It’s Citizens; Not Police Who Need De-escalation Training

It’s Citizens; Not Police Who Need De-escalation Training

It’s Citizens; Not Police Who Need De-escalation Training

It’s Citizens; Not Police Who Need De-escalation Training

Ron Martinelli, Ph.D., CMI-V Copyright © July 15, 2016

In the wake of the officer-involved shootings of Philando Castile (St. Paul, MN), Alton Sterling(Baton Rouge, LA) and most recently the assassination of five Dallas, Texas officers; I have been doing non-stop interviews with reporters from the national and international news media.

A number of these journalists have been asking me about the de-escalation training I produce for law enforcement. They ask what the “de-escalation” concept refers to and how it works. They ask, “Shouldn’t the police be getting more de-escalation training?” While I generally respond that it is always a good idea that street officers receive more training; I have taken a different view that I’ll share with you. If you agree with me, I hope that you will share this article with others you know; especially the news media and detractors of law enforcement.

By way of introduction, I have been associated with professional law enforcement for over 40 years. I come from a law enforcement service “family.” My wife was a member of the Los Angeles Police Department and one of our sons is a police officer. I have been a street officer, undercover officer, detective, academy instructor and an academy director. I have trained officers for thirty-six years nationally and internationally and began teaching de-escalation courses after the infamous Rodney King riots in the early 1990’s. I have also taught at every level of the American education system, from middle school to university Master’s degree programs.

Our educated law enforcement community – In the United States today, we have never seen a more diverse, better educated, well trained and technologically advanced law enforcement community. Police academies today are more like mini-universities; all accredited through community colleges, where officers receive undergraduate credits for course work.

In most states police recruits study and are tested in over forty-three separate topics of instruction during an intense six-month academy. During this period, they must demonstrate written and physical/practical competency with a minimum passing score of between 80% to 100% in all subjects. Cultural and sexual diversity, tactical communication, laws of arrest/search and seizure; civil rights, victimology, preliminary investigations, forensics; mental health, drug influence; traffic enforcement and investigations; physical training and use of force/deadly force comprise just a few of the many subjects covered. This level and time compression of education and training is far more demanding; and more intellectually and physically challenging than any university I am aware of.

The reason that police academies are far more demanding than universities is because police officers must deal daily with the real and not theoretical difficulties, challenges and life risks of society. Officers are trained to respond to and often make split-second life and death decisions under circumstances that the U.S. Supreme Court has described as “rapidly evolving, tense and uncertain.” 1

The police academy is just the beginning of a probationary officer’s training experience. After the police academy, comes a three to four-month Field Training Program, where recruits are intensely supervised by personal Field Training Officers (FTO’s) and evaluated each day on over thirty separate codified police practices. After the FTO program, police recruits are shadowed on their calls for another six months before being considered as a “solo beat officer.” Police recruits also undergo a probationary period of from one to two years before being accepted as fully certified officers.

Police vs. the public’s education – Now let’s compare the education and training that police officers receive to that of some in the general public; including politicians, the liberal media and Black Lives Matter movement who enjoy chastising and criticizing police officers.

In the U.S., civil rights are generally not a topic of discussion in middle school and are barely covered in high school. Rather, students learn about civil rights leaders and perhaps their First Amendment rights of freedoms of speech and assembly. Fourth Amendment rights pertaining to law enforcement encounters, detentions, arrests, searches and seizures are almost never covered. Appropriate behavior during police encounters, the rule of law and police practices are rarely if ever covered unless one takes a constitutional law class in college or a university.

Nearly every university professor I am acquainted with who teaches constitutional law, has little to no idea how police officers are trained. They lack an understanding in the legal concepts of an officer’s “collective knowledge.” They generally misunderstand the standards of proof officers rely upon to stop/detain, investigate, search and/or arrest such as reasonable suspicion and probable cause. They know very little about federal case law standards of police practices. This becomes evident when I am asked to step into their classrooms to teach these concepts and I quiz their university “scholar” students in Master’s degree programs. This is disgraceful and a true disservice to American society.

Who really needs the training? I have come to the conclusion that it is generally not the police who need more training including “de-escalation,” diversity, sensitivity and civil rights training; it is the American public. The Millennium Generation has absolutely no understanding of what their actual civil rights are – and more importantly, are not. They have no idea what the legal constraints are with respect to their behaviors during police encounters. They have no awareness as to why they get detained and arrested for the stupid things they say and do. Most of their parents are worse than their offspring are.

