Arizona police officers will receive special training in "de-escalation" tactics when responding to calls of bullying and fist fights at middle and high schools. The training is meant to calm down situations with communication rather than physical force.
Lawmakers have approved one million dollars in funding for the training. It is specific to altercations that don’t involve extreme violence, or school shootings which require different protocol.
The program is the result of a tweet from State Representative Alma Hernandez following Governor Doug Ducey’s State of the State address in January. Hernandez said Ducey should do more to train officers who respond to school altercations. The governor asked Hernandez to join a committee to develop new strategies.
Twelve years ago, when Hernandez was in high school in Tucson, she suffered a spinal cord injury when a police officer tried to break up a fight.
"I was on the ground and had two people on top of me and then the officer ended up getting in on that and actually doing the opposite of what he was there to do” Hernandez said.
While the training may be new to some police departments, the Flagstaff Police Department says it’s been training its officers in student “de-escalation’ tactics for a few years. Sergeant Charles Hernandez – no relation to Alma Hernandez - is public relations officer with the department.
"What these tools do is to not only learn the communication skills ourselves…but we are actually able to teach the students how to communicate in a more empathetic manner to have a more logical way to resolve their conflicts” Hernandez said.
Charles Hernandez said the effort has already cut down on aggression between students and officers. The mandatory training goes into effect for police departments statewide on this month.