YAKIMA, WA - This week, Yakima Police is having their entire department, including Chief Dominic Rizzi, go through training that could potentially avoid future police shootings. YPD is doing de-escalation training they're calling "Integrating Communications, Assessment and Tactics."
The training is split into two parts; the first is spending at least four hours in a classroom watching videos of how other officers across the country have responded to 9-1-1 calls. In some cases, less than lethal force was used. But there were also others where officers had no choice but to pull out their gun and open fire to stop a threat.
"We don't want to use force," said Officer Jared Nesary, lead instructor for the course. "We want to solve every problem with voluntary compliance. By far, I would much rather have more and more training. Give me as much as I can, because it benefits us as well as the community we serve."
After the classroom portion, officers then went to a portion of State Fair Park in Yakima to participate in very different but basic scenarios they may have already responded to or could be called to during their career.
Scenarios included a property owner calling 9-1-1 because they found a homeless man sleeping under some stairs. Officers had to assess how they would approach the man who was sleeping with a hammer next to his sleeping bag. In this scenario, the man told officers he would comply and leave the property.
In another case, someone called 9-1-1 because of a woman with a large knife sitting on a bench talking to herself. She told officers that aliens wanted to kill her so she had the knife to protect herself. Officers were able to get the woman to comply by having her leave the knife on the bench and walk towards them after promising they could keep her safe.
Some of the actors in the various scenarios volunteered their time to help bridge the gap between police and mental illness.
"I've had this happen where police officers have came out and some of them didn't quite know what to do or what to say," said Jackie, a volunteer.
"The family is really important," said another volunteer, Mary. "They can be a problem and I understand that but often they can be a real help to giving the information that the officers need."
But not every call in the real world will have a peaceful solution. There was one scenario during Thursday's training that would have forced the officer to use deadly force if they found themselves in a similar situation in real life.
But YPD is way ahead of the pack compared to the rest of the state with police training. Washington State law requires every single officer have 24 hours of training a year... and Yakima Police says their officers average at least 100 hours of training every year.
Yakima Police will wrap up the de-escalation course on Friday.