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INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department has begun training officers in new de-escalation tactics.

The improved curriculum comes as police departments around the country are re-examining their use of force procedures.

For several years, IMPD recruits have engaged in de-escalation training. The goal now is to ensure every officer learns the same techniques.

Armed with a plastic bat and acting as a mentally distressed man with police at his door, IMPD officers trained Wednesday in classroom scenarios, learning how to better communicate calmly with people in crisis.

“The idea behind this is to give our officers more tools to handle the situations they encounter every day,” said IMPD commander Catherine Cummings.

The new training is called ICAT, which stand for Integrating Communications, Assessment and Tactics.

Police reports show every day officers respond to disturbances involving suicidal suspects, the homeless or the mentally ill. Those encounters are often non-criminal, where suspects are behaving erratically but are not armed. 

That’s why improving communication and negotiation skills for every officer is a priority.

“I think it’s a benefit to the community to know we are constantly evaluating our training and our de-escalation skills,” said Cummings.

“It’s a great program culturally,” said major Nick Luce, IU’s director of public safety education. “I think this is the direction law enforcement needs to go.”

Major Luce believes the ICAT training program can result in fewer complaints of excessive use of force and re-build the public’s trust in law enforcement.

“I personally feel this is the model police departments need to incorporate when it comes to use of force,” said Luce.

“Sometimes the best thing to do is to back away, get cover and communicate,” said Chuck Wexler with the Police Executive Research Forum. 

As an architect of the curriculum, Wexler says the goal is simple.

“The whole idea of this is so that everybody can go home safe at night. In a nutshell, what we have done is operationalized what de-escalation is. It uses communication. It uses tactics, and be prepared to back off. The police don’t always have to win,” said Wexler.