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​New Haven Police de-escalation training now emphasizes more listening

Retired New Haven Police Lieutenant Ray Hassett, who is teaching the revamped program, says moments matter in de-escalation training.

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Typically, New Haven Police officers receive de-escalation training in some form every three years but now, in the climate in which we live, it could become mandated annually.

Retired New Haven Police Lieutenant Ray Hassett, who is teaching the revamped program, says moments matter in de-escalation training.

"If you miss a moment it could end up going sideways and end up in life and death," Hassett said.

He’s teaching what’s called the New Face of De-escalation Series to New Haven Police officers.

"This training is all about bringing back the human into policing," he said. 

While New Haven police officers are very well trained in solving problems, Hassett says there’s more to it.

"Even though a person may call us for help they might not be ready to receive the help," he explained.

He said the key with this de-escalation training is to get officers to focus on what their subject is feeling, not necessarily what they’re thinking "because feelings or emotion-driven and our whole culture right now is emotionally driven," Hassett continued.

In the past, he says, officers might have rushed because they are trained to apply a tool, but this approach takes a step back and incorporates more listening.

"Having the other person feel they have our full attention so that we can have a connection," he said.

When there’s a connection between two human beings then there’s trust.

"This training was slated to begin last year but due to Covid we had to delay it because this is the type of training that really needs to be in person," said Acting Police Chief Renee Dominguez.

This de-escalation training began last month, and they bill it as customer service-based training.

"We are delivering customer service," said Dominguez. "Sometimes unfortunately we have to deliver that in situations that tensions are high, people are angry."

"I think this is why we are so focused as well on creating a crisis response team, where in some cases an officer may not be the right person to respond to a call," said Mayor Justin Elicker (D-New Haven).

   

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