Fort Worth police mandate de-escalation training for every officer

Fort Worth officers train to de-escalate tense calls

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Not one of more than 1600 Fort Worth officers will be able to skip what the chief is calling a welcome training session that advocates alternative strategies to high-stress situations.

The ICAT, or Integration Communications, Assessment and Tactics, training started this week for every single officer at the department's headquarter on Felix Street.

Put in groups of 100 men and women, the sessions are eight hours of intensive, hands-on work with trainers from the Police Executive Research Forum, or PERF.

"'Drop that knife! Drop the knife!' When that doesn't work, what other tools can we work, what other things can we say to help," is the approach that teachers such as Tom Wilson are trying to get across in the classes.

Wilson says the main goal is to provide officers with a different approach in high stress situations, especially in the wake of more public scrutiny of an officer's every move.

"Cops have historically said 'At some point, I have to draw a line in the sand. I'm not going to back up anymore.' Are your feet in lead? Can you back up? Can you reposition yourself? If that threat steps two feet at you, can you step two feet back," said Wilson.

The training comes after several high-profile, racial incidents have impacted the department.

The case involving Ofc. William Martin and his controversial arrest of an African-American family continues to drag on, despite that he has served his suspension.

And earlier this week, Chief Joel Fitzgerald fired an officer who says he accidentally shot a mentally ill man holding a BBQ fork in 2015. Courtney Johnson was criminally charged in the incident, but his case recently ended in a mistrial. 

"We all have growth, and we have a lot of work to do to repair some of the relationships we have here," Chief Fitzgerald said on Thursday.

The chief stressed that he wanted to do PERF training even before the recent negative publicity, but that the timing of it now could be beneficial.

Instructors focused on a wide range of techniques to help officers de-escalate a situation, rather than intensify it. 

Although mostly targeted toward mentally-ill persons, the training also focused on ways to approach people who might be in a temporary behavioral crisis, either by drugs or a sudden emotional or life change.

© 2017 WFAA-TV


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