Philly Cops Awarded for Not Shooting First

Dozens of police officers have been awarded as part of an effort to prevent the use of excessive force.

Highway Patrol Images | Wikimedia Commons

Highway Patrol Images | Wikimedia Commons

More than 40 Philadelphia police officers have received awards since December for defusing conflicts without shooting, clubbing or using excessive force against anyone, the Associated Press reports.

It’s part of an effort to emphasize “de-escalation” in police work, a nationwide trend following the deadly shootings of people of color in places like Chicago, Ferguson and Cleveland.

The U.S. Department of Justice recommended that Philadelphia, in particular, establish the award, known as the Medal of Tactical De-escalation. The feds examined the Philadelphia Police Department following a rise in police-involved shootings in 2012, and later released a 96-page collaborative reform initiative with city police.

“An officer going home is of paramount importance to us, but everybody should have an opportunity to go home if that presents itself,” Police Commissioner Richard Ross told the AP. “This is an effort to slow down situations for the sake of everybody concerned.”

The AP reports that in February, Philadelphia Officer Eric Tyler was recognized for using a stun gun instead of a firearm on a suspect who threatened to shoot his colleague. Tyler said he has never shot anyone in his 12-year career.

He briefly considered using his firearm but decided against it, and the suspect turned out to be unarmed. “I thought better of it, and our training took over,” Tyler said. “With everything that’s going on in policing, sometimes you have to think to de-escalate things. Somebody has to be a calming force.”

The PPD is one of several organizations in the country that has adopted awards for conflict de-escalation, including the Los Angeles Police Department (the Preservation of Life award) and the Justice Department (Community Policing Awards).

Phillip Goff of the Center for Policing Equity, a think tank, said such awards help to change attitudes among law enforcement officials.

The efforts have received some complaints. The Los Angeles police union called the Preservation of Life award “a terrible idea” in a blog post and said it would “prioritize the lives of suspected criminals over the lives of LAPD officers and goes against the core foundation of an officer’s training.”

But Tyler told a different story. He said de-escalation training hasn’t made him hesitate to use necessary force; it’s simply caused him to make better judgments.

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