Young people and most adults have no understanding of how police officers are trained and how that training combined with their non-compliant, suspicious, potentially threatening and/or active physical resistance become part of the calculus of the peaceful, or defensively forceful response by police their actions precipitate. 1 Case Cite – Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989)

A simple rule to live or die by – Literally every so-called “controversial,” high-profile officer- involved death case bears example of this one simple fact. People who don’t make stupid life decisions; are compliant with police when contacted; and who don’t resist detention or arrest; almost never have problems with police; or end up hospitalized or in a morgue. It’s just that simple. Want some contemporary examples to prove this simple rule? Do the names Michael Brown, Freddie Gray and Anton Sterling sound familiar? They should. Five Dallas officers ultimately lost their lives last week because of the general public’s self-centered, brazen ignorance.

Sensitivity training – It takes a special person to risk their life for those who care so little. Police officers are not your lackeys. They are not separate from you. They are you. They come from your communities. They are your former or current classmates; your friends; your relatives. Police do not create society’s problems; they respond to them. People create society’s problems they consistently make stupid life decisions. Young men impregnate teenage girls because they are selfish, insensitive and controlling. They abandon their children for the same reasons. Teens cut and drop out of school because they are too weak; and/or because their father figures abandoned them. Some teens join gangs and/or take drugs for the same reasons.

Young men and women poison their own people with drugs and sentence them to a life of addiction because they have no moral compass. Young men pack guns; rob people; invade their homes and kill each other for all of the above reasons. Young men create genocide within their own communities, knowing that everything they do is criminal and physically and emotionally harmful. It is the public and not the police who need sensitivity training. The police are the sensitive ones.

Police come into depressed, violent, hopeless communities to save people from themselves. And as thanks for risking their lives; they are then chastised, criticized, demeaned, shot in the back and killed for their efforts by cowards who resonate with the false narratives of radical groups who seek to overthrow the rule of law.

De-escalation training – Police learn that they cannot control people; they can only control themselves. They practice de-escalation training not because they are the ones who need to calm down; but because the people they encounter are often angry, enraged, demented, psychologically unstable, under the influence of illegal drugs, hateful; and/or all of the above.

The general public believe that they have rights that they don’t have. They think and often tell police that they have no right to stop them for a traffic violation; detain them for suspicion of criminal activity; or when police try to intervene when they are unstable, drug influenced, or suicidal. People pack guns; they move menacingly at officers with weapons when repeatedly ordered at TASER® or gun point not to. They provoke officers by compressing time and distance. They verbally or by gestures threaten to beat, stab, shoot and kill officers. Then when force is used against them; they or their surviving relatives sue “to get paid.”

Where is the support for police? What is far worse emotionally and psychologically for police officers when they are forced to use force and perhaps take a life, is that the uninformed media lines up to support the suspect instead of the police without any forensic facts or evidence that the police did anything wrong. They would rather believe the deliberate lies of Black Lives Matter; race baiter charlatans like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton; or our racially biased; forked- tongued President that it was the police’s fault – the “police acted stupidly.” The media has gotten the forensic facts of deadly police-citizen encounters wrong time and time again. Professor Gates, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray and scores more case like them. And our naïve, uninformed, low-informed and disengaged public just mindlessly follows along.

There is never an apology or even a concession to police that the media, race baiters, or the Black Lives Matter surrogates were wrong. That’s not the way the “New America” works these days. No, today it’s all about #journalism instead of vetted, investigative reporting. It’s all about assigning blame rather than accepting responsibility for a wrong-doing. That’s the do-nothing, bring nothing to the table, cowardly society police are forced to work with. It is far easier to yell, scream and criticize the brave men and women of law enforcement than to put on a badge and police their own troubled, violent communities. That seems to be beneath them.

The public’s paradigm shift – The simple fact is that it is the public who needs de-escalation training. They need to calm down and have a studied response instead of emotionally charged reaction to the police they encounter during pedestrian stops, vehicle pull-overs, and investigative contacts. They need to know that a court of law and not the street is the venue for arguing the justification of a stop or an enforcement action. They need to know that no matter how much they might dislike the police; or the reason(s) for being contacted by them; they are legally obligated to obey an officer(s)’ directions, orders, or commands. The public needs to learn how to listen and not argue with police. They need to learn how to temper their behavior and not make stupid, threatening, and potentially deadly bad decisions. Essentially, they need to learn to grow up and mind their manners.

While this may certainly be a “free” society; that freedom is conditional upon obeying the law and it’s hard to argue an opposing view from behind bars, from a hospital bed, or from the morgue.

