Recently, Jeffery Arlt wrote an Op-Ed piece in the Santa Cruz Sentinel about how the Santa Cruz Police have worked successfully to reduce officer-involved shootings through de-escalation. He is right, SCPD officers have trained hard and worked effectively to reduce the potential for the use of lethal force, and as a result, successfully to save lives. Often risking their own safety in the process. I recognize not all incidents can be successfully de-escalated, but as Mr. Arlt, the father of a young man fatally shot by police stated, “Thank you to our Santa Cruz law enforcement officers for accepting the risk and for using de-escalation to prevent the use of lethal force.”
Police chiefs bear responsibility here. Our mission is to set the philosophy that preserving human life is our highest value, even for those who do not currently value their own. We also must ensure our officers have the right training, tools, and tactics to be successful and protect them.
Our training focused on using time, talk, and tactics to reduce the need for the use of lethal force. Crisis de-escalation takes strong leadership at the patrol level. Sergeants must understand the mission and take the lead because they link organizational philosophy to tactical action. For SCPD, it appears to be working.
The embedded video you see here is a team of officers sent to a man threatening suicide. He armed himself with a broken bottle. One officer talked with him, while the sergeant and contact team formulated a plan to disarm him. You can see they used distance, time, talk, and ultimately sound tactics to disarm him and take him into custody where he could get the help he needed. You will note multiple layers of less-lethal options present on the scene. Thank you to the men and women of SCPD who risk their safety to help those in crisis. Credit to Contact Santa Cruz, a Facebook post.