Not often a Vermont police chief writes an op-ed on the New York Times editorial page. But when Burlington Police Chief Brandon Del Pozo says American cops use their guns too much, the Times is all ears.
“Unarmed officers will cultivate an instinct to de-escalate: They will keep a safe distance, they will try to assess the true level of threat rather than see a weapon as a cue to rapidly escalate, and they will communicate in ways that reach people. There is good psychological research on what type of communication stands the best chance of calming people in distress, regardless of what is in their hands. And it is certainly not yelling at them or threatening their lives.
Only during the final phase of a police academy should trainees be presented with a firearm and taught how to use it. Officers should be taught that their weapons protect not only themselves and the public but also the life of the person who is armed and in distress, because they provide a means to stay safe if a calm and reassuring approach fails. By the end of academy, the officers will have learned that yelling at a person as you threaten to shoot is a panicked, last-ditch effort, not a sign of competence.