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Sgt. Ryan Doty, a spokesperson for the Des Moines Police Department, said the administration has integrated some aspects of de-escalation into regular training, but they don't teach it as a stand-alone skillset. "During use-of-force training, we talk about de-escalation as an option," he said. "We also teach tactical speech" to recruits and existing officers.
But it's difficult, he said, to force experienced officers to change. "You have officers who have been doing a job for 20 or 25 years a certain way, every day. And this is how they talk to people and this is how they handle things. And then to come in and say, 'You really need to rethink that and you need to do this. And you should do this.' Sometimes it's hard to really get them to buy into that."
Doty couldn't say whether de-escalation techniques might have made a difference in the Bolinger case. "I don't want to second-guess the actions of that officer," he said. Miller was cleared by a grand jury in the shooting.
"We find that sometimes with people who are acting irrationally, due to either drugs, alcohol, or mental illness, de-escalation techniques sometimes are ineffective," Doty said. "It's hard to reason."
Shot after fleeing
On the night of Feb. 2, 2016, part-time officer Francis Schulze of the Carbondale, Penn., police department was standing in his yard talking to his landlord on the phone when he heard Joseph Molinaro and his girlfriend arguing loudly nearby.
Schulze walked out to his driveway and yelled "Yo" twice, by his own account. Failing to get a response, Schulze went into his house and grabbed his pistol, putting it into his waistband before approaching the couple.
After a brief, hostile interaction — during which Schulze said he asked, "What's the problem?" and Molinaro responded, "You don't want a ... problem" — Schulze said Molinaro walked toward him. This prompted Schulze to point his gun at Molinaro, who was unarmed, and scream, "Show me your ... hands!"
Molinaro took off running, with Schulze in pursuit down a dark street, where he shot him, fatally.
Schulze, who had received no de-escalation training as a city officer according to department records, is currently facing first and third degree murder charges.
Police Chief Brian Bognatz could not be reached for comment.
But Schulze's attorney, Corey Kolcharno, a former assistant district attorney, said his client was well-trained and had learned some de-escalation techniques a few years before the shooting, while in the police training academy.
"This was not Frank Schulze going to look for Joe Molinaro," he said. "This danger, this incident, this intoxicated person, this criminal came to Frank Schulze that night." He said Schulze handled the situation appropriately, responding to what he perceived to be a threat. "When he wouldn't listen to his commands, Molinaro escalated the situation."
Could Schulze have gone into his house and grabbed a baton or pepper spray instead of a gun? "Yes, in addition to the weapon," Kolcharno said. "But if Molinaro pulls a knife or a weapon, pepper spray does crap for him. He was trained to stop a threat. He was trained to be proactive, not reactive."
Kolcharno called the charges against Schulze, "beyond disgraceful."
Cornered and killed
In Kenosha, Wis., on March 14, 2015, veteran officer Pablo Torres shot and killed Aaron Siler after trying to arrest him on a felony warrant.
Siler fled in his car and Torres followed in a high-speed chase until Siler crashed and began running. Torres chased him, jumping fences, until finally cornering Siler in an auto body shop behind a car.
Torres pulled out his gun and yelled for Siler to "get down on the ground," by his own account. He said Siler stood up, screamed an obscenity and said, "Shoot me." Torres said he thought Siler had picked up a metal pipe, but it turned out he was holding only a 5-gallon bucket.
The incident took place on Torres's first day back on patrol after having shot and wounded another man 10 days earlier, a suicidal Vietnam veteran who was holding two knives. Torres was cleared in both shootings.
Torres received no de-escalation training between 2012 and 2016, according to department records, though he had taken a seven-hour course on "surviving hidden weapons."
The Kenosha Police Department didn't return repeated calls.
Will Craft and Curtis Gilbert contributed to this report.