Calls for de-escalation training grow after Atlanta shooting

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People march down the street towards the Georgia state capitol to protest against the mistreatment of black people and to press for policy change, Monday, June 15, 2020, in Atlanta. The NAACP March to the Capitol Monday coincided with the restart of the Georgia 2020 General Assembly. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

ATLANTA – The deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta in the span of less than three weeks have led to a push in the U.S. for more training of police officers in how to de-escalate tense situations before they explode in violence.

“You’ve got to get cops to understand that it’s not a cowardly act, that backing off could save this person’s life,” said Tom Manger, a retired police chief in Virginia and Maryland and former president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association.

Officers undergoing de-escalation training are taught how to keep their cool, talk to people to calm them down, and use the least amount of force required. Typically the instruction includes exercises in which actors playing members of the public try to provoke officers.

“It’s very clear that our police officers are to be guardians and not warriors within our communities,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said Monday in announcing she will require officers to continuously undergo such training in the wake of Brooks’ fatal shooting Friday.

Calls for increased de-escalation training have also come from politicians on Capitol Hill as well as from California’s attorney general, Michigan lawmakers and Houston’s police chief.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Tuesday that he said would encourage better police practices and establish a database of officers with a history of excessive-force complaints. Officials said the order also would promote certification agencies that teach officers de-escalation techniques.

Such techniques have been around for years but have been embraced more strongly amid the growing movement to stop the killings of black people by police.

Floyd was seized by officers May 25 after being accused of passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store. He died after a white officer pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for several minutes.