DANVILLE, Va. (WFXR) — The Danville Police Department is finding ways to handle a crisis without resorting to violence.
The department recently went through a relatively new de-escalation training called “Integrating Communications, Assessment, and Tactics” (ICAT). The purpose of this program is to give officers the tools they need to handle crisis situations and hopefully keep them from turning violent. The training is designed for whether the person they’re dealing with is unarmed or has a weapon other than a gun.
“Creating distance, using communication rather than some sort of a tactical item you have around your belt,” said Cpl. Evan Wilson, who ran the training.
The training featured real-life scenarios from across the country about how officers handled tense situations. In one from 2015, an officer killed someone walking toward him with a knife.
“He did engage that individual with gunfire immediately upon exiting the vehicle based on training of this arbitrary 21-foot area around him where you encroach on that, it’s automatically some sort of deadly force encounter. So the thing is, this is the mindset we want to get our officers out of.”
Chief Scott Booth says the instinct to use force when someone gets close comes from years of a specific mindset in policing.
“The most important thing that you looked at every night was you have to come home safely to your family every night.”
Both Booth and Wilson say it’s difficult but necessary to change that mindset.
“Me preserving an individual’s life,” said Wilson, “or not having to use force on this individual so that we both go home safely is critically the most important thing in modern policing today.”
The training also includes examples how calm communication and finding connections can work to de-escalate a situation.
All Danville police officers received this training within the last two months, so there is no local data yet to suggest how effective it is, according to a department spokesperson.