De-escalation Training: What Works, Implementation Lessons, and Taking It to Scale; Plenary at the 2023 NIJ Research Conference
Police use of force, while infrequently used, is a tremendous concern to public safety in the United States when officers employ it excessively or inappropriately, causing injury or death and eroding public trust in law enforcement. This plenary from the 2023 NIJ Research Conference describes the Integrating, Communications, Assessment, and Tactics (ICAT) de-escalation training program developed by the Police Executive Research Forum to guide officers in defusing critical incidents. A rigorous evaluation of ICAT found it reduced overall use of force as well as injuries to both officers and members of the public. Panelists will describe how research evidence was used to develop the training curriculum; discuss strategies to ensure training implementation fidelity and secure the buy-in of all ranks; describe preliminary findings from complementary NIJ-sponsored replication evaluations; and explore strategies to take ICAT to scale.
Led by Karhlton Moore, director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the plenary was a discussion among
- Robin Engel, Ph.D., Senior Vice President, National Policing Institute
- Maris Herold, Chief, Boulder Police Department, Colorado
- Chuck Wexler, Executive Director, Police Executive Research Forum (PERF)
- Justin Witt, Sergeant, Louisville Metro Police Department, Kentucky
NANCY LA VIGNE: I hope we're taking time to connect outside of the panel rooms, over dinner, over a beverage of your choice, over the poster session tonight. Let's not forget about that, because I am making note of who is coming to that and who is not.
Seriously, this next topic is a really important one. The field desperately needs better methods to ensure police accountability so that they don't have to use unnecessary force and when force is used, it is not used excessively. We often look to training when we think of what should we do with police reform. There’re all kinds of training responses that we're hearing about a lot. Yet we have very little research that demonstrates that any manner of police training has impacts beyond changes in attitudes and perceptions, pre and post. We have very little information about what kinds of trainings can actually change behaviors in the field. This panel is different because this is about de-escalation training that has indeed led to behaviors changed in the field.
And I am really delighted to introduce my close colleague, Karhlton Moore, who will be facilitating this panel. He is the Director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance. But before that and for many years, he was Executive Director of Ohio's Office of Criminal Justice Services, where he oversaw all the state and federal grants on a whole host of issues, law enforcement, victims assistance, juvenile justice, crime prevention, anti-trafficking, re-entry, corrections, traffic safety, so many things. It's essentially the role he had at Ohio is now the role he's playing on a national stage, which explains why every time we interact, I'm like, "Darn, you know that too?" It's like he knows something about every single topic we study. He's also just a very kind and wonderful colleague. And given the distinctly Ohio bias some share of the collection of experts you will be hearing from soon, I thought it was only fitting to invite Karhlton to facilitate this panel. So, I'll invite him to welcome us and welcome the panelists to the stage. Thank you.
KARHLTON MOORE: Thank you. Yesterday, you had a chance to listen to us talk a little bit about how we have infused evidence into the work that we do at OJP, and you probably heard me talk about how excited I am about the potential infusion of new evidence into the work of OJP. But the reason why we have these folks here is to really look at evidence around de-escalation. All of us understand the important role that de-escalation can play in building community-police relations. The reality is that agencies are connected, whether they know it or not. I'm sure Justin can tell you that when something happens in one part of the country, it impacts policing everywhere. So, the ability to raise everyone's ability to de-escalate is of profound importance. I'm going to turn it over to our panelists. And let me start by asking each of you to introduce yourself and briefly describe your connection to de-escalation training.
JUSTIN WITT: My name is Justin Witt. I'm a sergeant with the Louisville Metro Police Department. I'm assigned to our Training Division. There, I head up the strategic initiative's part with an impending consent decree coming for Louisville. Basically, my job and what I'm tasked with is looking at outside training, as well as research opportunities and things and handing those off to the right people within the agency to see what's going to better the culture, the training, and be good for the officers of the Louisville Metro Police Department who impact the communities of Louisville every day.
CHUCK WEXLER: My name is Chuck Wexler and I'm from PERF. I first want to thank Dr. La Vigne for her idea on this. When you think of the National Institute of Justice and you think of what the National Institute of Justice should be doing, identifying best practices, doing evidence-based work, I think that this project really exemplifies that. It sounds a little self-serving, and maybe it is, because I'm proud of what everybody has done here. But I wanted to just thank you for identifying this, because when you think about the defining issue in policing in the last 10 or 20 years, it has been police use of force. If you think about any kind of incident, whether it's Rodney King, George Floyd, all of those situations inevitably involved police use of force. And what's happened over time, especially today, is that the police are being held to a higher standard, but training has not kept up with that standard. So, I think what you're going to hear here today is something that was developed in a collaborative way but has been tested and evaluated in a random control study with results that have made a difference. So, when you have that combination of things, when people say, "How is policing going to change?" This is one way.
MARIS HEROLD: Thanks, Director. My name is Maris Herold. I'm the current Police Chief of Boulder, Colorado. I spent the bulk of my career in the city of Cincinnati. Director, I'd just like to thank you. I've learned so much just in a day and a half, and I mean that. Bringing other disciplines in to talk, I always learned so much. I think it's so important at such a critical time in our country's history, especially around the criminal justice systems. I want the audience to know that I transitioned from the city of Cincinnati, retired, went to the University of Cincinnati where I implemented ICAT after a trip to Camden with Dr. Engel and showed promising results at the University of Cincinnati, in a small city. Then I transitioned to Boulder where I immediately implemented the ICAT model and we are seeing some really, really good results there too. So, I just--thank you for the opportunity to be here today.
ROBIN ENGEL: Thank you. I'm Robin Engel. I am the Senior Vice President at the National Policing Institute, but many friends and colleagues in the room will know me as a long-time academic. Over 25 years. I’ve got to stop telling the actual years. That's a telltale sign. Of being an academic in the University of Cincinnati. Before that, at Penn State University.
