Training in de-escalation techniques seen as a critical tool in helping prevent officer-involved shootings

Trainers debate whether letting a suspect leave the scene is a viable option

De-escalation techniques are key to helping law officers defuse situations before they become violent or possibly deadly

SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — Atlanta’s mayor is ordering police in the Georgia capital to de-escalate confrontations and to intervene when officers see another officer using excessive force.

That action is among the latest headlines coming out of Atlanta since the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks.

An autopsy confirms the 27-year-old father of three was shot twice in his back late Friday night after getting into a struggle with officers, grabbing one officer’s taser and pointing it in officers’ direction as he began to run off.

Some think of de-escalation as a technique a law officer might employ early on in an effort to stave off a potential conflict. The goal is to avoid any physical confrontation.

Others contend that de-escalation also means letting a suspect run off and then be caught after violence has been avoided.

As law enforcement and legal analysts study the deadly shooting in Atlanta, you often hear how handling such an unfolding situation the right way begins during training.

"When you’re talking about teaching them how to, we also need to talk on when to because there’s situations that just don’t merit going from zero to 100 miles an hour,” said retired Shreveport police Lt. Riley Young, who served 23 years on the force.

It is clear that the use of lethal force was not necessary in Atlanta because Brooks no longer posed an imminent threat to the officers or the public, said Young, who now teaches criminal justice at LSU-Shreveport.

“Once that taser was fired into the air, that person — even with a weapon that’s there — poses no threat to anybody because the weapon, once it’s discharged, there’s nothing else to do with it,” he explained. "You might as well throw it down, useless.

"So for the officers to fire three shots, two of them struck the subject ... .”

Young, who reviewed video of the confrontation, contends that the Atlanta police officers had Brooks’ car and his ID and could have ran him down and tackled him or called for backup to set up a perimeter.

Others don’t think letting a suspect leave the scene is a viable option.

“You don’t have a lot of choices in the matter," said Capt. Steven Joe, commander of the Caddo Sheriff’s Regional Training Academy "Your choice is either enforce the law or not enforce the law. It just leaves you in bad situations.”

The primary goal of de-escalation is to defuse conflict — sometimes with a few words spoken slowly and calmly — before that conflict becomes physical.

"Some of the issues we may be dealing with have to do with showing respect. And that's what de-escalation is. Both sides showing respect, not just one side showing respect."

But Joe explained that not every situation — like the moment an arrest becomes a physical confrontation — lends itself to the use of de-escalation.

Reporter: “Once you’re on the ground wrestling with somebody, you can’t just let him go, I guess?”

Joe: “Right. Not unless you want to be killed or beat up or something like that, yes.”

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