Police departments nationwide are embracing a new focus on de-escalation.
Sixty departments from as far as California and Florida came to Baltimore's Marriott at Inner Harbor for a class on ICAT, also known as Integrating Communications, Assessment and Tactics. The training program was published by the Police Executive Research Forum, as Washington D.C. law enforcement think tank. The Baltimore Police Department was one of seven police forces across the country to pilot ICAT.
"We have to use force differently in American law enforcement. We can't just talk about it," said Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis. "We have to train our police officers to use force differently."
ICAT focuses on new techniques that give officers more time and space in dangerous situations, such as having the right number of officers, the right information from dispatch and non-lethal tools. Officers are also taught crisis intervention and negotiation.
Chuck Wexler, with PERF, said the program helps officers deal with the mentally ill and suspects wielding non-lethal weapons. It does not encourage officers to act differently when suspects are armed with a gun. Wexler said up to a third of officer-involved shooting deaths could be avoided if police know what to do.
"It's not enough to tell an office to de-escalate," he said. "You have to teach them what de-escalation really means and the tactics and options."
The Baltimore Police Department has already begun rolling out the training to some new and veteran officers. Commissioner Davis says all officers will be trained on ICAT in the coming year.