Alternate Methods in Police Training

A New Way of De-escalation Techniques for Police Officers

Police officers are starting to change their training by using de-escalation techniques and getting rid of the brutal force mentality. A local man in Delaware County named Alex Quintella is training police officers the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He teaches police officers for free in his studio two times a month.

Produced by Nicholas Marcellino

The Benefits of Training Police De-escalation Techniques

By Nicholas Marcellino

The death of George Floyd in summer 2020 sparked worldwide protests against excessive use of force by police officers, especially force against African Americans. When police officer Derek Chauvin placed his knee on Floyd’s neck, he cut off blood flow which ended up killing Floyd at the scene. As a result of this incident, scores of protests broke out across the U.S., some of which even turned into riots. This was all fueled by the outrage of police brutality.

Research shows that police officers are using brutal force in many different kinds of situations. NPR reports that a 13-year-old boy with autism was shot by a Salt Lake City police officer. “Golda Barton reportedly told officers that her son was unarmed, describing him as 'a kid ... trying to get attention, he doesn't know how to regulate.’ She said she was told to stay put when officers arrived at her house. Within minutes, Barton said, she heard voices yelling, ‘Get down on the ground,’ followed by several gunshots.” (Rachel Treisman) Incidents like these showcase the need for police to change their training on how to handle people with disabilities. 

One root cause of police brutality is racial discrimination and racial profiling. Racism and police brutality are not new issues, even though they emerged as prominent ones in recent years. In fact, one study reports that “89% of the people who died in NYPD custody between the years 1990 and 1994 were African American or Hispanic.” (Elisha). 

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2019 estimates that black men have a 1 in 1,000 chance of being killed by police during their lifetime. That’s 2.5 times greater than the number of non-Hispanic white men. Black women are 1.4 times more likely than white women to be killed by police. Men overall are 20 times more likely than women to be killed by police (Merrefield). 

After the school shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School in Parkland, there have been police officers with automatic rifles outside of the school. The African American students there report feeling uncomfortable at their school now as a result of the police presence. NPR reports that one freshman named Olivia said, "I looked over, and he looked right at me. And the way he stared at me was terrifying. Olivia continued, "He looked like I was a threat. I didn't feel like a person anymore, like all he was seeing was my skin. It just hurt so much .... to be seen like this, just because I'm Black." 

Mark Hoekstra is an economist at Texas A&M University. He conducted a poll about different races of police officers' dispatch and response to emergency calls. The data was based on two million 911 calls in two US cities. His results showed that more  white officers were likely to be dispatched into black neighborhoods, and they fired their guns five times more than when a black police officer is dispatched into the same neighborhood. Other statistics include: 1,000 civilians are killed each year by the police in the United States; and Black men are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by an officer in their lifetime than white men. 

In the journal Nature, a case was made for police officers to learn to de-escalate tense situations without brutal force or intimidation. Political leaders and activists cited in this journal are pushing for a change in police training. They are calling for body-worn cameras, de-escalation training, implicit-bias training, early intervention systems and the banning of chokeholds. According to the journal, “A survey of 47 of the largest US law-enforcement agencies between 2015 and 2017 found that 39% changed their use-of-force policies in 2015–16 and revised their training to incorporate tactics such as de-escalation.”

Quintella MMA Studio in Delaware County, Pa., teaches police officers how to use Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as a de-escalation technique and alternative to brutal force. By learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, police officers can handle a subject better. According to an article in The Daily Times, Police Chief David Madonna from Prospect Park, Pa., and his staff have been learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to control subjects who pose less risk. Currently, they have been training for over a year now. 

Alex Quintella, the studio’s owner, began training police officers in his native country of Brazil.

“When I moved to America, I met a bunch of different guys: police, SWAT team, secret service, FBI guys that wanted to learn what I know and that started everything 12 years ago," Quintella said. 

Quintella said that he is training police officers to defend themselves by keeping control of the subject without hurting them. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gets police officers out of grabs and escapes when somebody is attacking them. The goal here is to have fewer  police officers feel compelled to pull out their tools on their belts. “If everybody is doing the same thing that I’m doing here, think how many cops, how many police officers, are going to learn great things and we civilians are going to be safe,” Quintella said. 

There are models for police departments that want to learn to limit brutal force and partner with community members as public safety partners. This model exists in Camden, N.J., as an example. For many years, police officers in Camden saw themselves as warriors and always sought to dominate criminals. Crime was so bad that the chief of police couldn’t even put police on desk duty because of all of the violence that was happening in the streets. As reported in The Washington Post, “In 2012, we tallied 67 homicides, 172 shooting victims and 175 open-air drug markets.” With all of the events happening, the citizens of the town of Camden did not trust the police. 

In 2013, the police department took a new approach and started from scratch by letting every police officer go and having them reapply for their jobs if they wanted them. They ceased funding to the department and put funding into Camden county instead. Lastly, they were committed to making a new relationship with the citizens of Camden.

This fresh start showed good results. Homicides in Camden went down by 63 percent, fewer parents were burying their children and drug crimes have reduced rapidly. They engaged with the citizens and made efforts to build trust with the community. 

As the Camden model illustrates, new ways of policing and de-escalating brutal force tactics are possible. More importantly, they can lead to positive outcomes.


Alternatives to Brutal Force

Police officers are starting to change their training by using de-escalation techniques and getting rid of the brutal force mentality. A local man in Delaware County named Alex Quintella is training police officers the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He teaches police officers for free in his studio two times a month.

Produced by Nicholas Marcellino

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