Building Community TrustRe-imaging de-escalation and crisis intervention By Assistant Commissioner Dennis Daley, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and Inspector Jason Boutcher, Waterloo Regional Police ServiceIn the fall of 2020, the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Chiefs of Police from across Canada came together to work on issues of critical importance to Canadians and the policing community. As a result, the De-escalation and Crisis Intervention (DCI) task group was established with representation from police services across Canada. The goal of the task group is to move toward standardizing and improving police response options and evidence-based training.By emphasizing the preservation and sanctity of life and by using a human-centered policing approach, Canadian police services are increasing public transparency, improving decision-making and de-escalation training, and making modern options available to enhance de-escalation and after-action accountability. Accordingly, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP), the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP) and other provincial Chiefs of Police associations have become integral allies demonstrating leadership, advocating for operational change and promoting investments in the evidence-based research, policy frameworks and equipment needed for de-escalation and use-of-force training across Canada.Winds of ChangeAs CACP President Chief Bryan Larkin remarked in his 2021 CACP President’s Message: “Change may be inevitable, but progress is not. It’s up to us to make it happen. With passion and purpose comes progress, and the CACP is moving decisively forward to ‘put the wind at our back’ and put our association and policing in a positive position.”To ensure policing is moving in the right direction, research related to police use-of-force has grown considerably over recent decades. There have been important advancements to support evidence-based, police-led reforms that meet the demands of the Canadian public and help police professionals become more aware of issues that might impact police crisis interventions. These issues include the potential role of explicit and implicit biases. As Carleton University’s Director of the Police Research Lab, Dr. Craig Bennell, has noted, “Working together to resolve these and other issues related to police use-of-force will likely result in positive outcomes for the police and the communities they serve – including a better understanding of the use of force, enhanced police performance, improved citizen and officer safety and increased public trust and confidence in the police.”With support from evidence-based police research, and in order to further internal accountability reforms, the DCI task group is moving towards a modern, standardized use-of-force and crisis intervention model to strengthen police training and public trust in police interactions in Canada. This work reflects the group’s commitment to helping Canadian police officers meet the expectations of diverse communities by acquiring the skills, abilities and equipment to de-escalate situations and minimize harm more effectively.According to Canadian research, more than 99 per cent of interactions are resolved without the application of police intervention options. An RCMP study shows a 44 per cent decline in the rate of police intervention options being applied from 2010 to 2019, with 2019 (0.075 per cent) marking the lowest rate of police intervention over the 10-year period.Police InteractionsWhile they only represent a small percentage of intervention incidents when compared to calls for service, use-of-force responses significantly impact the community’s level of confidence in their police services and lead to questions that challenge the community’s trust in police. Therefore, it is critical that diverse views are heard and considered in this important work. Efforts are underway with the CACP and provincial associations to collaborate on issues of trust and confidence with key stakeholders and public representatives (the provinces and territories as well as Indigenous and racialized communities) to ensure the Canadian police community increases its likelihood of getting de-escalation right for Canadian communities.While existing models remain viable in guiding internal officer training efforts, there still exist opportunities to modernize these models. By developing and adopting a public/police de-escalation and crisis intervention hybrid framework, and by increasing the focus on de-escalation, emphasizing preservation/sanctity of life and increasing public awareness of the frequency and complexity of police interactions, the OACP and Canadian police services can help enhance public understanding of the decision-making processes involved in police interventions.This type of framework is being described as hybrid because it would consist of a police training aid component as well as a service to the public component that places an emphasis on de-escalation of crisis intervention calls for service.The tactical police training aid component could involve enhancing the standards outlined in the current use-of-force framework as well as enhancing police officer de-escalation and less-lethal training. If it was not already the case, police training would combine de-escalation and crisis intervention; these topics would no longer be addressed separately. The goal is to have an increased emphasis on de-escalation and preservation-of-life in all crisis intervention decision-making to reduce the risk of harm to both the police officer and the members of the community they interact with. Canadian police are also working to increase consistency across the country while enhancing police training, knowledge, skills and abilities to apply de-escalation techniques. As stated by Dr. Simon Baldwin of the RCMP’s Operational Research Unit, “Tangible, operational change will be driven by promoting investments in evidence-based policy and officer training in de-escalation across the country.”THE GOAL IS TO HAVE AN INCREASED EMPHASIS ON DE-ESCALATION AND PRESERVATION-OF-LIFE IN ALL CRISIS INTERVENTION DECISION-MAKING.Canadians understand that situations may arise that call for use-of-force. That said, we believe they also wish for and deserve a greater understanding of the efforts police make to avoid harmful circumstances. We need to make a genuine attempt to explain the model in its totality.This hybrid model could involve additional communication to increase the public’s understanding of what use-of-force is and why it is an option during police/public interactions. The goal is to help communities better appreciate the decision-making process police services and officers go through as they strive to maintain both officer and public safety while dealing with individuals in crisis. The model would govern all police/public interactions. The use-of-force or crisis intervention component would only come into play in a small percentage of calls for assistance, and only when a well-defined threshold is crossed – with an underlying understanding that maintenance of public safety and preservation-of-life are paramount.There is also a critical need to help the public better understand the frequency of interventions by the police. Despite the fact that almost all police – public interactions are resolved without the application of police intervention options, Canadians appear to believe that the rate is considerably higher than it actually is, likely due to mainstream and social media news items and popular culture.Finally, this type of model would take into consideration Canadian preand post-incident police approaches that include sharing data regarding calls for assistance and crisis intervention, accountability measures and processes, communications with the public and evidence-based reviews.In support of these efforts, the CACP passed the following 2021 Resolution to support its advocacy and advancement of this important work:THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) hereby urges the federal, provincial and territorial (FPT) Ministers responsible for Justice and Public Safety to support preservation of life and a human-centered policing approach, by:modernizing the current use-offorce intervention models with a hybrid, public facing crisis intervention de-escalation decision making model governing all police/public interactions that will support police training and decision making;increased evidence-based training standards to ensure officers receive the necessary de-escalation knowledge, skills and abilities;investing in equipping police officers with the necessary less lethal intervention options so police officers can more effectively and safely resolve interactions with minimal harm;continued enhancements for de-escalation policy and procedures, public awareness and education, and after-action review initiatives that enhance police oversight, accountability, and transparency.Moving ForwardCanadian police services are working towards an increased emphasis on a more “human-centered” terminology and police response that emphasizes increased verbal communication, articulation of efforts for de-escalation and consideration of all options when dealing with members of the public who are in crisis. This applies to language used in policy, training, interactions, reporting and media relations. A development group of subject matter experts and academics is being formed to lead this important framework and model work.National leadership and a commitment by all levels of government for de-escalation training will be important to achieve the expectations of the Canadian public. This important and necessary work is being pursued while recognizing provincial/territorial leadership and their responsibility for the administration of justice, including the important governance work of police-services boards across Canada. Canadian police (including ongoing OACP advocacy) can demonstrate leadership for tangible, operational change to drive the promotion of investments in evidence-based research, policy frameworks, training and equipment for de-escalation and use-of-force across Canada.Assistant Commissioner Dennis Daley and Inspector Jason Boutcher are Co-Chairs of the National De-escalation and Crisis Intervention Task Group. For additional details and work of the Task Group, please access the CACP’s video:
https:// vimeo.com/588533584/381e61833f
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