ESCONDIDO — Following incidents of police brutality across the nation over the past year that sparked widespread outrage and calls for police reform, the Escondido Police Department announced last week that they have established a stand-alone de-escalation policy.
The policy says that officers should gather all of the information they can before entering a potentially tense situation. It also says that officers should use tactics to lower the intensity during these encounters.
Officers are called to stay calm, listen to the individual in question and use clear and concise language
If necessary, officers can disengage, or walk away from a situation, as long as the person isn’t a threat to others.
De-escalation practices and training have been a part of the department for years, however, this is the first stand-alone de-escalation policy the department has created.
Escondido Police Chief Ed Varso told The Coast News that the department worked with North San Diego NAACP, the North County LGBTQ Resource Center, as well as a few other groups to allow some community input on the policy.
“For the department, it’s another commitment that we’re making,” Varso said. “De-escalation alone will not solve every problem that we face… however when we have moments where we can think ahead and come up with a strategy, this policy… will allow us to more consistently apply what we’ve practiced over the years.”
Police departments nationwide have been in the spotlight since the deaths of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Minn. in May 2020 and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police in Louisville, Ky. in March 2020, sparking numerous protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Residents have since been demanding police reform from city and county governments, including in Escondido. Many residents even called on the city to divest funds from police and reallocate them to non-police forms of public safety, such as social services and other community resources.
“A lot of my desire to create a stand-alone policy came out of having conversations with the community over the last year,” Varso said. “what stood out to me in speaking to the community after what happened in Minneapolis was to really look at how we can improve this even more and strengthen it and take what we already do in practice and actually apply it to policy.”
Varso said that officers have also been undergoing training on things like implicit bias, LGBTQ issues and other areas that will help them better understand and connect with the community.
He added that the department is also spending time looking at the types of services they provide such as helping people with substance abuse issues, homelessness issues, mental health issues, etc.