Latest Fad in Policing: 'De-escalation'

And look at what happened recently in Kingman, Ariz., where a SWAT team served a search warrant looking for a stolen gun. In footage captured by an officer’s body camera, we see a man in the house approach the front door while holding a handgun at his side. Incredibly, he refuses to drop it even while facing several officers with guns pointed at him. Even more incredibly, he managed to raise the weapon and shoot two officers before he was shot and killed. Note that in the moments before the shooting there was a call for an officer with a Taser to approach, an attempt at de-escalation that resulted in two officers being shot.

The unwarranted criticism heaped on the police over recent shootings reflects the increasingly common (but ignorant) belief that anytime an officer uses force on someone, it can only be because the officer was untrained in more peaceful means of resolving the situation or unwilling to use them. This is true regardless of the race of the various parties, but of course it is especially so when the person harmed by the police is black. In such instances, regardless of any genuine danger faced by the officer, it will be said he resorted to his firearm rather than something less lethal because of his “implicit bias,” from which no one can ever be cured.

The Times article makes the bold assertion that “de-escalation techniques can be especially useful while dealing with people who are mentally ill or emotionally disturbed, according to experts.” The alert reader will ask himself who these so-called experts are and examine their qualifications. One of the experts quoted is Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, which claims on its website that it is “a police research and policy organization and a provider of management services, technical assistance, and executive-level education to support law enforcement agencies.”

Note the organization’s title and its stated purpose, particularly their emphasis on police “executives.” It is commonly believed that the higher the rank attained by one of these police executives, the more expertise he has acquired. Police officers know that in most cases the exact opposite is true, especially as it applies to violent confrontations with criminals in the streets. People rise to executive positions within a police department by studiously avoiding these confrontations. Then, after reaching the safety afforded by higher rank, they take pride in proclaiming their expertise on matters in which they have no practical experience.