Many of you that know me have already heard a part of this story, and that's what happened in 2015 when we had an officer-involved shooting at the University of Cincinnati. Literally overnight, I found myself in a position, as an academic, that was being asked to take over a fully functioning sworn law enforcement agency that was in crisis. The crisis was caused by a horrific shooting of an unarmed Black male by a white police officer during a traffic stop. That situation has played itself out. Many jurisdictions across the country have had similar critical incidents that have impacted the lives of so many in those jurisdictions. But my work, when I took over that agency and why I'm so excited to speak to you today is because, as an academic, I thought, "I'm going to go to the research base and I'm going to get this right. And I'm going to find the very best training that's evidence based and I'm going to bring that to my cops and to my community to make sure we get this right." When I looked around, I didn't find any systematic evidence testing training. It's not just in de-escalation training. I found that pretty consistently across all of the reform efforts that we were about to undertake at the University of Cincinnati Police Division and the police agencies and executives across the country are undertaking currently. It was that moment when I said, "We need to be better." Collectively as a field, we need to be better. And I am so thrilled that NIJ and the director shares that same passion. And Dr. Tamara Herold, who's out in the audience as well. That research, that evidence-to-action, this is what it's really all about. I'm so pleased to be a part of that, so that police executives, five, 10 years from now, will not be in the same position where they need to make decisions immediately and they don't have a clear, concise, evidence base to support those decisions. We need to do better and I'm excited to be a part of it.
KARHLTON MOORE: Director Wexler, tell us about ICAT. Give us a little bit of what it is. What was the process behind it?
CHUCK WEXLER: If some of you have heard this story, I apologize. But 2015 was a period of significant turmoil in the country, Ferguson and all of that happened there. And the whole issue of police use of force was to bear. That's 2015. I am in Scotland, and they were putting seven agencies together, so we were helping them. And went to our recruit graduation, and I just noticed the recruitment and it hit me. Sometimes something hits you. They don't have firearms. And the reason that's significant is because in all of the United Kingdom, except Northern Ireland, they don't have firearms, so they have to deal with situations that we have to deal with. At the same time, The Washington Post was doing a big investigation, which would result in a Pulitzer Prize, where they looked at 1,000 officer-involved shootings and 600 of them involved guns, 400 of them involved things that weren't guns. So, we have 400 million guns in this country. So, the gun issue, when someone takes out a gun and police officer has to use force, no one questions those. The 400 are the interesting ones and the ones we think we can make a difference.
So, as I'm looking at this constable, I'm thinking, "Wait a minute. How do you deal with someone with a knife or a rock or a two-by-four, all of that?" And he stepped back, and he said, "No problem." And he stepped back as he's talking to me. "I have my baton and my pepper spray." Anyhow, it made me start thinking that a knife in Glasgow and a knife in Detroit is still a knife and you have to deal with it. And knife crimes are big in the United Kingdom. Anyhow, we came back, and I started thinking about talking to people. "Oh, you know, that's Scotland. We're the United States." So, no one really believed me. Then I had this idea. I said, "I am going to get on the phone," and I called 25 police departments. I arranged with my friends in Scotland. I said, "Will you take us for five days, stay in your academy?" I made 25 calls, got 25 police chiefs. We flew to Scotland, spent the week there. And it was really eye-opening because, their thinking was slowing things down using time and distance, so forth. The breakthrough also was when someone from Houston said, "Chuck, we're already doing this in the United States, in Houston." I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "Our SWAT team, the way they're trained is slow things down, time and distance. You use a team approach."
I said, "Okay." I came back and then I met with Bill Bratton, and I said, "I want to spend time with your emergency service unit," because they do this. They're the ones on 9/11 that were running into the building and lost a bunch of cops. And so, we spent time there. Then we brought 60 people together at NYPD from all over the country and really [INDISTINCT]. Then we understood the concept was taking what SWAT does and applying it to patrol. And we said, "What are we doing here? We're combining tactics and communication and de-escalation." We don't like to call it de-escalation because no one knows exactly what that means. So, we took this, put this together. This was a collaborative effort. Then we piloted it in seven areas and then we implemented it. We had meetings in New Orleans and so forth. Justin Witt is one of the people you'll hear from. But the bottom line is what this is about is about that 400 cases.
We have a module, for example, on suicide by cop. There's probably 100 suicide by cop out of a 1,000 a year. All of that to say is we put this together, and this is really something, and you'll hear from the chief, that police officers need to know. All of the thinking that police have had were sort of turning that on its head. Instead of running in, pointing your gun at someone who's in crisis is the absolute worst thing to point your gun at someone who's suicidal. Absolute worst. But cops are trained that way. Anyhow, I'm going to stop there. And just to say, again, it's one of those things that we put together and we, luckily, have a researcher who is interested enough because no one would believe us by ourselves. To have a researcher spend the time and the effort, independent of us I might add, in a random controlled study, the gold standard of research, to have that done and to have a person like this and a chief like this involved is great.
KARHLTON MOORE: So, let's go to the chief. What was different to you about ICAT and why did you ultimately decide to implement it in your agency?
MARIS HEROLD: Well, thanks for the question because it's an important one to me on a personal level as somebody that's been in the field for 30 years. There's significant differences, like the director said, between the way I was brought up in the organization of having the use of force continuum and the ICAT and the Critical Decision-Making Model. But I want to spend just a couple minutes really emphasizing the heart and soul of this model and why I find this radically different. Like the director said, it's not radically different from the American SWAT model but it is radically different from the patrol model that I grew up in.
So let me take you back to 1993. I was one of the lucky 30 people in the city of Cincinnati that was selected out 3,700 people to join the Cincinnati Police Department. And I remember my first days in the academy, I was so happy that I was selected because it was really like a lottery back then, getting one of these positions. And I spent most of my career in my 20s as a social worker and in the field of psychology. And one thing that struck me throughout that six months was every instructor, every class that I had, literally over hundreds and hundreds of instructors, hundreds and hundreds of classes, the one thing that was said to me as I was walking out the door or they were walking out of that door is make sure that you and your partner go home safe tonight.
Over and over again. So, I leave the academy. I go into a patrol setting. And I'm with a group of people, usually about 30 people in a roll call. And the supervisor, usually, in those times, an old, crotchety man, like usually with a cigar hanging out of his mouth. Am I right? Would say, "Listen, when you get out on those streets, one thing you got to do, make sure you and your partner go home safe tonight." Now, none of this had bad intentions.
They wanted me to go home safe to my family at night. But you kind of get indoctrinated into that thinking. And so here I am. I get promoted. I find myself saying the same thing.
