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Carlsbad Police to increase focus on de-escalation, crisis training

CARLSBAD — The Carlsbad Police Department announced on Tuesday during a Carlsbad City Council meeting that it will increase focus on de-escalation and crisis management training starting next year.

Following a motion made by Mayor Matt Hall in June, Capt. Mickey Williams led a presentation on training, use of force, and officers’ rights, depicting recent changes in police practices.

“The development and the investment in de-escalation and crisis management practices without a doubt [are] some of the biggest changes,” Williams said. “Peaceful resolutions [are] reflective of good policing, but the incentive or effort put towards making sure that every time we go out and handle an incident we’re doing the best we can to the extent we can, has been probably the biggest training change.”

Carlsbad City Council
Councilwoman Priya Bhat-Patel makes a motion during an Aug. 18 Carlsbad City Council meeting to hold a deeper discussion in the future on creating a Citizen Review Board for Carlsbad Police. Screenshot

Carlsbad Police will be shifting the focus from technical competency training to addressing crisis management, decision-making and de-escalation through quarterly training courses led by certified instructional officers.

“Each quarter of the year would have a different scenario that is broken down piece by piece through those three months to provide all the learning points for our officers, ultimately requiring our officers to actually, in a real practice scenario, do the work itself instead of just breaking it down into its pieces,” Williams said. “That’s where de-escalation decision-making, which includes communication, has to be at the forefront of our officers’ minds, and that’s the flip our training bureau is currently undergoing as it designs next year’s training evolutions.”

Moving forward, Councilwoman Priya Bhat-Patel suggested involving mental health professionals or social workers to strengthen CPD’s de-escalation and behavioral health training.

While responding to behavioral and mental health needs has become a greater responsibility for law enforcement, that training is not yet a part of a consistent routine for CPD, though it has been provided in the past.

A graph from the CPD breaks down arrests per year based on the ethnicity of civilians. Williams says approximately 65% were identified as white, 25% Hispanic, 8% Black and 3-5% were labeled as “other.” Screenshot
A graph depicting the ethnicities of civilians involved in police use of force incidents from 2017-19. Screenshot


Carlsbad Police Department
A graph of arrests and 5150s vs. use of force incidents per year. “The reason why we selected [arrests and 5150s] for the slide is, typically the use of force occurs at the time where an officer is going to take the person into physical custody,” Williams said. Screenshot
The council also reviewed three different forms of a Citizen Review Board (CRB), which provides civilian oversight over local law enforcement, including a broad monitoring board, a review-focused board to foster community-police relations, or an investigation-focused board for civilians to investigate complaints against officers.

Keyrollos Ibrahim, a member of Carlsbad Equality Coalition, supports the creation of citizen-led review boards and has worked directly with both Hall and Williams to initiate police reform. Ibrahim has met with all Carlsbad council members except Councilwoman Cori Schumacher, who has yet to accept the coalition’s invitation to meet.

“Our government is founded on checks and balances,” Ibrahim said. “Our Founding Fathers created a system that not only responded to the evils of the time but anticipated the evils of the future. The creation of a [CRB] that has the power to review use of force incidents and replace the forced arbitration process when it comes to removal of a problem officer, is central to maintaining public trust in policing and in this government.”

Reviewing Carlsbad Police data since 2017, Williams says each year there are approximately 2,000 arrests, along with 550 “5150s,” which is law enforcement code allowing officers to detain someone for mental health issues and take them to a medical facility for treatment.

Of those 2,550 cases, about 3% resulted in officers’ use of force each year, where about 55% of the civilians were white, 28% Hispanic, 9% Black and 8% were of another ethnicity.

According to Williams, use of force incidents are at a bare minimum “any act of an officer that causes more than momentary discomfort,” or “any strike, kick by an officer, whether it causes injury or not.”

Currently, incidents are internally reviewed within the Carlsbad Police Department and investigated by a supervisor, before being passed on to a lieutenant, then a captain. Carlsbad Police officers are also required to submit use of force incident data collection forms since 2016 to help the agency better analyze patterns of incidents.

The council planned to discuss the creation of a CRB at a later meeting, a motion supported by all except Hall. The council will review which of the three CRB setups would best suit Carlsbad with recommendations from city staff and an opportunity for public participation.