Dr. Ron Martinelli

Dr. Ron Martinelli

Ron Martinelli, Ph.D., CMI-V, is a nationally renowned forensic criminologist, police expert and a Certified Medical Investigator, who directs the nation’s only multidisciplinary Forensic Death Investigations & Independent Review Team. Dr. Martinelli, is the author of the new best-selling book, The Truth Behind the Black Lives Matter Movement and the War on Police,” His forensic site is

  • Cecilia

    Great information here!! A little more credibility if you correct the criminal’s name in Louisiana and correct the abbreviation for the state of LA.

  • Curtis santanen

    Very well spoken my friend,GOD BLESS YOU AND ALL LAW ENFORCMENT!!!

  • Lisa Larson

    You hit the nail on the head! Thank you for saying what needs to be said. I have now and always will support Law Enforcement Officers.

  • gregg phillips

    this is so true, and the president needs to address this culture of misfits and be clear that their behavior is disgusting….

  • Dan Finnegan

    Its good to see a expert comment on this. I agree 100%. You shoud be giving seminars at colleges and universities. I will share. Thankyou.

    • Mark Stolzoff

      The police should be held to a higher standard than criminals, i can’t believe this needs to be said for fucks sake

  • Very True. I know this, as a 36 years Police Officer, but have never actually read, nor heard, it dissected, and explained as you have here. You article here speaks to the true cause, and the true perpetrators, of our slide down into oblivion that our Nation is, unnecessarily, into now.

  • B is for Black not Blue

    “In the United States today, we have never seen a more diverse, better educated, well trained and technologically advanced law enforcement community.”

    Is this why we’ve all seen the photo of Ferguson police officers in camouflage pointing assault rifles at unarmed U.S. citizens? You are absolutely wrong and the assertion that it is the responsibility of the citizens of this country to bow to an overzealous, over armed and under trained police force is insulting.

    “The Millennium Generation has absolutely no understanding of what their actual civil rights are – and more importantly, are not.”

    Do you have statistical evidence to support this or just a cited case from 1989?

    “People who don’t make stupid life decisions; are compliant with police when contacted; and who don’t resist detention or arrest; almost never have problems with police; or end up hospitalized or in a morgue.”

    The key word here is almost. Almost is not good enough. Also, you seem to be arguing that making stupid life decisions is a justification for the police to shoot people. It is not.

    “People create society’s problems they consistently make stupid life decisions.”

    I assume you lazily forgot the word ‘when’ in this sentence. It is also a reductive and frankly idiotic thing to say. It shows a deep lack of thought about the realities of a complex modern society. Are all people living in poverty in that situation because of consistently stupid life decisions? Are African Americans suffering from institutionalized racism because they made the stupid life decision to be born with dark skin in America? The oppression suffered by minority groups in this country is not their fault and telling them it is sets a new standard in White Privilege.

    “false narratives of radical groups who seek to overthrow the rule of law.”

    There is a very real, long and sordid history of racism, sexism, bigotry and many other ugly issues in our country. Those who acknowledge this are not attempting to overthrow the rule of law, they are not muckrakers and they are certainly not radicals. Many of us are in fact very patriotic and see these as solvable problems, but problems that cannot be solved if we pretend they don’t exist.

    “or our racially biased; forked- tongued President that it was the police’s fault – the “police acted stupidly.””

    I assume you are taking this quote from President Obama’s words on the case of Henry Louis Gates Jr., a Harvard professor who was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct when police harassed him in his home. Ask anyone with dark skin who’s lived in Massachusetts, the police there are notorious for harassing African Americans who dare to live in white neighborhoods.

    “It’s all about assigning blame rather than accepting responsibility for a wrong-doing.”

    This is exactly how the rest of us feel right now. It is staggering that you would blame citizens for the irresponsible actions of police officers.

    “Essentially, they need to learn to grow up and mind their manners.”

    The police in many towns now act like childhood bullies who have for some nonsensical reason been given military hardware they do not need, should not have, should not be using against American citizens and have not received proper training for. Grow up and mind your manners could be the new slogan for police training.

    “it’s hard to argue an opposing view from behind bars, from a hospital bed, or from the morgue.”

    Again, this is exactly how we feel and why the Black Lives Matter movement is essential. The people being killed, wounded or unjustly imprisoned have their voices taken away from them. The police need to know that you cannot silence the citizens of this country with violence or intimidation.

