GQ has an in-depth interview with Raeford Davis, a former South Carolina cop (until 2006). It’s good reading, I recommend it. Just a bit here:
When you first became a police officer, what sort of training did you get for de-escalating a potentially violent encounter?
Very little. My academy manual was approximately 1,500 pages long. Of that, maybe 10-20 pages cover effective communication and verbal de-escalation techniques. It wasn’t really until you got out with your field training officer that they would say, “Look you’ve got to talk to people and settle things without getting worked up.” In a lot of ways, when you got on the street you were unlearning a lot of the worst case scenario training that you learned at the academy.
I don’t think the disgrace of so-called police training here in uStates is much of a mystery to most people anymore, but I really wonder if any cops are actually unlearning that garbage anymore.
Were there any mechanisms in place to weed out people who weren’t suited for the job?
Most people wash out based on academic issues and obvious physical issues, like a bad knee, that would prevent them from performing their duties than anything else. As far as spotting over-aggressive or mentally unstable red flags, no, I didn’t see where that would come up and it certainly didn’t with my group. How people washed out from the academy beyond that would be off-campus problems, like getting a DUI or, as happened to one guy, getting into a road rage incident and flashing his badge and gun at people. But it’s the barrel that’s bad, regardless of the apples.
So, what are some of the things you learned about how to behave in those worst case scenarios?
We have this “use of force” continuum. It changes depending on the agency, but there’s a basic format. You can increase your level of response based on the reaction of the individual. You start off with your mere presence, then you have verbal commands, and if that doesn’t work you can put your hands on someone. If they pull back, then you can maybe use a pressure point technique. If they take a swing at you, then you can escalate to a baton. The main takeaway I got from my training concerning individuals armed with a knife or similar weapon was the “21 foot rule.” Basically if you confront anyone with a knife and they get within 21 feet, you can shoot them.