de-escalation

Salt Lake City, UT — It’s a tale of two Michael Brown’s, one a police chief for Salt Lake City, the other deceased, killed by Ferguson, MO police officer Darren Wilson. Salt Lake City Police Chief Michael Brown decided his town had seen enough officer-involved shootings and retrained his officers in de-escalation of force techniques.

“Can I shot this guy,” Wilson asked himself as Brown was allegedly punching him through his cruiser’s window. Wilson went on to shoot and kill the unarmed Michael Brown, a shooting which touched off grassroots protests throughout the country objecting to police brutality and the escalation of force implemented by nearly all of the nation’s police forces.

And while Chief Brown knows there are times when police can and should take someone’s life, it appears now his department wants that decision to be the last resort. “People don’t call us when they’re having the best day of their life. They call us when they’re having a crisis,” Brown said.

The Salt Lake City PD is proud of their new de-escalation program, even offering officers incentives and awards for deescalating encounters with citizens. One such encounter was captured on video, and Brown says there have been 37 such instances since the program was enacted in 2016.

Chief Brown stated, “The Salt Lake City Police Department is probably one of the leading agencies in the country as far as how we train and deploy and use these tactics to de-escalate and save lives.” But it hasn’t always been that way.

As TFTP’s Matt Agorist explained in 2014, the state of Utah had an epidemic of officer-involved shootings. Agorist wrote, “deadly force by police surpassed even violence between spouses and dating partners.”

That was then. This is now. To date, there have not been any fatal officer-involved shootings in Salt Lake City since 2015.

The de-escalation techniques used by Salt Lake City PD involve variations in voice commands, backing away to provide space between cop and suspect, and switching to less than lethal methods before resorting to deadly force.

One encounter captured on video highlights their achievements. An officer pulled over a motorist who promptly exited the vehicle carrying a knife and moving in the direction of the officer who started first with his voice commands.

“I’m not gonna do this, I’m not gonna do it. Don’t make me do it,” the officer screamed at the man. “Get back in the car, it’s not worth it,” he said yelling also, “it’s a freakin ticket!”

The officer switched to his taser, and then tased the man he could have justifiably shot and possibly killed with his handgun. The entire incident made his chief very proud.

“It’s amazing to see the training go into effect,” Brown said adding he gave his officer, “a big hug. I told him ‘nice work. I think he saved a life.”

Salt Lake City’s police department, led by Michael Brown, is setting the example for how police departments can use common-sense de-escalation techniques to subdue citizens, many of whom are having their worst day.

Those measures are the ones TFTP has been calling for since our inception. It’s nice to see, in light of over 1,000 deaths by cop each year, one department is now taking their jobs very seriously attempting to protect and serve rather than punish and kill.

For those that don’t recall, Dillon Taylor was one of the cases which highlighted the serious need of SLC cops to be retrained.

On August 11, 2014, Taylor was gunned down in broad daylight by Officer Bron Cruz.

The confrontation happened because Cruz confused Taylor with a possible criminal in the area.

Taylor, his brother, and his cousin were exiting a 7-Eleven in an area where police were searching for a suspect who had allegedly been waving a gun around. These uninvolved young men allegedly matched the description.

When the three men exited the convenience store they were surrounded by officers and ordered to show their hands. Two of the men stopped and complied, Dillon Taylor, listening to music, kept walking.

Barely 40 seconds go by from the time Dillon is approached until he is shot by Cruz.

“He couldn’t hear them, so he just kept walking. Then … they had guns pointed at his face. That’s when he turned off the music,” Taylor’s brother Jerrail Taylor told the SLC Tribune. “I saw them point guns at my brother’s face, and I knew what was going to happen.”

One officer told Taylor to get on the ground, while another told him to put his hands on his head.

“He got confused, he went to pull up his pants to get on the ground, and they shot him,” Jerrail Taylor said.

Officer Cruz was never held accountable.

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Jack Burns is an educator, journalist, investigative reporter, and advocate of natural medicine