Tempe, Arizona

Measuring the Impact of De-escalation Training

Tempe Police Vehicle

Tempe Police Patch

Site LE Agency
Tempe Police Department

Site Researcher
White, Ph.D., Arizona State University

Site Focus
Organizational change

SPI Strategy
Community engagement, Community-oriented policing, Crisis Intervention Training

Site Cohort

Site Profile
Mid-sized urban area of 40.22 sq. miles with a population of 182,498

Project Overview

Though de-escalation is beginning to diffuse widely and rapidly in law enforcement, there is very little research on the effectiveness of de-escalation training. The Tempe SPI will develop and rigorously test a newly-designed violence de-escalation training, using a randomized controlled trial design. The training will be anchored in an innovative, peer-nomination process that asks all officers to identify the top de-escalators in the department, and then harnesses top de-escalators’ expertise to design the training. The Tempe SPI team and their Arizona State University research partners will conduct focus groups with top de-escalators, whereby officers will review body-worn camera footage of dozens of forceful and de-escalated police encounters and, using a sentinel events-type approach, will identify key principles of effective de-escalation. Once the principles of effective de-escalation have been identified, the top de-escalators, SPI team, and Tempe PD training instructors will convene to develop a unique de-escalation training, anchored in the key principles identified in the focus groups, the identified best practices from the available literature (Crisis Intervention and Mindfulness Training), and the collective expertise of the SPI team. The SPI team will test whether the de-escalation training produced measurable change in officers’ use of de-escalation tactics, led to fewer complaints and use of force, as well as whether the training led to enhanced officer and citizen perceptions of their encounters.

Data Highlight

  • The SPI team will observe and collect official police data (e.g. Use of force, citizen complaints, officer and suspect injuries) on both Treatment and Control groups over a year long period to assess officer outcomes related to handling police-citizen encounters.
  • The SPI team will survey Treatment and Control officers before de-escalation training and three times following training. These surveys will address officer attitudes about use of force, citizen behaviors, de-escalation, and their use of de-escalation in the recent past.
  • The SPI team will randomly select five officers from the Treatment group and five from the Control group weekly and:
    • Conduct phone interviews with each citizen who interacted with one of the selected officers in the prior 7 days. The interview will capture citizen attitudes about the encounter, officer use of force/citizen resistance, and the degree to which the officer used de-escalation.
    • Review body-worn camera footage for three randomly selected encounters of officers’ encounters with citizens, up to 150 encounters for each group. Observers will use a data collection tool that captures key variables for each encounter including citizen, officer, and situational characteristics as well as indicators of de-escalation.