Police departments throughout the U.S are awarding officers for “de-escalating” altercations with suspects, according to reports from the Associated Press.
Approximately 40 Philadelphia officers got “medal of tactical de-escalation” awards since December for avoiding excessive force. The Los Angeles Police Department started recognizing officers through a “Preservation of Life” award, and the U.S. Department of Justice will give out its own “New Community Policing” awards. The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol also gives out the “Use of Force Encounter Averted” award.
“An officer going home is of paramount importance to us, but everybody should have an opportunity to go home if that presents itself,” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross said, according to CBS News. “This is an effort to slow down situations for the sake of everybody concerned.”
Police departments began handing out awards because of shootings in cities like, Ferguson, Cleveland and Chicago — where police shootings, regardless of justification, have stoked massive public backlash. The Obama Administration has also been pushing against police force. Supporters of this new award system claim that it will foster trust between officers and the communities in which they work.
Philly PD held police officer Eric Tyler as an example because he used a stun gun instead of a handgun on a perpetrator who threatened Tyler’s co-worker. Once down, officers found the perp to be unarmed.
“I thought better of it, and our training took over,” Tyler said. “With everything that’s going on in policing, sometimes you have to think to de-escalate things. Somebody has to be a calming force.”
Some police departments do not agree with these awards and the emphasis on restraint. They say that it can cause officers to question themselves in dangerous situations.
The Los Angeles Police union said, “It suggests that officers must go above and beyond their normal activities to avoid harm; or put another way, that officers will be penalized for resorting to an appropriate, lawful use of force.”
Major Travis Yates, a Commander in the Tulsa Police Department, wrote that while officers should show restraint, that “these awards will not fix the rhetoric and will only serve to send mixed messages. We have spent decades explaining why we can’t shoot violent suspects in the leg or the gun out of the hand and now we will have to explain why we used force at all when we should have ‘de-escalated’.”
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