As national public outcry increases, LAPD to re-train all officers in 'de-escalation'

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In light of public concern over police shootings, the Los Angeles Police Department will re-train all 10,000 police officers on de-escalating confrontations with suspects and approaching mentally ill people, officials told KPCC.

“This is a pause that this department is going to take to recalibrate,” said Deputy Chief Bob Green, who helped design the training. “We want to make sure everybody knows how to constitutionally police, and how to treat people with respect.”

Green and other police officials said the LAPD had started to look at new training before the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri last summer. But that incident and others – including the fatal shooting of Ezell Ford in South Los Angeles – moved the training to the top of the department’s agenda. It'll start in a couple of weeks.

The five-hour re-training will address four areas:

  • Building public trust by partnering with the community and recognizing your own implicit racial biases.
  • Use of force and de-escalation techniques, including taking cover and creating distance from suspects to buy time to talk to them and call for back-up.
  • How best to identify and approach mentally ill people.
  • Basic laws of arrest, including reasonable suspicion and probable cause. 

“We do teach these already,” said Deputy Chief Bill Murphy, who heads the LAPD’s Police Sciences and Training Bureau. “But we are going to reinforce them to a far greater level.”

The training will include a history of the LAPD’s difficult relationship with minorities.

The department also plans to permanently add three new 80-hour training sessions on the same topics early in an officer’s career– at ten months, three and five years. Officials said they hope the new modules will reinforce good habits and stop bad ones from forming.

“This may be the biggest we’ve ever done at the LAPD, as far as what will amount to hundreds of hours of new in-service training,” Murphy said.

He said bringing officers in for training after they've been cops for a while makes sense.

“That’s an ideal time, they’ve been in real life incidents,” Murphy said.

One other topic they’ll address: consensual stops of pedestrians on the street, a common occurrence in high crime minority neighborhoods. Green said they'll remind officers that sometimes they need to be willing to accept ‘no’ for an answer.

“It’s about being able to walk away from an encounter when somebody doesn’t want to talk to you – checking your ego and leaving,” he said.

Green, a 40 year LAPD veteran who oversees operations in the San Fernando Valley, said the training is a high priority.

“I’m shutting down all my commands for the training – officers from other areas of the city will cover for us,” he said. “We have never done that in my 40 years with the LAPD. Its to send a message to everybody how significant this is.”

One police watchdog said training might help, but the LAPD needs to change its “culture of violence” aimed at black and Latino men.

“That takes more than a few training sessions,” said Patrisse Cullors of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. She also decried what she sees as a continuing code of silence among officers.

“The idea that officers have each others' backs and they don’t tell on one another – that needs to change,” she said.

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