BLUE ASH, Ohio -- How can police officers defuse potentially dangerous conflicts without resorting to force?
That's the question law enforcement representatives from across Hamilton County are hoping to answer this week at a four-day training at UC Blue Ash. Sixteen officers from a dozen different agencies are in the training class. They vary in scope from University of Cincinnati officers to smaller departments like Reading and Fairfax Police.
Blue Ash Police Chief Paul Hartinger is responsible for spearheading the training. He hopes all of his officers are eventually trained.
"The biggest part of the training is at first helping officers understand how to read people and who you're dealing with, who your audience is so you can understand what they're going, why they're acting the way they are or how we can better help them. And the only way to do that is understand what their problem is or what their crisis is," Hartinger said.
Police departments nationwide are focusing on this specialized training as a way to improve police-community relations and reduce officer-involved shootings. The program teaches officers how to prevent conflict while interacting with the public and how to safely resolve a conflict that has already escalated, using verbal techniques and critical thinking.
"So many times we see where officers go to a situation where there's a crisis and it gets out of hand and then the officers are sometimes put in a situation where the only thing they have left is to use some kind of hands-on or some force," Hartinger said. "We know that that doesn't turn out all the time to be a good situation. So what we want to do is we want to give officers other tools or other things to think about."
The de-escalation training was recommended by both President Obama in 2015 and reiterated by Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
This is the first time the program has been offered in Hamilton County. Instructors for the workshop are from Vistelar, a Milwaukee-based conflict management training company. The training is in partnership with the Blue Ash Police Department and the Hamilton County Police Association.