MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - More than 30 new Minneapolis police officers took to the streets Monday, and there is a new way of doing business. A change in the Minneapolis Police Department's use of force policy now requires officers to emphasize de-escalation techniques in situations where they might have previously used deadly force.
Officers have been trained in de-escalation for some time: things like verbal techniques to calm a suspect down or backing off to give everyone breathing room. But these tactics were only encouraged before, now they will be required whenever it is reasonable.
It is a bold step, and potentially, a controversial one as well. The policy change was one of a number of changes MPD announced at city hall on Monday.
“If we kept going the way we were, we’re going to be where we’ve been. That’s not what we’re going to do anymore,” Chief Janeé Harteau said.
Harteau believes the department changes announced at city hall on Monday could make a big impact, beginning with a change to the department’s mission statement, which now includes the phrase, “sanctity of life.”
Harteau said de-escalation has now become the foundation of the department’s use of force policy.
“We have taught and told officers we want quick resolution, hurry up, answer that call, get to the next call, hurry up and resolve this situation, he’s got a knife, he’s got a gun, take care of that quick” Harteau said. “And we’re saying you know what? Slow down. Slow down for everybody involved, and slow down for the officers.”
Harteau would not say whether it would have made a difference in the Jamar Clark case, which from start to finish lasted 61 seconds.
But, the approach marks a significant departure from the way many officers are trained – they are taught that there is a 21-foot rule, in which officers could, and should use, deadly force against an aggressor.
The chief says some of these changes come through her work with the Police Executive Research Forum. She's a board member of this group that's been consulting the MPD for nearly 20 years.
Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis president Bob Kroll told Fox 9 he believes de-escalation can put officers and the public in jeopardy, and officers can lose a tactical advantage.