When it comes to de-escalation training, the myriad of opinions and viewpoints can make parsing through these different programs and courses difficult. While a lot of programs are effective and provide great techniques that most likely show positive results, if no repeatable scientific analysis is done, then the training is not considered evidence-based and may not be as effective long-term as evidence-based training. Let’s take a look at four common types of de-escalation training so you can see the differences between them. 

Protraining’s De-escalation Program (evidence-based) 

Protraining’s evidence-based de-escalation training program is based on 5 years of scientific research with experts out of the University of Alberta’s Department of Psychiatry, including Dr. Yasmeen Krameddine, and local police.  

This evidence-based training program is a full one-day program that was offered for a 19-day period. In total, 663 officers were trained. Here is a breakdown of how the training session took place: 

  • The program began with a one-hour pre-briefing session that was then followed by six hours of scenario-based role-play, featuring actors that portrayed individuals with mental illness. These scenarios were created in consultation with police training staff and mental health professionals to ensure realism.  
  • Each role-play was divided into one-hour sessions. The officers performed the scenario-based role play in groups of 2. Each group performed 10 minutes of role-playing. Once the role play was complete with all groups, a 30-minute discussion period took place. 
  • During the training, officers needed to employ de-escalation techniques as well as communication and empathizing strategies that were taught in the pre-briefing session. Each officer participated in a total of 60 minutes of live scenario role-play throughout the one-day training session. 
  • At the end of each scenario, officers needed to present their solution. Feedback was provided by a supervising officer, mental health professional, and two actors (one acting, and one observing police behavior during the scenario). 

Key findings 

After 6 months, training outcomes were evaluated. What the researchers found was that there was a significant decrease in physical force and weapon force used by officers. In addition, officer confidence increased, and so did efficiency (officers were able to find solutions quicker by knowing about appropriate resources and referrals). 

Supervising officers also rated their officer’s communication skills, de-escalation techniques, and empathy 1 month and 6 months after training, and found significant increases in both. 

In addition to this in-person training, an online de-escalation program using scenario-based video is also available. Aiding in the development of the online course and scenarios within it was consultation with an international advisory board including police, researchers, mental health professionals, adult educators, and individuals with lived experiences (Krameddine, 2017). 

Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Training 

The CIT training program is 40 hours long and aims to train officers about mental health and interactions with individuals through a mental-health focused lens. It’s important to note that this training focuses on the same premise, but each session can be different depending on which organization is offering the training. 
 
CIT training includes: 

  • Lectures on mental health disorders 
  • Onsite visits to hospitals 
  • An 8-hour de-escalation component where 4 hours are lectures and 4 hours are a scenario-based role play 

Classes are often large with 30-50 officers in attendance at one time. Because of the large class size, each officer has 4 minutes to practice their de-escalation skills during the 4-hour scenario-based role-play portion of the course. After the 4 minutes, officers have 1-2 minutes to receive feedback from all observing members. 

Key findings 

CIT-trained officers were more likely to be able to talk it out with subjects and refer them or arrange for transport to mental health services instead of arresting them. However, the actual differences in these findings between officers who took the training and officers who did not are negligible. Although many CIT training programs see improvements in things like attitudes, stigma, and knowledge post-training, these attitude changes don’t represent a change in overall behavior and cannot be included in the category of training that contributes to lasting behavioral changes (Bonfine, Ritter, & Munetz, 2014; Compton et al., 2014a; Ellis, 2014; Hansson & Markström, 2014; Hatfield, 2014). 

Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) Training 

PERF created a 40-hour course called Integrating Communications, Assessment, and Tactics (ICAT), which aims to provide first responders with the resources they need to de-escalate incidents. Multiple experts and officer training standards from countries such as the UK, Scotland, and Ireland were analyzed to create this training. ICAT was designed for situations where the individual is armed, unarmed, or experiencing a crisis (mental health or otherwise). The main component of this training focuses on a decision-making model to provide structure and critical thinking to an officer’s decision-making process. However, the results of the training have not been scientifically evaluated, so they cannot be called evidence-based 

Crisis Intervention and De-escalation Training (CID) 

British Columbia created a 3.5 hour online and 7-hour in-person de-escalation program known as CID to train all law enforcement officers in education and communication strategies surrounding mental health. This training is currently mandated for all officers in BC to follow. It’s good that officers are receiving some form of de-escalation training to help them deal with mental health and other crisis that an individual may face, however, the training itself is not evidence-based as it has not been analyzed for effectiveness using the scientific method.  

The difference in de-escalation training types 

De-escalation training is an extremely important tool for law enforcement officers to use to reduce the need to use force to effectively diffuse a volatile situation with an individual suffering from a mental health crisis. All these programs have the shared goal of reducing the need for the use of violence by law enforcement by providing de-escalation training. The programs we described in this article that are not evidence-based are good programs in that they promote de-escalation techniques, but without unbiased testing using the scientific method, the overall positive effects of these programs cannot be accurately measured. 

Protraining’s evidence-based de-escalation training is backed by science. Experience effective training today. Get Started. 


Sources: 

Compton, Michael & Bakeman, Roger & Broussard, Beth & Hankerson-Dyson, Dana & Husbands, Letheshia & Krishan, Shaily & Stewart-Hutto, Tarianna & D'Orio, Barbara & Oliva, Janet & Thompson, Nancy & Watson, Amy. (2014). The Police-Based Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Model: II. Effects on Level of Force and Resolution, Referral, and Arrest. Psychiatric services (Washington, D.C.). 65. 10.1176/appi.ps.201300108. 

Ellis, H. A. (2014). Effects of a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Training Program Upon Police Officers Before and After Crisis Intervention Team Training. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, 28(1), 10–16. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apnu.2013.10.003  

Krameddine, Y. Expert Report for the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services. De-escalation Training: Scientific Review and Recommendations (in press). In Andersen, J.P., Di Nota, P.M., Poplawski, S., Pitel, M., Zurowski, J., and Azmi, P. (2017). The Science Behind De-escalation and Use of Force Decision-Making: Policy Recommendations for Police Training. Submitted to Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, June 2017. 

Lisa Hoffart

Lisa Hoffart

Lisa Hoffart is an experienced content writer who uses verifiable research and information from subject matter experts to craft her articles.

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