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ABC News: UC criminologist calls for studies on police de-escalation training

UC's Robin Engel tapped by ABC News for her expertise in policing policy

De-escalation training in law enforcement – communication and negotiation tactics taught and used by police as alternatives to use of force – is a strategy attracting discussion now more than ever. In examining the controversial technique, ABC News turned to UC criminologist Robin Engel, a nationally renowned expert on policing policy.

And part of the problem, Engel found, is that there are no studies of de-escalation training for police.

Engel, director of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the University of Cincinnati Center for Police Research and Policy, earlier this year participated in a systematic review of the studies on de-escalation training for the police. She and her colleagues found there were no such studies. Of the 64 rigorous studies conducted in the past 40 years, they were primarily done in nursing or psychiatric settings, Engel discovered.

headshot of a blonde woman wearing a maroon jacket

Robin Engel Photo: Jay Yocis/UC Creative + Brand

Engel told ABC News she supports the federal government allocating funding for the rigorous study of de-escalation. Last week, Engel testified before the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice on policing culturing and reasonable use of force, and detailed the knowledge gap shrouding de-escalation training.

Although "de-escalation use of force policies and training are widely viewed as a common-sense approach," she testified, "there is no uniformly accepted definition of de-escalation within the policing field, and little is known about the development, delivery, and impact of police de-escalation training."

Engel hopes that police executives will allow researchers to tag along to collect data and evaluate use of force reforms for effectiveness. She also emphasized that de-escalation training needs strong policies to hold leadership and rank-and-file officers accountable, according to the ABC News story.

"If you just do the training, you might change attitudes but you are less likely to change behavior," she said."

Read the full story here.

Featured image at top: police in riot gear. Photo/Unsplash/Ev