Texas' basic peace officer course was last revised in 2014 and will be overhauled sooner than later. Currently, DPD deputy chief Jeff Cotner is leading a TCLE committee undertaking a yearlong review of the 643-hour course, flack Gretchen Grisby said. Your correspondent emailed Cotner to inquire as to whether de-escalation tactics are being considered in that review but didn't immediately hear back.
An August 2015 PERF report recommends the "overhaul of police training, policy, supervision and culture on use of force." While many high-profile shootings may have been legally justified, the report said, "there were missed opportunities" to calm things down before shots were fired. Instead of training officers on what they can legally do, PERF suggests officers receive training on what they should do.
PERF surveyed 281 police agencies, which spent about 58 hours training on firearms, 49 hours on defensive tactics and eight hours on de-escalation and crisis intervention. Traditionally, officers are taught to use deadly force when it's justified, not necessarily to slow things down. Critics say the tactics are time-consuming when time is particularly of the essence.
Still, police in Dallas, New York City, Kansas City, Seattle and Los Angeles have recently added training on the subject. Excessive force complaints against DPD officers are on track to be the lowest this year in 20 years, a drop Chief David Brown attributes to de-escalation training.
Will Texas join them? Ranjana Natarajan, director of the Civil Rights Clinic at UT's law school, hopes so.
"Police departments still have a ways to go in terms of training officers to use only the amount of force necessary and not use force at all when it's not necessary," she said. "We have to go on improving use of force."
Ed. note: Eva Ruth Moravec, the latest addition to Grits' mighty cadre of contributing writers, covered crime, courts and government for the San Antonio Express-News for six years, where she repeatedly impressed Grits with the quality and professionalism of her work. She covered the 2015 Texas legislative session for the Associated Press. Her freelance writing has appeared in The Daily Beast, The Washington Post, and other outlets. She is currently attending grad school at UT Austin studying data-based journalism. Eva's a super-talented young gun who Grits feels blessed to add to the roster, which has grown damn impressive over the last couple of months, don't you think?