I didn't have any ill will. Thought this was the thing to do, to say. I repeat it as a sergeant and a lieutenant, as a commander in the city of Cincinnati. But the one thing when I got promoted as a supervisor, I started going out with the SWAT team on numerous calls. And I was lucky to work for, at least, 17 years with one of the most progressive SWAT commanders that I ever met. I started thinking, the way he handles these calls is completely radically different. When he would come on the scene, he would gather up all the guys —and we had one woman at the time on the SWAT team. But he would gather everybody up and he would say this, "Nobody's going to die tonight on this call. Nobody is going to die." And then he'd run up and down the line and he would say, "Where's the psychiatrist? Where is she? Do we have medical here?" Anyway, I started thinking about that. But you could never say that. You could just not say that why isn't SWAT doing the same thing with patrol because there would just be a big divide. You just didn't say it. But it did strike me.
So fast forward, I jumped ship from the city of Cincinnati and I'm lucky to be involved with Dr. Engel's team that she put together after this tragic shooting at the University of Cincinnati. And she took a team to see Chuck Wexler in Camden, New Jersey. And I was sitting there, and it just hit me. It floored me. He had a SWAT sergeant teach the majority of the class. And I started thinking, "Well, wait a minute, if you genuinely put at the heart of your use of force model, your Critical Decision-Making Model the sanctity of all human life, it changes dramatically the way a police officer responds to that call for service. From the time they get into the car, they start thinking, "What intelligence do I have to have? What do I need to assess? How can I change my tactics when getting out of the car?" It no longer becomes get there as quick as possible, pull up in front, jump out of the car. You start thinking differently. You get out of the car, and you use time, distance, barriers to your advantage. Your communication style changes dramatically. You are no more in charge of that scene as you are becoming an active listener in that scene. And that is very, very important. The intelligence that you have to gather now becomes critical to this incident.
And most importantly and what I am seeing in Boulder, Colorado, and I'm so proud of the men and women of that police force. What I am seeing on body-worn cameras is they're asking the same questions as that SWAT commander asked 15 years ago. "Where is the CERT team? Where is the medical team? Where are my clinicians to help? And where can we take this person to get them out of the crisis, they're in?" So that is radically different. We all need to get behind this. We need more evaluation. So, at the University of Cincinnati, with Dr. Engel, we did evaluate it. It's a small agency. Some say it wouldn't be significant but we both fought to do surveying with the police officers there, which proved that we were having success and impact in use of force. But then I transitioned to the city of Boulder where I'm lucky enough to have a criminologist on staff. He's evaluated ICAT. We received really significant reductions in use of force. But what I hope we have some time to talk about is the proper dosage because I do notice there is a knowledge decay that occurs in almost three-month intervals. And so, I think we need to figure that out, how we can talk about it, but thanks, Director.
KARHLTON MOORE: Thank you. That's a great story. I have a ton of other questions, but I'm going to stay on script here. So, you did the evaluations in Louisville and Cincinnati? So, what did your evaluation find?
ROBIN ENGEL: Well, when I did the evaluation first at the University of Cincinnati, we were able to do pre-post surveys and then follow-up surveys. And so, we looked at changes in attitudes and knowledge. Actually now Dr. Gabrielle Isaza, then graduate assistant Gabrielle Isaza, she did this work for her dissertation and really created these great instruments. She worked with some of you folks, actually, that are in the audience that were also doing that type of work, trying to evaluate other de-escalation trainings that were in the field. So, we were able to build some instruments that we could use. But luckily for me, as an executive, I didn't have enough uses of force to determine whether or not we were actually having impact in the field. That's a good problem for a police executive to have. It's a bad problem for a researcher that wants to be able to study this with fidelity.
That's where Louisville Metro came in. I'm going to take just a moment to bag on the Louisville Metro Police Department. And I'm going to do that because, in part, Louisville Metro Police Department has come on hard times. Let's be honest. We read the news. We see what's happened. We know about the Department of Justice investigation. We know about the killing of Breonna Taylor. We know about the 100-plus days, 200-plus days straight of protests and sometimes riots in the city. We see an agency that has had scores of officers literally leave the agency. We see an agency in crisis. But when I look at Louisville Metro, I see an agency that was poised for innovation. I see an agency that was willing to work with a research partner when many other agencies weren't. I see an agency that said, "We're doing this new training."
This was 2019. "We're doing this new training. We believe in the training. We believe in our trainers. But we are still critical enough to know we don't know what we don't know, and we want to make sure that our officers are safe and that our citizens are safe, and the only way to do that is to be willing to engage in a research study." And that's what Louisville Metro was willing to do. And there are not many, to be honest, or at least not enough, police executives out there that are willing to take that leap and to work with a research team. And, further, it's really hard to implement a randomized controlled trial design in an operational police agency. I can't put you all in a test tube, right? I can't bring them to the laboratory. So, what that looks like, and working with the partners like Sgt. Witt who were willing to make sure that those experimental conditions were met, is really unique and important.
So, in this sense, I'm really proud that Louisville Metro was the first agency that was able to empirically demonstrate that there were behavioral changes as a result of the de-escalation training. Not just changes in attitudes and knowledge. Not just that the trainees liked the training and all those things. We had all of that too, but we were also able to demonstrate the significant reductions in officer use of force and in citizen injury. But also, so important for the field, particularly patrol officers that were skeptical, that had been indoctrinated into this is how we respond to calls, that there was a 36% reduction in officer injuries. Chuck knows this well. How many times have you heard, "You're going to get us killed,"? "You're going to teach us to hesitate and you're going to get us killed out there." And, in fact, we found that wasn't true at all. In fact, it was the opposite. We're going to keep you safe out there. We're going to give you tactics and skills.
Sgt. Witt was so key in all of this. And researchers, we forget this. We work with the chief. We come in. We swoop in. We do our study and then we take off. No. Let's do it right. Let's work with the actual men and women that are doing the work every day. Establish those relationships and those partnerships. Trust one another. Feed the information back so they can look at things like dosage and training decay and make that situation better for their agency and for others. That's what we're about. That's what the study showed. And I'm so proud of the work. It wasn't just my work. I always get credit for it. It was a team. It was a team of researchers and a police department that was willing to do it.
