With the use of police force under more scrutiny than ever, one local police department is sharing the special training their officers go through to diffuse confrontations.
The Prince George's County Police Department invited News4's Aaron Gilchrist to the police academy and showed him how the department trains officers to diffuse confrontations verbally and use force appropriately.
Every sworn officer in the department goes through the specialized training every year.
Sgt. Bill Gleason runs the training unit and says it involves dozens of classroom hours. During the course, officers discuss everything from ethics to constitutional law.
"We spend just as much time training the officers how to de-escalate and use verbal techniques, as we do teaching them how to use physical techniques," Gleason said.
A basic level of force might include giving firm commands to a suspect or anyone an officer encounters while on a call.
"You don't obey those verbal commands; now I can put my hands on you and kind of move you. 'Sir, I need you to step over here. I need you to back away,'" Gleason explained.
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If an encounter becomes more complex, the officers are are trained to meet resistance with an appropriate level of force after considering all the factors at play.
Again, the goal is to get control.
An officer could strike a non-compliant person with a hand or a baton. Prince George’s County officers are also trained to execute control holds or takedowns to get a resistant person to the ground and in handcuffs.
Gleason said officers are constantly assessing an encounter and deciding the best tactic to gain control and stop a threat. Sometimes that appropriate response could include pepper spray or a stun gun.
“Most of our Taser deployments are people that are physically assaultive toward the officer or another person. That would justification to use the Taser," Gleason said.
The final step, along the use of force continuum, is deadly force.
"Our deadly force policy says a suspect must pose an imminent threat of death or serious injury to an officer or another person,” Gleason explained.
In Prince George’s County, every officer has a medical kit in their patrol car and is expected to render aid even after shooting someone who was once considered a deadly threat.
Gleason points out that 98 percent of calls for service don't require any level of force.