Defining De-escalation

One of the ways that officers can attempt to prevent the worst outcome from happening is through the policy of de-escalation. This refers to any actions and communications used to stabilize the situation so that more time and resources can be used to find a peaceful resolution. When officers are trained in this technique, they may be able to avert tragedy, but they must only do so as long as it doesn’t result in greater danger.

The National Police Association is an educational organization that helps to train law enforcement officers so they are equipped with the knowledge and skills they need. De-escalation is one of the powerful techniques that are taught and it should be employed whenever possible. Here are a few of the key areas that can be part of a de-escalation tactic.

Respect and Persuasion

Police offices use a common-sense approach to attempt to communicate with a volatile individual. By using a respectful manner and address, they can begin to persuade the person to listen to reason and work with them. When officers stay calm and collected, they convey a stable presence that can help to alleviate some of the tension of the circumstances.


Another important part of de-escalation for officers to remember is to ask open-ended questions. This allows them to glean more information about the subject and the situation so they can make better-informed decisions and come up with possible solutions. Negotiations are a standard technique that attempts to work out what the subject wants and finding a way to reach a compromise.

Tools and Limitations

All police officers should use all of the tools they have available to them to handle the situation. When nonviolent means and negotiation is best, sometimes the use of a taser, chemical spray, or baton is a better alternative than a firearm. These methods are also part of de-escalation, as they can prevent further harm from happening and reach a resolution more quickly.

While a dire situation requires immediate action, all officers must do their best to interrupt what is happening quickly and accurately so there is no confusion. Certain actions may exceed what is acceptable or even legal, so police officers must have the proper training to identify and adopt best practices and behaviors.

Understand Perspectives

Good police officers understand that not everyone thinks the same or holds the same kinds of views. This is essential to keep in mind when trying to de-escalate a chaotic or violent situation. What makes sense to the officer may not make sense to the subject in question. When police officers are able to see the subject’s point of view, they can gain a greater understanding of the individual’s position, what they hope to accomplish, and how to communicate with them in a meaningful way.

While there are always going to be situations where officers are unable to effectively use de-escalation and may be forced to instead resort to deadly force, it should be a method that is considered and employed where possible. The most important thing is for them to diffuse the situation before any harm comes to innocent bystanders.

About National Police Association

The National Police Association (NPA) is a 501(C)3 non-profit organization, EIN 82-0647764, founded to educate supporters of law enforcement in how to help police departments accomplish their goals. The National Poice Association works to bring national and local attention to the anti-police efforts challenging effective law enforcement, building public support for needed actions through public service announcements, legal filings, articles authored for the NPA by law enforcement experts, and the NPA Report. For additional information, please visit

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