San Diego police

New San Diego Police Deescalation Policy: Is It Enough?

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, along with San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit, announced on Wednesday the implementation of two police policy changes, including deescalating the use of force and officer intervention in use-of-force incidents.

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On Wednesday the San Diego Police Department announced new policies to reduce the use of force and hold officers accountable. The deescalation policy will require officers, when safe and reasonable, to use techniques that can resolve situations either through lower levels of force -- or no force at all.

A retired San Diego County law enforcement officer, Cameron Gary, told NBC 7 on Thursday, though, that more can be done when it comes to police reform, specifically in changing the police culture.

“You cannot incarcerate your way to civility; more jail time is not the answer,” Gary said.

Gary previously worked as the San Diego County District Attorney’s investigating supervisor and for the San Diego County Sheriff's Department. Throughout his career, Gary said, he's seen changes to police training. At one point, he was teaching defensive tactics and use-of-force training.

"More jail time is not the answer."

Cameron Gary

“So things are much different now," Gary said. "I’m not saying it was wrong back then, but now there's a lot more emphasis on verbal judo. There's a lot more emphasis just on hostage negotiation, crisis negotiation, conflict deescalation."

The other policy SDPD implemented on Wednesday outlines an officer’s duty to intervene and stop another officer if they are using unreasonable force and also requires reporting the incident to a supervisor.  

“The public is not our adversary; we're not there to dominate them,” Gary said. “We have to change that mentality, and so if we understand that we are there to serve them, we are there to be their partner, then I think we'll have more success.”

SDPD policy changes include creating a “buffer zone,” which will be done by calling on specialized groups such as PERT (Psychiatric Emergency Response Team) or homeless outreach teams. Gary said these groups already exist within police departments but that efforts need to be made to make these resources more available.

“The problem is you don't have them all the time," Gary said. "Is there going to be a PERT person available at 3 o'clock in the morning on a Tuesday? That's the issue. When there is a person that's stuck in the drive-through at Wendy's, you know who they call: They're going to call the police because the police are there 24-7."

The California deescalation bill, AB 392, took effect in January, requiring police departments to put forward policies by next year.

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