Congress passed legislation to develop and fund police de-escalation training courses for law enforcement departments across the country. Called the Law Enforcement De-Escalation Training Act of 2022, this act, which gained Congressional approval in December 2022, will help the Department of Justice (DOJ) create better, safer means for police to interact with citizens and communicate these new standards to local police departments.
According to Congress:
“This act directs the Department of Justice (DOJ) to develop scenario-based training curricula (or identify existing curricula) that includes topics such as alternatives to the use of force, de-escalation tactics, and safely responding to an individual experiencing a mental, behavioral health, or suicidal crisis.
“The act also directs DOJ to make grants to states for costs associated with providing the training to law enforcement officers or mental health professionals.”
This act represents the next step in an ongoing effort to improve policing in the United States.
Goals of the Law Enforcement De-Escalation Training Act
According to the website of Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), a co-sponsor of bill, the Law Enforcement De-Escalation Training Act of 2022 will do the following:
- Require the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services to develop curricula in the training topics, or identify existing curricula, in consultation with law enforcement, mental health organizations, family advocacy organizations, and civil rights and civil liberties groups, among other stakeholders.
- Authorize $124 million in grant funding over four years for training, including scenario-based exercises, and evaluative assessments.
- Require the National Institute of Justice and the Government Accountability Office to evaluate the effectiveness of the implementation training to ensure that the curricula have a tangible impact on law enforcement encounters with people in crisis, and identify possible changes that would further improve outcomes.
The need for better de-escalation training
Over the past 30-40 years, violent incidents involving the police have been on the rise in United States, with the mortality rate due to police violence increasing by 38%. While a multitude of factors have played into this phenomenon, police officers acting as de facto mental health first responders, even if they lack proper training in behavioral or mental health crisis response, has had a significant impact.
As mental and behavioral care has become increasingly privatized, police officers have been forced into the role of behavioral health first responders. Studies indicate that 1-in-10 police encounters involve an individual with mental or behavioral health disorders. Unfortunately, a lack of training on this type of response has led officers to feel unable to effectively handle mental health crises and to perceive mental health calls as unpredictable and dangerous situations.
Studies have connected this lack of training on how to peacefully de-escalate a mental or behavioral health crisis with violent interactions between law enforcement and individuals with mental health disorders. One investigation commissioned by the Chicago Police Department found that “Mental health disorders are a factor in as many as 1 in 2 fatal law enforcement encounters.”
The Law Enforcement De-Escalation Training Act of 2022 is intended to help decrease the number of fatal interactions involving mental illness by providing better training on how to respond to mental and behavioral health crises. According to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), co-author of the bill, this legislation “will equip officers with the training and resources to handle those issues safely and appropriately.”
To read more about the Law Enforcement De-Escalation Training Act of 2022, see its page on congress.gov.
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