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Escondido Police Department creates standalone de-escalation policy

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.

4 comments

Eric March 23, 2021 at 11:06 am

Same. And I notice they didn’t even “work with” the other two groups, they “took some input”. In my experience, that means the mentioned groups were asked for suggestions, and then those suggestions were promptly ignored.

What about civilian oversight? What about disciplinary measures for officers who fail to follow the de-escalation policy? What exactly even are the criteria and procedures in the new use of force policy?

The police are clearly trying to get ahead of the public with this facade before they’re forced into real accountability

Renee Johnson March 23, 2021 at 7:12 am

I live in Escondido right across from the Arts Center and I have observed young officers dealing with people who are homeless exhibiting mental health issues. I worked at Donovan State Prison specifically with inmates with the same kind of mental challenges. KUDOS to these officers . They are professional and follow protocol with appropriate combination of de escalation techniques without using excessive force. Keep up the good work.

Carmen March 21, 2021 at 2:20 pm

It’s all great that our Chief Varso is working with the NAACP and LGBT groups, but how about the majority of Escondido residents in our Latino Community. I am not impressed by the smoke and mirrors trick!

Lynda StarWriter March 21, 2021 at 12:32 pm

You couldn’t pay me enough to serve the public in law enforcement; the job requirements are stringent and gets more so, out in the field. I know it takes a personal toll on the officers, too. This is not to detract from uniformed miscreants who exist out there. I’m all for continuous, in-house training, too. As a retired firefighter | paramedic | 911 dispatcher and RN, with 30+ years in the public safety arena, having conversations with folks cast into the middle of a life-threatening situation involving, or not involving, a deadly weapon, fists, battery, car wrecks, murders – essentially, mayhem like you wouldn’t believe, is the reason for public safety and law enforcement personnel. I crack up when I watch law enforcement shows depicting the ONE, heroic officer leaping tall buildings and chasing criminals on foot, cornering the alleged criminal (AC), who’s holding a hostage with a loaded gun to his/her head, only to render a lengthy, persuasive monologue to the AC to drop the weapon. Sheesh, howdy! In Real Life-101A, I’d bet no one who’s on the lamb for illegal reasons, and is caught by law enforcement, gains respect for the authorities doing their job, persuasive monologue or not.
I’d sure hate to call 911 for a cop during a domestic dispute or a burglary in progress and have a social worker show up instead. Worse, declining budget allocations to municipal law enforcement agencies to ensure the cops are great at rendering persuasive monolgues.

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