The Tempe Police Department has teamed up with an ASU professor to create a de-escalation training program, designed to help officers keep non-violent calls from getting out of control.

TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - It's a scene playing out in cities across the country: a non-violent police encounter that escalates quickly, then turns deadly.

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Dr. Michael White is a criminal justice professor at ASU. He has studied police behavior for years, and is now working with the Tempe Police Department to improve how officers interact with the community.

"We've looked at hundreds of hours of footage of officers who got the training and those that didn't," said White. "That's where we have seen some real differences in how officers are handling encounters."

White and Tempe PD have teamed up to create a De-escalation Training program, designed to help officers keep routine calls from turning violent.

Among the topics addressed in the 10 hours of instruction:

  • Officer wellness and how to handle stress
  • Teaching officers to not take things personally
  • Knowing when to walk away
  • How to slow an encounter down
  • Officers have a duty to intervene when a fellow officer is getting angry or too emotional

"If you're a police officer and you're at a scene, and not the primary officer handling the encounter and you see that your colleague is getting frustrated or may be starting to do things that violate policy, even the law, it's your duty to step in and take over," said White. "I think that's a piece of the Tempe curriculum that a number of police departments are adopting that kind of policy. It puts the onus on officers to step in when things are going wrong."

Tempe Police Detective Natalie Barela said about half the department has taken part in the de-escalation program so far, with the other half set to take the course in the next few months. "Its been really well received because it's going to keep people safe, and that's ultimately our goal is to keep people safe, and de-escalate situations before they turn violent," said Barela.  "Officers look at it as another way to help them do their job, just a little better."

Jason Barry is best known for his Dirty Dining Report which airs Fridays at 6:30 p.m. on CBS 5.  He is also the storyteller behind CBS 5's Pay It Forward which airs every Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

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