The Wayne State University Police Department recently established the National De-escalation Training Center on its campus in Detroit. Its goal is to better train officers to identify, approach and resolve situations nonviolently.

The Wayne State University Police Department recently established the National De-escalation Training Center on its campus in Detroit. Its goal is to better train officers to identify, approach and resolve situations nonviolently.

Photo provided by Patrick Guarnieri

Wayne State establishes center for de-escalation training in law enforcement

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published August 7, 2020


DETROIT — Several law enforcement departments are in talks with the Wayne State University Police Department following its establishment as the regional headquarters for the National De-escalation Training Center.

Located on the university’s campus, the NDTC is a nonprofit entity aimed at teaching law enforcement professionals new techniques for addressing and resolving situations in a nonconfrontational and nonviolent manner.

“The goal is to reduce the number of instances where force comes into play. We had our first officers run through the program in March and April,” said Wayne State University Police Chief Anthony Holt. “We were ahead of the game since everyone started calling for more programs like this after the George Floyd incident in Minnesota, but it did encourage us to reach out to other departments to let them know this program is being offered.”

The program was developed by Patrick Guarnieri, former chairman of the board of the National Conference on Homeland Security as well as director of the National and Competitive Intelligence Program at the University of South Florida, which trains those going into organizations such as the NSA and CIA.

“The reason this training is different is because traditional de-escalation training, while excellent, is flawed,” he remarked. “It leaves open the option for aggression and it treats every single subject as having the same motivations, insecurities, moods and behaviors. We cater our de-escalation based on personality and how to determine that person’s personality traits. … We’re one of very few that are nonprofits as well.”

Guarnieri did state that there is a for-profit wing of the organization as well, but that it deals solely with corporations and private groups. All law enforcement and public entities work with the nonprofit wing.

Guarnieri started a pilot program in Texas in January. Two of Wayne State University’s officers went down there to vet the program. Holt said they came back and voiced their enthusiastic approval of the program. After working together, they decided to make Wayne State University one of the first locations in the country where officers could learn the technique.

“It’s a two-day training program. We do classroom work the first day and run through scenarios the second day. We can run shoot/don’t shoot training, hypothetical scenarios and face-to-face tests,” said Holt. “You start with de-escalation, you don’t walk up loud and in their face and then de-escalate, you need to start low and make sure the person you’re confronting knows you’re not out to get them — that you’re doing a job, you’re not looking to arrest them no matter what.”

Holt explained more about identifying personality types and how to work with each type of person.

“I was approached two years ago at a function and (Guarnieri) told me about this great program in Florida. He developed a de-escalation program called the ‘Escoterica Method’ where he divides people’s personalities into subsets and then allows officers to determine how to best respond based on what type of personalities they have,” said Holt. “This means how to respond whether they are dominant or submissive, whether they have mental health issues, and so forth. The goal is to ramp down a situation.”

Both said they are pleased with the results so far, despite not having yet been able to work with many departments due to the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“De-escalation deals with both the subject and the officer having a reduced risk for harm. It hopefully eliminates the need to use force for the officer to get what they need,” Guarnieri said. “Every officer I’ve spoken to says this model exceeds the traditional forms of de-escalation.”

Holt said they are getting community input on the program.

“We are inviting the community in to see this program and get input from groups like Black Lives Matter so we can talk about how they want the police to interact with them and how we can better do our jobs,” he said. “Training is only effective if it works from the top down and the officers willingly buy into it. This is not about putting officers at risk in deadly encounters where you know you are dealing with dangerous individuals; this is to teach officers how to proceed in situations such as traffic stops or getting them to recognize someone who is suffering from mental health issues. It lets them communicate better with homeless people who don’t want anything to do with the police. It’s about giving police officers more tools in the toolbox, not fewer.”

The hope is that this new program will better prepare officers for the kinds of situations that they will encounter in the course of their duties and ultimately reduce the chance of those encounters turning violent.

“We’re setting national standards,” Guarnieri said. “We have a state-of-the-art, evidence-based training program and we’re delivering it through these regional training centers across the country. It’s standardized and bringing best practices to law enforcement officers around the country.”