Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $892,951)
In reaction to high-profile incidents of excessive and deadly force, policymakers, advocates, scholars, and the general public, have all called for police departments to embrace de-escalation training as a method for improving police-citizen interactions. This practice has, in turn, spurred a small, but growing, number of evaluations of police de-escalation training programs. The findings of these studies have been mixed, but incomplete. In particular, we argue that prior studies of de-escalation have been hindered by (1) a lack of consideration of changes in officer behavior in incidents not involving force, (2) a singular focus on whether or not force was used rather than alterations to the “trajectory” of use-of-force encounters, and (3) a failure to measure the intervening mechanisms between de-escalation training and officer behaviors (i.e., improved social interaction skills). By way of a randomized controlled trial, this project will evaluate a hybrid (in-person/online) de-escalation training program meant to address these issues. Specifically, we will use systematic social observation of body-worn camera video to examine both improvements in officer behaviors in non-use-of-force incidents and to look at differences between trained and untrained officers in the transactional nature of use-of-force incidents. For example, we will examine differences in the number and context of force “exchanges” between the officer and citizen across treatment and control groups. Finally, we will integrate empathic accuracy exercises into pre- and post-test surveys to examine differences in trained and untrained officers’ social interaction skills. In so doing, this study will provide a more nuanced understanding of the impact of de-escalation training on police officers. Furthermore, we argue that the hybrid format of the training program, if successful, could be particularly impactful for small and/or rural agencies, which tend to have a limited ability to gather officers in-person for in-service training. CA/NCF
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