KARHLTON MOORE: I feel like you should just take off your mic and just go like this— (pretending to drop microphone).
ROBIN ENGEL: Boom.
KARHLTON MOORE: —and kind of walk off the stage. So, what a lead-in, Sgt. Witt. Don't let all these people down. They're anxiously waiting to hear what you have to say. So, tell us what was it like working with Dr. Engel and the implementation in your organization. I'm really interested in what was the response you got back. We believe very much that sergeants run the world, so I'm very curious as to what that was like for you, as you decide it, as you're telling your folks, "Hey, this is what we're going to do."
JUSTIN WITT: Yeah. So, a couple things. Thanks to Nancy, obviously, for having me here. So, in 2019, whenever we started this, I had just came to training, I came from a narcotics background where we were executing warrants every day. So, in Louisville, very much our SWAT team executes warrants, but the narcotics, we execute our own warrants—or we did at the time. So, I was very in tuned with our tactics and what we were doing. The department came to me and said, "Hey, we have this new program, ICAT, that we want to roll out. And you're going to do it and it's going to be the first project that you've ever done in training and good luck." So, I was like, "Great. I'll look into it. I'll see what we have." Then I start reading it and diving into it and thinking, "Oh, great. Every department who's ever rolled it has had trouble because they say that you're going to get our officers killed and all of these things." And at this time, I have a pretty good reputation within the police department. People like me. So, I'm like, "Man, this is going to be great for my reputation and my career. We're really going to drive it in the right direction."
Then they said, "Oh, yes, by the way, not only are you going to train people, but you have to work with a research team. They're going to come in from the University of Cincinnati and they're going to tell you and they're going to watch you and they're going to be here every week. And you're going to have to give people surveys and they're going to have to do long hours and we're going to really see if you know what you're talking about." Great. That's going to go well. The good thing was is I couldn't be luckier to have had the opportunity to work with Dr. Engel and her team for a couple reasons. I'm not a researcher. So, I thought the way this is going to go is some outside group's going to come in. They're going to say, "This is why you're horrible and this is how you need to do better," and they're going to inform us and we're going to be treated like test dummies. This is the way that my perception and most perception of law enforcement has been of academics coming in and then parachuting out as Dr. Engel said. There's a stigma that has been there for a long time. Dr. Engel was able to relieve that stigma for me.
She talks about the numbers and all of the things that the ICAT program showed, but what she hasn't talked about, and Chuck will probably talk about in a little bit is we found some problems. We found some problems within the program. The cops, the guys and girls that were on the street, that were on the beat. They loved it. They loved the tactics that they were deploying. They really bought in to this idea that all people matter and the sanctity of human life. But the supervisors, the people that were at my level, they weren't reinforcing that dosage that the chief talked about. And it's so important that your supervisors in a law enforcement capacity are making sure that you're doing the things that training tells us to do and that the evidence, in this case, has told us that we need to do.
What we found was, and this is kudos to Dr. Engel's team and the conference and the evidence to action, is we had this evidence but what does action now look like? Well, Dr. Engel then came back and met with us at the training academy, and she had no obligation to, and said, "Hey, let me explain this to you," right, because to me, it looked like a bunch of zeros and ones, coded, right? It doesn't mean anything to me. You're going to have to explain this. So Dr. Engel will probably remember, a PowerPoint and her having to explain these things to me because it meant a lot to me to be able to go back to the cops, to the men and women that were out there doing the job, who had done it well and explain to them, "Hey, listen, there's going to be a study that comes out and it's going to say this. And here's why that's important." "Here's how we can adapt and change to get it better." So, it did show that our supervisors weren't doing a good job. So, what we did was, in Louisville, we developed a program to go back in, to retouch our supervisors, to give them an injection, to make sure that they were going.
So, kudos to Dr. Engel's team, but I want to give kudos to the director that we also then went to Decatur, a selfless plug for him. They now have a new ICAT facility. But we went to Decatur and what we talked about was this study. If you've been to ICAT recently or you're looking to go to ICAT, you're now going to see what's known as a Supervisor Snapshot. And that snapshot is really a reflection of Dr. Engel's study and the action that was put together from the evidence.
KARHLTON MOORE: So, you've touched upon a couple of threads and we're just going to pull on those for a little bit. This is for everyone. And this first thing, this came up yesterday in discussions. Actually, it was a question during our fireside chat, and that's about the relationship, that trust relationship or lack of trust relationship between agencies and researchers, practitioners and researchers. And having worked with a lot of agencies, I can tell you, I've been to places where they've had great experiences with researchers and they're very welcoming of others and I've been to places and they're like, "Karhlton, if you tell us you're going to bring another researcher here, we will never work with you again." So, can we talk a little bit about the importance of trust building with researchers and practitioners?
JUSTIN WITT: What I can say for Dr. Engel and some of the other people that are in the room that I've spoken with is that it wasn't that parachute out, right? Since ICAT, the University of Cincinnati and now NPI hasn't done a study on Louisville, but I still stay in regular communication with Dr. Engel's team. I stay in regular communication with her on different areas in policing. If she wanted to do another study, then the relationship is already there. It's been consistent, and I would gladly entertain whatever that she brought to the table, because I don't feel that she's there for her own self-gratification. It's a back and forth. I think that's important that if you do establish yourself within an agency or you do want to work with an agency that you develop some rapport, just like we're asked to develop rapport within the community.
ICAT will show you that you can't have behavior change until you develop rapport. You're not going to have behavior change from a law enforcement agency until you develop some rapport to make us understand what is it that you're actually trying to do. If you're not trying to paint us in a negative light but you're actually here to help the agency and help the men and women, then by all means, I would love and most organizations would love to work with academics, because cops don't know what we don't know. We try to do a lot with the resources we have, and we fail a lot. But you guys have the ability to build the research and build the science so that whenever men and women go out on the street, that they have the best resources available to them. That's important work because the saving their lives starts with you guys and starts with the evidence that you guys provide. If you guys provide that evidence and cops are able to utilize it, then it makes our life a lot safer.
