AUSTIN, Texas - Austin police officers are focusing on minimizing their use of force. De-escalation training came after several controversial shootings involving APD officers in the past few years.
The officers learned techniques to bring a heightened situation down before it turns violent using a simulation of a situation that could very well happen in real life.
Austin police officers use the tool to practice decision making.
"It's really bringing into focus, more of the big picture of what's going on and gathering more information so that officers can slow things down," Austin Police Officer Dustin Lowe said.
It also helps officers develop a plan when someone may be in crisis.
"It provides a safe environment for the officer to utilize the skills and, you know, make those mistakes if they have to because the best place to make mistakes is in training," Lowe said.
The training also helps prepare them for the streets.
"It helps bring down, anxiety on calls, it helps put them in a situation to where they feel more comfortable handling things without having to escalate that situation," Lowe said.
The Austin Police Department has been involved in several shootings. Some community members believe officers should have de-escalated further.
In April 2020, APD officers responded to a call about a man in a parking lot possibly doing drugs. When officers arrived, they said Michael Ramos was not obeying their commands, they used beanbags, then Ramos got into his car and started driving. APD Officer Christopher Taylor then opened fire.
On January 5, 2021, an on-duty APD officer shot Alex Gonzales after Gonzales was involved in a road rage incident with an off-duty APD officer.
In November 2022, a caller said his neighbor was outside with a shotgun and seemed to be scared of something inside his home. When APD officers arrived, one yelled ‘drop the gun’ and fired multiple times, killing Raj Moonesinghe.
"That’s what ICAT is all about is trying to minimize those use of force incidents," Lowe said.
Each one of those officers who fired their guns in those situations have received this training, as all APD officers have done so since 2018.