While police consider tactical communication as one way to de-escalate a situation, they also view use of force and less-lethal weapons, such as Tasers, pepper spray and bean-bag rounds, as options. They tend to view it as a continuum of recourse and outcomes, with deadly force as the worst-case scenario.
“If I walk into a level 10 (situation) and I’m able to turn it down to a level five, that’s de-escalation,” Sheriff’s Department training Sgt. Michael Pepin said recently.
For instance, if deputies were to respond to a report of someone armed with a piece of glass, they wouldn’t be able to go hands-on, Pepin said. One de-escalation alternative: pepper spray, he said.
Some community members disagree.
“The problem is they equate de-escalation with non-lethal,” said Yusef Miller of the Racial Justice Coalition San Diego.
He believes less-lethal options, such as firing pepper balls and unleashing police dogs, actually escalate situations, triggering the flight-or-fight response of the person subjected to the force.
Police officials said force is unavoidable in some situations. When there’s an imminent threat, time is not on their side. In a nod to the scrutiny police face in the age of cellphones and calls for police reform, some officials said it’s much easier to “Monday morning quarterback” than to deal with a threat in the moment.