CHUCK WEXLER: I think it's challenging. Most police chiefs are a little bit reticent about letting researchers in because the findings are usually no statistically significant difference, it didn't work, or, as Nancy knows, the best one, more research is necessary. So, from a police chief standpoint, getting that kind of feedback, on the one hand, is good. But if they've been touting this program as having made a real difference and researchers come in and do that. The model that I think really works well is what happened in Chicago a number of years back with the implementation of community policing. Chuck Ramsey was there then. What he worked out with Wes Skogan and Dennis Rosenbaum was a really important kind of finding was don't wait until the study is over. Give us feedback as we go along.
Now, is that a pure study like the one Robin did? No. But I think what she did at the end was really important, as you pointed out in terms of here's where you can strengthen it. I think we're going to see that too in some of the studies I know you're doing now is trying to implement this in 18,000 police departments. We were very lucky we're getting Justin Witt. I don't think it would've worked if we didn't have Justin, if we had you as a chief. And people matter, because if you go to your traditional trainers, honest to God, probably not going to work well. Anyhow, the cautionary tale for researchers is sort of incremental trust tests where you do something small, and you see what's the relationship going to be like. It can't always be a pure research study with bad findings and then hope to work with that department again. It's just not going to work. So, there is a relationship building between researchers and police departments. What do you think?
MARIS HEROLD: I think I have a unique perspective because I don't know if you remember this, Director, but I know you do, Dr. Engel. The city of Cincinnati entered into an MOU. It was called the Collaborative Agreement. It was the greatest thing that happened in my career. But I remember the federal judge, over that MOU, threatened to throw the chief of police in jail and the executive team in jail, and I was there when they escorted people out of the building.
CHUCK WEXLER: Oh, yeah.
MARIS HEROLD: And the federal judge said, "Somebody's going to go to jail. They're really starting to [bleep] me off." I learned I'm not going to federal jail, so I'm going to work with the researchers, that's like a big fear of mine. Anyway, I was lucky. I had the University of Cincinnati in my backyard, and I had Dr. John Eck. I mean, I had big names, Robin Engel, and I could pick up the phone. The great thing that I think we need to do more of, and I think we're losing it right now in the criminal justice field is we need researchers willing to come out and get in the trenches with us. Dr. Engel always did that. John Eck always did that. Nick Acero did that. I look at the work Dr. Harold does. I mean, there's some researchers that are willing to come out and understand it. And cops, they don't mind the bad news as long as you're out there with them. I don't have any evidence to support this, but I sure have on my speed dial like five or six doctors that are willing to answer my questions, and say, "What do you need? I will try to find you the resources to do something." This is why this is so important, Doctor, is that we need more of this, because I believe in research. I believe in innovation. I certainly believe in evidence, but I feel like we're kind of losing those researchers to help the police. Is that helpful?
KARHLTON MOORE: Yes.
ROBIN ENGEL: It is. I knew Chief Herold when she was Sergeant Herold. It was a long time ago. We spent a lot of time together. And I was fortunate with the Cincinnati Police Department because I literally became embedded there. I can't tell you how many hours I spent with their command staff, but I also spent in the church basements with the community, going to the same meetings that they were going to, experiencing the same things they were doing, riding with officers, talking not just to the command staff but to others. I would always tell my doctor students, I'm like, "Go out and get in a car. You need to ride. Don't come back and tell me your statistical findings. Go get in a car. Go sit at a community meeting. Hear what the residents are actually saying and then tell me your statistical findings, because you have to have context around them."
Unfortunately, in academia, there's not a lot of support for that. Academics out there, you know that. Those are all hours that you're donating your time and you're not writing an article during that time and you're not perhaps furthering the checkmarks for your career that are considered important in academia. But you are doing something so much greater than that. And, yeah, those academic articles are important because we need peer-reviewed science and to make sure that we're moving things forward. All of that is so important. But the relationships that you build in every single agency and community, those are the things that pay dividends over and over and over again. That's where we need to be as a profession. We need to be training our doctoral students in that way and we need to be training our officers in a way to receive those messages.
The final thing I'll just note is it's all about marketing. It's all about packaging. Packaging yourself. Packaging your research. Look, I could have taken back to Sergeant Witt, I could have said, "Here is my article. It was published in Criminology & Public Policy and we're really proud of it. Here you go," and he'd say, "Great." Or we can sit down and have a conversation and I can lay it all out before that report is public. Answer those questions, develop more questions, figure those things out and go back and forth. It's a partnership. I'm preaching to the choir, because you folks are in this audience because you already know that. So, really, the question is how do we take it to scale? Because there's just not enough of us that are doing this work. How do we take it to scale? I leave that to Dr. Herold out there in the audience to figure out with Dr. La Vigne because that's what we need.
KARHLTON MOORE: All right. So, Sergeant, you've touched on one other thing that I want to dig into a little bit more, and that is when you all sat down and you started to hear about ICAT, you started to get some perspective of some changes that we should make to it, that you wanted to see there. Let's start this time with Robin.
Can you talk a little bit about what the changes were they wanted and then kind of how did you receive the input? She's typically giving out input to people.
ROBIN ENGEL: Yeah. Lots of advice.
KARHLTON MOORE: So, what was that like?
ROBIN ENGEL: Well, I can tell you one of the other things that Justin didn't mention was the Critical Decision-Making Model, the CDM piece of ICAT. It's central. It's the core component underlying it. And it was actually the one piece that seemed to have the most training decay. I had to deliver that message back to Chuck Wexler, who had put his heart and soul and all of these things into this training and say, "Hey, your central piece, that's the first thing to decay."
CHUCK WEXLER: Right. Right.
ROBIN ENGEL: How was that message received? They changed the training. They updated it. They thought about it. They modified it. That's how it was received.
KARHLTON MOORE: Okay. Is that normal? Is that a typical thing that people do?
You hear this. You put your heart and soul into this thing.
You're convinced of how perfect it is and then people say change it.
CHUCK WEXLER: No. I think you need to hear that. If it's not working, if cops don't get it, you got to change. One of the things that we talk a little bit about, and he mentioned his career, is the credibility of the person who's doing the training. But that's where research played the loop back. You said, "Oh, the supervisor is not a role."
