De-escalation training teaches officers to handle tense traffic stops

(SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)
(SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - We've all seen the gruesome details of traffic stops that end with violence and even death. Many of those tragedies happened because the wrong steps were taken to de-escalate a hostile situation.

When a routine traffic stop goes bad, emotions run high, and attitudes flare, knowing your rights and those of the officer stopping you are crucial to keeping the peace.

Memphis Police Department wants to make sure those stories don't make their way to the Bluff City. The department has taken steps to make potentially volatile encounters with citizens as realistic as possible during training; that way, nobody gets hurt when the real thing happens.

"Most people have to learn that we're here to do a job, which is great. But we also have to understand the individual we're talking to has rights. They have emotions we have to deal with as well," firearms training officer Hardy Savage said.

For example, when a driver is enraged because they're stopped and are trying to get to work - and the police officer is armed - that could turn into a dangerous situation.

During training, officers are exposed to situation such as the following:

Driver: "I just got to get down to work man! Just let me go. I'm just a law-abiding citizen, just a tax payer man! Man, I pay your damn salary"
Officer: "One, you got illegal substances in the back seat."
Driver: "Ain't no illegal substances in this car:"
Officer: "Do me a favor, put the car in park."
Driver: "I will not do it!"
--- End of scenario

The high tense, anger infused moment, is only a drill conducted by Memphis Police Department to make sure their officers are prepared for the duties of the job.

"With de-escalation training, you're taking something that's hostile and bring it down a level that a person will comply," Savage said.

Savage leads these type of exercises and makes them as real as possible for officers. It's all to teach officers not to get physical with the civilian or reach for their weapons first.

Once a year, in pairs of two, the officers take the de-escalation training. Savage said they need more training like this so officers can resolve tense moments one word at a time.

"We want to give the officers the opportunity to use their verbal judo to get that person compliant rather than going physical," Savage said.

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