LOWER MERION TWP., Pa. - The Lower Merion Police Department gave FOX 29 an inside look at their new training for officers, which focuses on de-escalation techniques.
The voice of the knife-wielding man on the screen is of a Lower Merion police officer, acting out a situation he responded to before. The officer with the headset on is responding like he would in real life. Walking through a series of de-escalation techniques like active listening and rapport building.
"It’s more useful than some of the tools that we have on our belt because it’s generally buying us more time and allows us to empower those people to make the decisions," Lower Merion Police Department Lt. John String.
It’s a new de-escalation training program with the Lower Merion Police Department. The department received a state grant to purchase it late last year.
It starts with a classroom portion before moving to virtual reality, playing out real situations officers have responded to, and the opportunity to debrief on what was done right and where they can improve.
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One of the biggest pieces is that the initial approach
"A normal interaction, we go up to somebody introduce ourselves so we found that that is definitely a better way to start a conversation with somebody even if it is a high-stress situation if the situation allows," Lt. String added.
Some situations just don’t allow that.
Officers can use any of the tools on their belt in the simulation and they are training to continue to de-escalate after use of force and to reduce the type of force to begin with.
"We go from instead of using a taser on somebody that we just have to, we call it empty hand control, maybe grab somebody and just kind of handcuff them something like that," Lt. String. "So once we use force and reach whatever end we need that we de-escalate the situation from that, so again it’s just going to be a larger picture."