Despite the national discussion, people continue to die at the hands of police officers. There were at least 18 fatal police shootings in California during the month of August 2015, according to killedbypolice.net. That is more than one fatal police shooting every other day. Across the country, there were 106 fatal police shootings and other deadly police encounters.
De-escalation is the process by which police officers, who are currently given little or no training in (or encouragement in the use of) methods to de-escalate and diffuse tense and potentially lethal situations, use communication techniques and other tactics to resolve a tense situation with the goal of avoiding the need to use deadly force or any force at all. The idea is for an officer to "talk someone down" and not agitate a situation or provoke further conflict while still remaining safe. The suspect can be subdued and taken into custody calmly (if necessary) but everyone leaves the situation with his or her life.
Community policing is a construct for policing whereby officers become integrated with the communities they police. When done with genuineness and consistency, this leads to more understanding and trust between and among police officers and community members. This means there is less hostility and less-militarized policing, and fewer deadly police shootings.
Both ideas are important and could end up saving lives. The Seattle Police Department and larger Seattle community appear to be on the vanguard on both ideas. The Seattle Community Police Commission is a community-based group that has a seat at the table in overseeing policing and even in policing itself. The Seattle Community Police Commission was instrumental in helping draft revisions to the Police Department's use of force policy that not only includes de-escalation provisions but makes clear that officers can be held accountable if they fail to adhere to the de-escalation policy and fail to make attempts to diffuse a situation before using deadly force.
A federal judge recently approved the changes and officers are being retrained accordingly.
These ideas of de-escalation and community policing may be foreign to some, but they are not new or unusual. They are based on the very human and common sense principles that human life is sacred and worth saving, and that police officers are more likely to protect and serve communities that they feel a "part of" and "invested in."
If we just tap into our sense of compassion, empathy and shared humanity (not to mention pragmatic desire to have society work better for everyone), we can see the value in and promise of de-escalation and community policing efforts as important aspects of a new and better kind of policing.