Elkhart Police training focuses on de-escalation in midst of civil unrest

NOW: Elkhart Police training focuses on de-escalation in midst of civil unrest

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ELKHART, Ind. - Police in Elkhart are focusing their training on de-escalation techniques and practices in order to keep interactions with potential suspects non-violent. In the wake of nationwide civil unrest resulting from the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Elkhart Police go through training year-round, but Thursday's session was a yearly occurrence where officers go through multiple scenarios that require different sets of skills in a single day.

"We have four different stations set up, four different scenarios," said Dan Milanese, captain of the Services Division of the Elkhart Police Department. "An officer, in one shift, actually may go to where somebody's dealing with a crisis, whether that's a mental or physical crisis, whatever that may be. You may have somebody come up on a call then leave that call. They may have to go to a call where someone's involved in some sort of altercation. That could be physical or verbal. They have to deal with that. They may have to go then jump right into a felony stop and have somebody come out of that vehicle for whatever situation put them in that, and then, they may even go into an active shooter."

The scenarios are designed to be as realistic as possible, but officers in charge say doing so is difficult because you have to "prepare for the unimaginable," but they always try to keep training proactive as opposed to reactive.

"Well, Training's always evolving," Milanese said. "It's always moving forward. It's always different. What we had as far as tools two years ago, three years ago or four years ago are different than what we have now. So, analyzing things that happen and re-evaluate what our training is, we do that all the time, constantly. So, we constantly want to evolve. We constantly want to try and have the best outcome we can."

Each officer had a training weapon during the drills, but Elkhart Police Lt. Travis Snider said those are only there because an officer's firearm is an "integral part of each day, but they are not the emphasis of this training." In fact, the goal of the training is the exact opposite.

"(What we've been) quite heavy on the last several years is actually working on a de-escalation program where the officers are trained specifically on how to look for certain things, how to deal with people in either a crisis, mental state, whatever's happening and really start to a

Outside of some demonstration shots to show how the training weapons simulate actual police firearms, not a shot was fired during Thursday's training session.

Police say the biggest change from the incident in 2018 where two Elkhart Officers were caught on camera punching a handcuffed suspect has led to a greater emphasis on de-escalation in training. Training officials said the goal is to make sure officers have the tools necessary to keep any altercation peaceful.

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