Does de‐escalation training work? A systematic review and call for evidence in police use‐of‐force reform [2020]

Research Summary
De‐escalation training has been widely implemented by U.S. police agencies in the wake of adverse public reaction to recent controversial police use‐of‐force incidents. Despite vast promotion from politicians, academics, expert panels, and the public, we know little about the effects of de‐escalation training on officers and police–citizen interactions. In this article, we offer findings from a multidisciplinary systematic literature review that demonstrate limited knowledge concerning the impact of de‐escalation training across all professions. We identified 64 de‐escalation training evaluations conducted over a 40‐year period, primarily in the fields of nursing and psychiatry.

Policy Implications
Although assessment outcomes reveal few adverse consequences and provide some confidence that de‐escalation trainings lead to slight‐to‐moderate individual and organizational improvements, conclusions concerning the effectiveness of de‐escalation training are limited by the questionable quality of almost all evaluation research designs. As such, important questions regarding the impact of de‐escalation training for police remain. Given the critical impact that de‐escalation training could have on officers and the public they serve, we conclude with a direct call to academics, practitioners, and funders across the field of policing to prioritize as soon as possible the testing of de‐escalation and other police use‐of‐force policies, tactics, and training.

Robin S. Engel, Hannah D. McManus, Tamara D. Herold
Criminology & Public Policy, 31 January 2020