Another thing you said in your report, Robin, which was really helpful, and I don't think police departments probably are doing this. I'm sure you are, is you would have training change but then the policy in the Louisville Police Department did not change. Why is that a problem? Because Somewhere in the book it says, "The most important thing to remember is that you go home safely at night," and then you have the ICAT trainers saying, "No, no, no, no. The most important thing is that everybody go home safe at night." So, you pointed that out in your report. Then the difficulty is when you have people trained at one level and then you don't have the sergeants and then you don't even have the command staff. A commander comes and says, "Hey, what's going on here? If he or she doesn't know what the training is about, they're making decisions that are impacting everyone. So, I think the feedback on the research makes the product better. You need to hear that. You don't want people walking out of there going, "Well, there's a day and a half I'll never get back."
One of the things that was most important about your research was the cops liked the training. Because we start off with them hating us. They're like, "Oh, what are we going to hear?" And then they come, and they realize that, going home safe at night is not as important as so many other things in life. It's not just going home safely. Because an officer who's been involved in a shooting is never the same. They said, "Oh, that was nothing." They're never the same. So, if you can save careers and people at the same time. But I wanted to just say one thing here, which is in terms of scale and getting it out, one of the things that we're able to do which is kind of phenomenal. I met someone who has funded a multimillion-dollar training facility in Decatur, Illinois. And what we're doing, and this is getting the word out, is anyone who gets to that facility on their own, we will pay for them to be trained. We will pay for it. PERF will pay for that. This is not like a money-making offer. This is how do we get police officers trained so that they can have the satisfaction of resolving things in a way that people go home safely. Those of you from police departments and whatnot, for the rest of the year, we will cover the cost of training.
KARHLTON MOORE: Anyone else want to talk about that?
JUSTIN WITT: Yeah. I'll just talk a little bit about the feedback loop. So, it's important to have a chief with some stability. We don't have that. In Louisville, we've been through five chiefs since the study was done. So that decision-maker at the top has been different five different times for me. So, the dosage that the chief talked about earlier and how often you're training and the feedback from Dr. Engel, really the important thing is to embed yourself with someone who's institutionally going to be there, that's going to be able to impact this over time. No offense to the chief, but if you've tied yourself as a researcher to the chief, they'll leave. They just will. They might get fired. They might go to federal prison. Not this one but others.
CHUCK WEXLER: Maybe state prison.
MARIS HEROLD: Yeah.
JUSTIN WITT: Yeah. Not picky. But they may leave. And so, to get yourself institutionally involved with someone who's going to be there is important. We've been able to modify and train ICAT since 2019, about six times to the whole agency for small intervals and we continue to develop it and we continue to put it back out to the cops in those dosage units. At every in service, I make sure to get at least four hours with them on it. I give that feedback to Dr. Engel on what we're seeing. We just had a conversation earlier about supervisors whenever it comes to ICAT. So, it's important from a researcher and my perspective — I'm not a researcher — but it would be important to embed yourself with someone who's going to be there that can show you, through longevity, is it still important, right? I would say that we're still not researching it. We're still not measuring it, but, anecdotally, it's very important.
KARHLTON MOORE: So, what research questions still need to be answered about ICAT?
ROBIN ENGEL: Well, I'm glad you asked that because we actually have quite a few different studies in the field actually funded some of them by NIJ. I know other researchers out there right now are studying de-escalation training funded by NIJ and other federal sources. We are looking in a couple of different agencies. So, Indianapolis has changed the training. They're doing ICAT but they've changed it in terms of the hours. We'll know whether or not when you make those modifications and you changed some of the training components, what impact does that have? We're working in Indianapolis with a randomized controlled trial design. We're working in Cincinnati Police Department, your former police department. I'm not going to you for that one.
MARIS HEROLD: Thank you. Thank you.
JUSTIN WITT: She left.
ROBIN ENGEL: So, she left. I wouldn't even really call it ICAT. It's just a different form of de-escalation training where they're doing it in very short segments but over a longer period of time. So, we're looking at dosage issues there. Oklahoma City, we're working with them. Again, these are all NIJ-funded studies. Oklahoma City, they're capturing actual de-escalation as it was used on their use-of-force forms. We're going back through all of those forms and literally hand-coding out of those PDFs what that looked like and whether or not that has an impact on overall uses of force. Actually, right now Phoenix just kicked off. That one will be a true replication of the Louisville Metro study. They just kicked off their training about two or three weeks ago. We're up here to talk about the evidence and we've been talking about one study. There's now a body of evidence that's being built around this particular police training that's so incredibly important. There are a lot of research questions that remain. I think it's NIJ that has funded a study of some colleagues that are looking at body cam footage and trying to better understand the interactions and the causal mechanisms related to the use of de-escalation training. So much work is happening right now. I'm just excited to be a part of it.
KARHLTON MOORE: Anyone else?
MARIS HEROLD: Well, the only thing that I'll add to this and hopefully the sergeant agrees. From my perspective, how do you keep the principles of the ICAT model at the forefront of a police officer's mind on a daily basis? So, some of the things that I've worked at UC and I'm working on now is the integration of the ICAT model into as many policies and procedures as possible. So high risk traffic stops, DUI enforcement, lessons learned policies that we have. But something that I did at the university that I have not done in Boulder, but I think it's really an interesting way to keep these concepts on police officers' minds is that we had contact cards. We were mandated to fill out contact cards on consensual and non-consensual stops. On the bottom of the contact form was like six different principles of the ICAT model. If they felt that they used these techniques, they would check the box on which one they used. But every contact they had; they were kind of forced to look at these major foundational concepts of the ICAT model. We really saw interesting patterns there. But, again, as time went on, you could see the less that they would be checking the boxes and that's kind of troubling because we have to figure out what is the right dosage? How can we keep this right in front of the police officers because it's so vitally important? So, I'm sure researchers have more ideas, and this is the importance of this conference and what we're trying to do, but how do we keep it that they're thinking about it all the time?
CHUCK WEXLER: One of the ways I'm thinking about this — I think Nancy will know this because she goes back with me a ways — is when PERF really got into problem-oriented policing, we used to have that same question about how do you keep this active? One of the things we did is we established a problem-oriented policing conference and we brought people together. Best practices. The way to keep ICAT fresh is to constantly bring people together, and we did this last year, same place in San Diego. But I think you have to keep at it. You can't just say, "Here's the model." It has to keep changing. We get ideas. Suicide by cop in a module that we put together was based upon changes that we saw, ideas that we have, to keep this fresh. You need to bring researchers in, bring people in, talk about it, best practices, what are you learning and so forth.
