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On the left, a police officer places his hand on the shoulder of a man in distress. On the right, a graphic represents the incident management intervention model.

Training puts focus on de-escalation

Focusing on de-escalation can help further reduce the number of times force is used. Credit: RCMP


The RCMP 2020 Police Intervention Options Report found 99.9 per cent of officer encounters are resolved naturally or successfully de-escalated, and now officers are learning more techniques to further reduce the number of times force is used.

The Incident Management Intervention Model (IMIM) is a guide that helps RCMP officers assess and manage risk in all encounters with the public to determine what intervention is needed. The annual online IMIM re-certification training has been updated with an increased focus on crisis intervention and de-escalation (CID).

"We deal with crises of varying degrees on the majority of calls we go to," says Cpl. Nick Widdershoven with the RCMP's National Police Intervention Unit in Ottawa. "Crisis intervention and de-escalation is about how we can talk to people, how we can work things out and how we can resolve what we were called for."

Communication is key

Cpl. Travis Hallett works at the RCMP's Depot training academy in Regina and delivers lessons on the IMIM and CID. He says the updated training puts a greater emphasis on communication, breaking down the steps officers can take to help calm a situation. The training outlines how officers can assess a situation, make a plan, build rapport through active communication and work with a person to de-escalate the situation.

"The vast majority of what we do is through our words. It's very important we have that training" says Hallett. "The goal is always to de-escalate and have that person participate in what's happening so they're in a little more control of the outcome as well."

A new model

The graphic that depicts the IMIM is a visual aid helping officers picture an event and explain why they used an intervention method. It reflects the dynamic nature of police work, and has been updated alongside the training to focus on communication. The words "crisis intervention and de-escalation" now surround the entire graphic, emphasizing the pivotal role of talking in all police interactions with the public.

The model doesn't lead officers through a stepped progression of intervention options. Instead, it guides officers through options based on the situation as they form a continuous risk assessment on tactical considerations, the officer's perceptions, situational factors, and subject behaviour.

Mental health reminders

The updated training also includes a section on acute and chronic stress, reminding officers of the impacts on mental health that their work can have. The lesson includes case studies based on lived experiences of RCMP officers.

"There's a lot of research in the lesson and we found without including the real world stories where it's applied, it can fall a little flat," say Widdershoven. "Members can see 'This is what I can do' and 'This is how it benefitted somebody else.'"

Reminding officers about operational stress and the emotional impact that a crisis can have on them also promotes empathy, as officers may relate to members of the public dealing with a crisis.

The updated online course is one of many projects to modernize the RCMP's operational tools and technologies.

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