Expert officer perceptions of de-escalation in policing

Natalie Todak, Michael D. White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to examine perceptions of de-escalation among police officers who were nominated by peers as the most skilled at this strategy. Design/methodology/approach: A peer nomination process identified eight skilled de-escalators in one department. Interviews were conducted with the officers individually. Additionally, in a focus group, the officers watched and debriefed body-worn camera videos for themes related to de-escalation. Findings: Officers defined de-escalation as bringing calm to a conflict using the least amount of force possible. They said it could also be used preventatively. They identified de-escalation tactics, characteristics of skilled de-escalators and situations in which de-escalation is less effective. Originality/value: This study initiates research into a much discussed but rarely researched topic. Future studies should continue to work toward a definition of de-escalation and understand how it can be used in policing to reduce violence, protect life and enhance police legitimacy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)832-846
Number of pages15
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2 2019


  • De-escalation
  • Focus group
  • Interviews
  • Police
  • Training
  • Use of force

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Public Administration
  • Law


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