    You come off as a racist, ignorant, lazy example of one of the major problems with Police culture in this country today. Coming from a family of white police officers, you appear to have lived in a bubble of false impressions about police. Let me dispel the illusion for you: the police have been extremely unpopular in this country for their outrageous behavior for decades. The Black Lives Matter movement is not a new, radical group; that’s today’s incarnation of the group voicing opinions that continue to exist because the police continue to show a pattern of irresponsible abuse of power.

    If you’re looking for a concise and detailed outline of this issue, I refer you to an episode of “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.” Among many hilarious but painful tidbits he shows a video posted by the police department of Doraville, Georgia, population 8330. The video starts with a skull logo, shows the police department driving some sort of tank and is set to a metal song, called “Die, Mother******, Die.” These people are showing the maturity of, as I said before, childhood bullies inexplicably given military hardware.

  • Scott

    OK, where do I start. This article is wrong on so many levels. First off I don’t think that citizens should have to give up their rights and “hand over their papers” as the good Dr here suggests. Police constantly try to get citizens to give up their rights. Good example if you are stopped by the police they will tell you that “we have to ID you”. Unless you are driving this is completely false, oh and police can legally lie to you but you can not to them. You do however have the right not to speak to them. If you refuse to talk of give them anything this is usually when officers escalate the situation because like the Dr says people who make bad life choices don’t comply with officers. So, just comply. Just give up your rights. I don’t like that answer. Second, as you point out how great and “special” police are you at another point in this article you say they are just ordinary people, our neighbors. No, I believe that police need to be special. Police need to be highly professional. Police need to have deescalation training, and cultural sensitivity training, and ethics training, I expect this and a lot more from a professional police force. Police need to be held to a higher standard because that is what professionals are.

    As far as the outrage over police use of force, I would ask you that is it ok that in 2015 130 officers die in the line of duty. That sounds like a lot but consider that 53 of them were intentionally killed by another person and that doesn’t seem like the threat is that high. What about citizens killed by police? Do you know how many people are killed by police? The truth is, they don’t know either. It turns out that not all police killings are reported to the FBI’s data base so we really don’t know. There are watch groups that search and report police killings and their finding report that between 986 and 1400 were killed by police. Of those killed by police at least 161 of them were completely unarmed. That means that the police killed more unarmed people in 1 year than terrorist in America killed(71) in the previous 10 years(2005-2015). This is why America is so upset. This is why police need more training. This is why there needs to be more reporting. I shouldn’t have to go to a watch group to find an unofficial answer to this question. Departments should be required to report this information to a national data base and be held accountable for it. As of now, that is not happening.

    Another major reason people don’t trust police is Civil Asset Forfeiture. There are so many ethical problems with this program I will not get into it.

  • Dick Ricky

    I believe that police should be military veterans. Anyone thats new and wants to become a police officer should have an equivalency of a bachelor’s degree for training or a military background. This would also include a solid year of training in deescalation. The U. K. Is well known for their intelligence in this sort of thing. There is more than enough information on this if you research the question of deescalation around the real world.
    Military veterans are very capable of handling anything that comes their way in a proficient timely and we’ll educated manner with half the equipment police currently have. They are the responsible ones in our nation. If not for them we would be facing bigger problems. They are the keepers of people, country, faith, religion, family and friends. The veterans are usually fair and unjudgemental of the people they serve in protecting their rights and the rights of others. After all, they all come from different backgrounds and hold true to teamwork, friendship, and safety to all within their domain. A soldier could have his or her arm blown off. They are still there with that person through better and/or worse, they also usually keep their friendships with one another tight. You don’t see them shooting bullets at old men and children with knives. If you do, they were in a considerably impossible scenario. They would do the right thing and try to DEESCALATE a possible problem with common sense. Especially if they outnumber a whacked out junkie, child or person with a learning disability.
    War and memories of war can also pose a problem without medication in some cases. As long as the person has his or her head checked first. On the other hand, the way police are becoming it’s getting considerably worse with less mental training than a small engines course and a pamphlet. Many of today’s people need more and more education to get a managers position for a company that pays them seventy thousand a year. Is it worth four years of college? My answer is yes. Credibility becomes a sought trait for this venture. Why can’t police consider the same possibilities with credible training inside their trade.
    I’ll end my dismay with this. Realize the world, it’s a bigger place than a brick building in a town. It’s a responsibility to the people for their safety and trust. Regain the trust of others by trusting them without using lethal force or discrimination. It takes balls, but our boys that fight for the country are laughing at such simplicity. The outstanding officers in our police force that hesitate to kill someone tripping, whining or crying, Godspeed and great work, it’s an honor to feel your presence.