Police officers and sheriff’s deputies in the Chattanooga area are learning a vital technique of local economy: Voluntary relationships and free market techniques vs. force and violence.
And increasingly angry public concerned about gangland-style police bullying and violence is pushing the Chattanooga police department and the Hamilton County sheriff’s office to intensify a training schedule in so-called de-escalation skills.
By David Tulis / Noogaradio 92.7
De-escalation training elevates the citizen in the eye of the officer and makes it more difficult for him to shoot, taze or beat that hapless person who fails to respond with proper obsequiousness.
The training reminds police officers and Sheriff Jim Hammond’s deputies to their older calling of peace officer rather than law enforcers. They solve problems and help people rather than asserting state authority against individuals involved in victimless crimes or bad-mouthing.
A training event covered by the Times Free Press (a highly favored and approved news outlet) was promoted by the Chattanooga Autism Center whose executive director, Dave Buck, says he is excited to see officers soaking in the simple ideas of de-escalation.
People on the autism spectrum or who suffer mental illness often have weird habits, bizarre speechways and may not not aware how the arrival of a state actor at the edge of an argument or disorder brings lethal risk. So it falls to the officer to reduce tensions, help talk an argument into a conversation, secure the peace and seek patiently to be of assistance — and direct a needy person to a source of help such as a church, clinic or public agency.
Humanizing mayor’s toughest agency
Blake Gibson, a corrections officer tells the Times Free Press, “It’s an eye-opening experience. You definitely learn how to talk to people differently. They can be a danger to themselves and others.”
The event featured role playing people in a fight, with the officer required to find a way to reduce tensions and help sort things out between belligerents. No more lines in the sand, no more ultimatums of “comply or die.”
The training is a small first step by Mayor Andy Berke to humanize and demilitarize an executive branch department that enforces Tennessee code annotated crimes well beyond traffic statutes. Mr. Berke announced plans to ease police violence in an event naming David Roddy as chief.
“He understands this job is about community and safety, not about punishment,” Mr. Berke said in August. “We want our officers, ultimately, to be — just talking to people and enjoying the great safe city that they live in. It’s not about trying to catch people all of the time, although that certainly is part of the job.”
Around the country, the proper way of killing, injuring, and arresting by force members of the public gets about 131 hours of training. Meanwhile, negotiating, de-escalation and similar training get 16 hours, according to the Police Executive Research Foundation (Page 10).
I have asked Rob Simmons, Mr. Roddy’s spokesman, to send me stories about officers who exemplify the new spirit of safety over violence, but have yet to obtain reports of exemplary actions by other-centric officers. If unhurried and respectful policing is publicly applauded, tough-guy officers may be more willing to join in a policing paradigm shift.
Support for pacific approach
Chief Roddy is optimistic about improvements sought by Mayor Berke in the department. In discussing help for the homeless, he asserts: “The spirit of support and advocacy that is in Chattanooga I don’t think is like any city that I’ve ever been to. It is amazing. The all-encompassing network of advocacy groups in Chattanooga is of a volume I don’t see anywhere else, either.”
He tells of sitting in on a presentation on homelessness Wednesday with a Florida law enforcement agency that “took their numbers down dramatically within an 18-month period. But it was a collaborative effort. It was not just the police department doing it,” involving the Salvation Army and other groups.
Mr. Roddy gives what seems a very high estimate about shootings, knifings and beatings by gang members. “0.4 percent of the population of Chattanooga can account for as much as 75 to 80 percent of its violence,” he says in an interview at Noogaradio 92.7. “So you’re talking about 700 individuals, give or take, are responsible or 80 percent of the violence in our city. Focused deterrence is focusing in on those 700 in order to change that behavior.” The choice belongs to the young men in question: “Enforcement” or “change the trajectory of what their life looks like through support services. That’s the focused part,” or “focused deterrence.”
A biblical analysis of courts and peacekeeping requires justice to center on the victim and his restoration, with capital punishment and restitution being the sole options for the judge and jury (no state slavery or prisons). Mr. Roddy makes a comment favorable to at least one part of that analysis.
He discusses data- and intelligence-led policing, saying he wants to make the police department a “victim-centered organization through the start of victims’ services coordinator as well as trauma-informed specialist that work with the police department to help us with our victims. That wasn’t one person. It was many people who helped design what that program looks like.”
Sources: David Roddy interview with Cindy Deering, Noogaradio 92.7 FM Oct. 27, 2017
Emmett Gienapp, “Practicing de-escalation: police crisis training aims to calm, control situations,” Chattanooga Times Free Press, Oct. 28 2017