Mr. Wexler’s group will meet with hundreds of police leaders in Washington this week to call for a new era of training, one that replaces truisms such as the 21-foot rule with lessons on defusing tense situations and avoiding violent confrontations. While the Justice Department and chiefs of some major police departments are supportive, the effort has not been widely embraced, at least so far. Some police unions and others have expressed skepticism, saying officers are being unfairly criticized.
“All this chatter just increases the idea that these encounters are avoidable and law enforcement is at fault,” said Jeff Roorda of the St. Louis Police Officers’ Association, who said officers already thought about ways to avoid confrontations.
The typical police cadet receives about 58 hours of training on how to use a gun and 49 hours on defensive tactics, according to a recent survey by Mr. Wexler’s group. By comparison, cadets spend just eight hours learning to calm situations before force is needed, a technique called de-escalation.
“Everything now is: You get there, you see a guy with a knife, you resolve it,” said Mr. Wexler, a former senior Boston police official. In many situations, he said, officers who find themselves 21 feet from a suspect can simply take a step backward to buy themselves time and safety.
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