De-Escalation Training: Could These Tactics Diminish Racially Charged Police Shootings?

Law enforcement experts believe many deadly encounters can be prevented.

With racially charged police shootings causing outrage across the country, law enforcement experts believe the deadly encounters can be prevented with a new type of training.

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Camden County Police Chief Scott Thomson, who oversees police in Camden, New Jersey — sometimes called the most dangerous city in the country — says there are keys to de-escalating a situation.

Thomson told Inside Edition: “Just because we can use deadly force doesn't mean we should automatically resort to it if there are other options that we can employ.”

He says that one of the most important tactics for officers to follow is not to shoot first.

Thomson took Inside Edition through his department's tactical headquarters where cops are being trained to de-escalate confrontations.

There was a situation where cops say a mentally ill suspect in Camden was swinging a knife.

“A year-and-a-half ago our officers would have shot and more than likely killed this individual,” Thomson said.

Police ended up Tasing the man and he dropped the knife. He was taken into custody and no one was injured.

“Traditionally we train officers to try to resolve situations as quickly as possible. And often times that is a recipe for disaster,” Thomson said.

In a training exercise, a detective portrayed a troubled woman wielding a knife.

Officers are told are given a series of directives in their training. The first is to open a dialogue, followed by keeping a safe distance. The third is to buy some time and keep the dialogue going until backup arrives.

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In a real confrontation, officers keep their Tasers at the ready.

During the training exercise, the confrontation was diffused peacefully.

“What we stress to our officers here is make sure everybody goes home,” Thomson said.

Chief Thomson said there has been a 44 percent reduction in excessive force complaints since the program was implemented last year.

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