I think the reason ICAT will succeed is because, intuitively, it makes so much sense. Slow things down, use time and distance, and communicate. You think about that in life. You're dealing with someone, wait a minute, slow this down, talk, communicate. Here's someone told me something. When a police officer has a gun and there's a situation, they go in. Someone has a knife, and they take it out. If a police officer is in that situation and they don't have their gun, what are they doing? They're standing back and they're communicating. They're not going into that. But with a gun, it allows them to think that they can hold that situation. That's really the difference is to think, "What would I do if I didn't have a gun now? How would I deal with this situation?" They have to do that in the United Kingdom. We don't have to do it here, but how can we think differently?
KARHLTON MOORE: This dosage conversation is so fascinating. I can't help but think back to doing focus deterrence and understanding that after about three months, it was time for another call-in. Anyway, now is the opportunity for all of you out there, and I can see you're anxiously waiting for your opportunity to ask our panel questions.
DR. TRACY CORLEY: I am Dr. Tracy Corley. I'm a Professor of Practice at Northeastern University. I'm also the Director of Programs for the College of Social Sciences and Humanities here at our Arlington Campus. In my career, I've done a lot of research prior to going back to school and spending some time in Germany with customs officers, as well as with federal bureaucrats working with federal agencies, talking to business owners, etc. about how they regulate and police and enforce laws related to illegal work. And that whole process, I actually wound up changing my quantitative, more random controlled trial study to a more qualitative research study in order to be able to find out a little bit better information. And as a result, since that time, I've been doing a lot of community-engaged research where the community could be the police community or it could be the general population, the general public. We're talking about ways that people can come together in order to do some of the ongoing things, as you were saying here today, that's going to make this program and kind of its normalization a little bit more successful over time, building those long-term relationships, making sure that folks are reporting things back as you're going through the process. Can you talk a little bit more about the role that, number one, qualitative research can play into this process? And then, number two, what community-engaged research might do in order to address some of these challenges?
ROBIN ENGEL: Talk about your Boulder plan.
ROBIN ENGEL: I'm prompting her because we just did a study at the National Policing Institute of her reimagined policing plan in Boulder, where she did this community outreach, and it was that type of work and it was fabulous.
DR. TRACY CORLEY: I just want to clarify community outreach is one way but that one way communication, I'm thinking more of where you're working with a community to co-create, co-design the research.
ROBIN ENGEL: Right.
DR. TRACY CORLEY: I want to hear a little bit more about that too.
MARIS HEROLD: Yeah. And I think that's so interesting from my perspective, because what we have done in Boulder is we have really done an unbelievable job with community outreach to understand what we are trying to implement in the police department. But I think you're speaking about what did we do before that, before we implemented the ICAT. Did we have community forums and people in the community that could help us design the ICAT and really understand that model from their perspective? Am I getting that right?
DR. TRACY CORLEY: I would say, yeah, before, during, and that relationship where you kind of have these relationships of where you're not only building trust between researchers and police forces but also police forces and the community. Everyone plays a part in this whole process. So, what does that look like?
MARIS HEROLD: I'm so glad you asked that because I think, starting at the University of Cincinnati, where we had civil unrest after the shooting of the Black motorist, we went through a whole process of community engagement, community surveying. Dr. Engel and I really worked very hard talking to the community and getting their input on the ICAT model. Before we implemented it at the University of Cincinnati, we had numerous community members come in and listen to the model. I presented on the model I don't know how many times to get input. Especially when I told stories about the way I was trained and why this is radically different about the sanctity of human life, the community, at least, had a voice to say, "We support the sanctity of human life, and we want to work with you to develop this and make sure it's implemented."
The community was also given the results of the evaluations that we did at the University of Cincinnati. I have replicated that in the city of Boulder. But I'm going to be honest with you, it's such a good model. We talk to the community about it, but I feel so passionate about it that it saves lives. I have input from the community, but I did not talk to the community prior to me implementing that. It was well presented to the community. But to your point, I think police departments need to do a much better job to get communities' feedback on all policies and as we're developing them and their input, if that answers your question from my perspective.
ROBIN ENGEL: Yeah. And the Community Advisory Council that we had in Cincinnati, they actually got to review the different types of training that we were considering before it was implemented. They also got to weigh in on the use of force policy before it was changed. And we actually put some of them through the ICAT training. We had a couple of our Community Advisory Council members that actually got to sit through that training, implicit bias training and others, so they could actually see, and they were then ambassadors back out into the community. They were representatives of the community to actually see and feel and be a part of that training. So that's something that we did as well.
JUSTIN WITT: Also in Louisville, I invited pretty much anybody and everybody that wanted to come to ICAT training to come, because the likelihood of a community member in their own home to have to de-escalate a situation before we even arrive is pretty important. So, the tactics that police officers use to de-escalate, just because I have a gun belt and a badge on, can very easily be translated to a person in their home to be able to de-escalate their own loved one. So, we invited community members to come. They sat actually with our cops in the training so that they could hear the feedback from cops, so cops could understand what the community felt but then the community could actually hear the concerns of cops. So, it wasn't in one direction. Then a teaching point, you see how, Dr. Engel, when you asked your question, translated that back to me so I could then figure out what you asked. That's why it's important to have that partnership, because when you first asked it, I was like tee up them because I have no idea, right? But she translated for me and now I understand so thank you.
ROBIN ENGEL: Yeah. That's so true.
KARHLTON MOORE: Thank you.
DR. RONNING: Hi. Thank you. My name is Dr. Ronning. I'm from Portland. And I currently serve in an advisory capacity with the Portland Police Bureau. My question revolves around bridging the gap between culture and training. Does the ICAT model grapple with the idea of officers de-escalating other officers? Because one of the issues, obviously, and this is sort of the critique, right, that's out there is that we can't train our way out of bad policing culture. Does it include that? And if it doesn't, maybe you can speak to in what ways will future research start to bridge this gap?
