in 2018.  One requirement is that police receive de-escalation training. A state commission is deciding how that training will look. 

Sue Rahr, executive director of Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, says the de-escalation training will include the steps an officer should take during a tense encounter, such as managing the pace of  the interaction,  finding a proper shield, and then trying to communicate. Rahr, who is a former King County sheriff, says de-escalation is a combination of patrol tactics and psychology.

“So the patrol tactics have to be executed well to give the officer the opportunity to establish communication and gain cooperation,” Rahr said.

She says the focus should be on increasing the options for resolving an incident and reducing the likelihood of either party being injured. But, she says, sometimes even when an officer does everything right it still ends in deadly force.

The final rules for de-escalation training are due June 6.  The training commission will hold a public hearing in Spokane on May 23. Comments will be taken online until then.

In addition to the de-escalation training, the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission is coming up with rules for mental health and first aid training for law enforcement.

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.