The lesson hospitals may be able to teach police officers

American police officers have come under fire for public displays of excessive force and escalated responses to situations that did not seem to call for them. Law enforcement officials may be able to learn some valuable lessons about de-escalation from healthcare workers who have long dealt with these scenarios in nonviolent ways, according to an op-ed by Douglas Starr in The New York Times.

Hospital workers often encounter violent and agitated people and endure more workplace violence than workers in most other professions. Because healthcare workers cannot react violently to these situations, they have decades of experience coming up with alternative solutions to these problems.

One such solution is de-escalation training that emphasizes tactics such as avoiding behaviors that can further agitate someone and keeping a distance that gives a worker enough time to react but puts them close enough to listen. These tools ensure healthcare workers are "calmly and firmly asserting the rules while acknowledging the other person's humanity," according to Mr. Starr, the director of Boston University's graduate program in science journalism.

While some states have embraced de-escalation training for their police forces, there is no national governing body for law enforcement that can encourage large-scale implementation. One reason for police hesitancy to embrace de-escalation could be a cultural chasm, according to Mr. Starr, citing "a warrior-like mindset that an officer should never retreat."

"We're not advocating walking away from a situation," Chuck Wexler, the executive director of Police Executive Research Forum, told Mr. Starr. "But if something fails it's OK to step back, have a tactical pause and come up with a Plan B. The sanctity of human life should trump everything."

"In other words, first do no harm," Mr. Starr concludes.

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