CHUCK WEXLER Yes. Justin and I would tell you one of the modules is specifically on Step Up and Step In. In terms of your bigger question about culture and training, when you think about a police department, probably one of the most defining aspects of the police culture is use of force. And you look at a place like Camden, New Jersey, one of the first sites that we had, that police department, the culture in that police department is very different. This is how we think. I mean, just things like everybody goes home safe at night. Taking it a step further, it's not only does everybody go home safe at night but sometimes police officers won't go home safe at night so that someone else can live. If you think about Nickolas Wilt in Louisville, police officer who four days as a rookie, twin brother is a cop, he walks right into the face of danger and gets shot in the head. He did that so others can live. And it's Louisville. I was just thinking about that. And you think about Uvalde and everything and you think about how does this relate? Well, there are some situations, and this is what it means being a cop, is where you have to think you may have to give your life to save someone else. That's a lot different than the most important thing is for me to go home safe. So, I think the terminology and the thinking, that's not how we do things in Louisville. That's not how we do things.
JUSTIN WITT: I kind of look at it in a cycle. The community talks to a chief. A chief develops training. Training teaches the cops, which develops culture. Culture of the cops, then impacts the community, and then back through. This is kind of the cycle that we have. So, the chief can kind of have the vision to create the training, but your training division, your trainers have to create a culture that then the cops are doing within the community. When ICAT first started, there wasn't a Step Up, Step In. There was not a Supervisor Snapshot. But through the evaluation and, again, this evidence to action, there was a need I saw from the research. So, Step Up and Step In is purely an officer response model to another officer who may be acting out of line. It very much has infused some of the ongoing trends in law enforcement and what we see to create a culture more holistically that not only can a consumer need to be de-escalated but the officer that I work with may also need to be de-escalated because we are not immune to becoming escalated in these situations. I think the culture is very important. And training can fix some of that but it's really instilling into the people that are boots on the ground that, “Hey, you have to look after one another, protect each other, hold each other accountable, and then may have to de-escalate your partner.”
ROBIN ENGEL: They actually have a scenario. Kevin Lutz put it in from Camden, where they actually show a supervisor telling an officer, pulling an officer out of a situation saying, "Go cool off. You need to be separated for a little bit." So, they actually capture that and talk about it. You mentioned what are the research questions. Wouldn't it be interesting to know if officers are learning these skills and are being able to use them at home with their spouse, with their kids, all of that stress and all of the issues that they're dealing with, officer safety, wellness? If we could teach them about how to diffuse conflict and problematic situations and they use it in their personal life as well as their professional life and within the agency itself, the difficult conversations that they have with their peers. That's the next step, right, to measure whether or not we're having those ancillary impact as well.
KARHLTON MOORE: All right. So, I think we have time for one more question.
JASON SPENCER: My name's Jason Spencer. I'm Chief of Staff at the Harris County Sheriff's Office in Houston and we're a big fan of ICAT training. We've embraced it and we love it and thank you. Can we have some more? My question is when we talk about next steps in research, and I've asked this question at other conferences and haven't found the right person to give me an answer. And maybe I'm just asking the wrong question because I'm not a researcher. How do we stop hiring people who need all this training? How do we hire people who already have a mindset of respecting the sanctity of life? Are we fishing in the wrong pool when we're looking for job candidates? Do we need to rethink that? If you haven't done research on it and one of you in here wants to do it, I'll be in the lobby. I'm going to go look at the posters. My wife is a researcher. She's like, "Go talk, look at the posters and ask them questions." Well, I'm going to do that.
KARHLTON MOORE: That's a great question.
ROBIN ENGEL: I would suggest that if we really took a look at it, it's not that we're fishing in the wrong pond or that we're bringing in the wrong people, here and there maybe, but I think that the majority of men and women that sign up, that want to go into law enforcement do it for all the right reasons. Then we culturally beat that out of them, and we change it over time. I think we get what we produce. That's my uneducated, untested opinion.
MARIS HEROLD: Wow. That's a deep question. So, I do believe sometimes we hire the wrong people. But this job, it is so hard and so complex. I think about this all the time. I started my career in social work and I hit a culture shock that I have never felt in my life when I walked in those academy doors. So, I tend to agree with Dr. Engel that, boy, we train the dumbest stuff in policing, and we create cultures that are unacceptable. Having said that, it's the greatest profession and we all need to invest heavily in training and get people out that don't belong in policing, and I support that. But, boy, that's such a hard question to answer, because some of the finest people I know would sacrifice their life. I just had an officer die in an active shooter situation that was the finest human being I've ever met. He didn't think one second to run into that grocery store to save dozens of lives. I think about that, and I think about that all the time. And so, I think it's a very complex question, and I think we all have to think about it, because that guy, I don't know if I could have done what he did. He didn't even hesitate, and he saved dozens of lives that day and now he is dead.
JUSTIN WITT: Yeah, I think it comes back to training. Everything can be rooted back to training. It's the way that you train. Our officers come into this profession full of want to do the right thing, full of high character. So, yeah, we may get it wrong on hiring some, but I think that we have institutionally trained people to be robotic. We've trained people to conform to traditional policing methodologies. If your academy is a hard and fast paramilitary academy where you're telling people to stand up against the wall, shut up, don't speak unless spoken to, then it's likely that whenever they get out of the academy, they will treat the community the way that they were treated. I think it has a lot to do with the way we treat people internally within law enforcement agencies and then that's the way that they treat people once they now have the authority. I think that we can fix a lot of that problem within training in training academies and change the culture that we instill in the people.
KARHLTON MOORE: Last word, Chuck?
CHUCK WEXLER: No, I think that was a good question. I don't think I'm smart enough to answer it, but I can tell you we've been tracking recruitment and retention, and recruitment is way down, and people are resigning and retiring and we're not keeping pace with it. At the very moment, people are trying to reform police departments, but, honest to God, cops don't want their kids to be cops. And that's part of it. It's a real big issue because I worry that we're going to hire people that we shouldn't be hiring. That's not an optimistic turn. It's going to turn around. We just need to do it quickly. But I think when people understand what we're talking about here, if you were in this audience and you said, " Saving people's lives, maybe that's for me."
KARHLTON MOORE: Nancy, that's a great topic for next year's conference. So please join me in thanking the non-director, the director, the chief, and the doctor.
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