Fort Worth cops are among the first in the country to get new specialized training in de-escalating hairy situations. The city’s 1,600 police officers recently completed the Integrating Communications, Assessment, and Tactics De-escalation Training. The course shares techniques on police responding to explosive situations in which people are behaving erratically or dangerously but without possessing a firearm.
Our country has witnessed a boiling debate over police brutality, training, and community relationships in recent years. Police actions have sparked protests, rioting, and, in some cases, violence in cities across the nation.
Fort Worth makes headlines from time to time but has mostly avoided these troubles. Last year, we looked at various big cities and learned that Cowtown cops do a relatively good job of keeping the peace without relying on excessive force (“Settling for Less,” Apr 12, 2017).
Since then, there was the fiasco involving Craigory Adams, a mentally ill man holding a barbecue fork who was shot by a police officer who said he unintentionally discharged his shotgun while pointing it at Adams. The cop wasn’t convicted but was fired. Then, in Dec 2017, Jacqueline Craig filed a lawsuit against Fort Worth for a 2016 incident in which Officer William Martin wielded his Taser and appeared to escalate a situation involving Craig. Both cases involved white officers and black civilians.
Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald was proactive, making Fort Worth the country’s second to train its police force in the specialized de-escalation course. Baltimore was the first city, said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, the independent research organization that created the de-escalation training.
The pilot program was in Baltimore following the riots triggered by the outcome of the case involving Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who fell into a coma while being transported in a police van in 2015. Fort Worth began sending officers to the training this past summer.
“We will hold Fort Worth up as a leader in this,” Wexler told city council members on Jan 30. “You are doing this before you have to. Some cities are forced to do it. Fort Worth is doing this because of the leadership of your chief.”