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New police training focuses on de-escalation in crisis incidents

MADISON (WKOW) — A local police department is training officers to re-think their response to a critical incident.

UW-Madison police have adopted a new training program focusing on de-escalation to supplement using force. The officers are learning how to better communicate with people who may be experiencing a mental health crisis: to talk them down from a potentially dangerous situation. 

The officers began their new training this week at the Madison College Protective Services Education Center. They ran through a variety of scenarios — some ending peacefully, others escalating. 

"Making the officer actually go physically through those steps, which just adds to their tool box so when they go out on the street tomorrow they’ve dealt with a couple different situations," said Capt. Jason Whitney.

Whitney started researching the Integrating Communications, Assessment and Tactics (ICAT) training about a year ago. Several additional officers have been certified as instructors to put on their two-day training session this week. 

Officer Shane Driscoll participated in the scenarios. He says he learned police have more time to handle a situation than they might think to keep people from getting hurt. 

"There’s a lot of stuff in the media now that doesn’t portray police departments in a good light and this is the kind of training that’s going to help officers make better decisions down the line and make sure that people go home safe," said Driscoll.

UWPD is the only agency in Dane County, and one of few in the Midwest, using this relatively new training program to encourage defusing an incident when possible. 

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