JERSEY CITY, NJ - Faced with ever-increasing pressure by groups such as Black Lives Matter to defund police and reduce tension between law enforcement and the community during confrontations, Jersey City officials have announced that they will implement de-escalation training for all police officers on the Jersey City Police Department 

De-escalation training teaches officers to slow down, create space, and use communication techniques to defuse potentially dangerous situations. It gives officers strategies to more calmly deal with people who are experiencing mental and emotional crises.

The program will retrain officers to confidently and competently make the best decisions to ensure more positive outcomes when placed in a life-endangering situation. 

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Various programs have been available for several decades but came into focus when a task force on 21st century policing issued its report in 2015 – suggesting the police forces change their emphasize from a “warrior” mindset to a “guardian” mindset.

While similar training is required in eight states, in New Jersey the decision of whether to provide is up to local chiefs and sheriffs. Most do not require this kind of training because of the high cost. 

Mayor Steven Fulop said the million-dollar investment will repurpose funds recently refunded to the city for COVID-19 testing to expand tactical awareness and communications training currently implemented in the JCPD’s Emergency Service and Counterterrorism Units, and will now be mandatory for all uniform members of the department to ensure maximum safety for officers and those they encounter in various demanding situations.  The de-escalation training will also be made available to residents and all others interested in observing the techniques being taught.

“Consistent with the Mayor's Pledge I signed Day 1, we are making changes where necessary, from amending our Use of Force general orders to forming an ad-hoc review committee to now expanding de-escalation training,” Fulop said. “We are committed to providing our officers with the best possible training, and the expansion of this training to all officers will greatly benefit the community and meet the growing need for officers to hone their crisis management skills to proactively avoid dangerous situations in the future.”  

“We will continue to invest in our police department strategically to remain a national leader with regards to policing policy.”

The dual-pronged, de-escalation training program will apply two separate disciplines over the next eight months. The first, Verbal De-escalation and Crisis Communication Program, is taught by retired NYPD officer, Jack Cambria, who has conducted in-service training for international and federal enforcement agencies and will emulate best practices from cities around the world.  

The second, conducted by Tomahawk Strategic Solutions, utilizes interactive training to focus on strategies and approaches for police officers addressing hostile situations.

De-escalation training is designed to help officers slow the action down, in order to afford them more than a few seconds in which to make a decision. 

“We have a debt to our officers if we’re asking them to police in these difficult times, we owe them the best possible training we can provide,” said Director James Shea. “Residents have requested this type of training out of regards to the public, and for the officers themselves. We have listened to their requests in an effort to further de-escalation efforts for all situations the JCPD encounters on a daily basis.”

Some studies have shown that officers who go through de-escalation training become more sympathetic towards suspects, especially those suffering from mental illness and other issues.

Fulop said this training is part of his administration’s efforts to reassess the Police Department’s policies.

“Now is the time for us to focus on what we’re doing here in Jersey City and how we can make changes and improvements within our policies for everyone’s benefit,” said Council President Joyce Watterman who recently push forward the creation of an ad-hoc committee to review training and policies of the Jersey City Police Department.

The training will also focus on the historical experiences with policing to address working on self-awareness and approach of officers’ state of mind to ensure they have the training to utilize all tactics available to make the best decisions and avoid de-escalation when safe and feasible, the use of force being a last resort even when lawful.  The courses will be implemented on a regular basis once the first round of training is completed by all officers from rookies up to the Police Chief.

The resolution to approve the vendor contract for de-escalation and other similar training will be presented to the City Council at an upcoming meeting.

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