Use-of-force training should also emphasize de-escalation and flexible tactics in a way that minimizes the need to rely on force, particularly lethal force.
Police agencies that have emphasized de-escalation over assertive policing, such as Richmond, California, have seen a substantial decrease in officer uses of force, including lethal force, without seeing an increase in officer fatalities (there is no data on assaults).
Training also needs to compensate for the unconscious racial biases that lead officers to perceive a greater threat from black men than from others.
Officers are not unique in that regard; implicit racial animus is depressingly common in society.
The same may be true of the Phoenix officer who shot an unarmed man because he thought, mistakenly, that the suspect had a gun in his waistband. In the same time period, an average of 57,000 officers were assaulted every year (though only about 25 percent of those assaults result in any physical injuries).
But for all of its risks, policing is safer now than it has ever been.They are shown painfully vivid, heart-wrenching dash-cam footage of officers being beaten, disarmed, or gunned down after a moment of inattention or hesitation.They are told that the primary culprit isn’t the felon on the video, it is the officer’s lack of vigilance.It is no surprise that the federal Department of Justice reviews de-escalation training (or the lack thereof) when it investigates police agencies for civil rights violations.More comprehensive tactical training would also help prevent unnecessary uses of force.As we’ve seen too many times, the results are beyond tragic.Although it may be impossible to completely eliminate every aspect of unconscious bias, research strongly suggests that more sophisticated training could lead to more accurate threat identifications, correcting for racial bias that officers may not even be aware of.There are countless variations, but the lessons are the same: Hesitation can be fatal.So officers are trained to shoot before a threat is fully realized, to not wait until the last minute because the last minute may be too late. After all, that dark object in the suspect’s hands could be a wallet, not a gun.But in most cases, it isn’t because individual police officers are consciously racist or think black lives don’t matter.It is because officers perform the way they are trained to perform.