Proposals must be submitted by July 28 for bids on a virtual training system and program for the Colorado Springs Police Department that will be used to instruct officers on de-escalation measures.
The program, which could cost up to $200,000, addresses a key finding in the Assessment of Colorado Springs Police Department Use of Force study, produced by the Transparency Matters advisory group and presented to the community in April.
That conclusion was that resistance to officers is “one of the biggest indicators of the use of force,” adviser Robin Engel, one of the investigators, told the city council at a June 20 briefing about the investigation.
That finding led the advisers to focus on de-escalation techniques during all police encounters with civilians and to reduce the frequency of pointing firearms at civilians, among other proposed changes.
Now the city is looking for a contractor to provide virtual training “to build, enhance and maintain officers’ de-escalation skills,” according to the request for proposals (RFP) publication.
The initiative, funded by a grant from the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, part of the Department of Justice, will allow officers to experience “real-world training through virtual environments” several times a week.
The setup is necessary to allow a trainer to change the scenario based on the officer’s action and also to display the scenario for others to observe and learn from how the officer reacts.
“In addition, CSPD will also create community events opportunities for citizens to actively participate in VR de-escalation training, giving the community insight into the split-second decisions officials need to make,” the RFP says. “Citizens can view the scenario from both an officer’s perspective and the perspective of a person in crisis.”
The curriculum should enable officers to develop at least 10 de-escalation skills, including understanding of mental health issues, ability to interact effectively and respectfully with members of diverse groups, awareness and management of stress effects, strong communication skills, decision making skills and problem-solving skills and perceptual skills, among others.
The scenarios deal with interactions with people who are suicidal, under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, who have post-traumatic stress disorder, who have a mental illness, who have dementia or who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Police Chief Adrian Vasquez told the Council last month that his department is working on an action plan to address the study’s recommendations and then post the plan on the CSPD website to promote transparency and trust in the community.
Some findings from the Transparency Matters study:
• Seventy percent of arrests involving physical violence or weapons involved people considered to be disabled.
• The most common type of force used by the police was ‘gunless’, followed by a taser and chemical spray.
• From January 17, 2017 to 2020, 5,933 individuals were used violence against them in a single CSPD encounter. Of those, 64.3 percent had a firearm pointed at them.
Proposals will also be submitted on July 28 from contractors interested in providing an electronic ticketing system for the CSPD to issue traffic, parking, warnings, felony criminals, DUI and other types of tickets and associated documents in the field.
Robert Tornabene, CSPD spokesperson, says the new system would improve efficiency “across the board” for both officers and the courts, as it would remove the barrier to sending data directly to city, county and district courts.
“It also improves efficiency for agents to go completely paperless, which is a really big plus,” he says.