The scene was tense: two Los Angeles Police officers approach a man yelling and screaming at the end of a cul de sac. He looks angry and aggressive as he paces back and forth in the middle of the street.
“I just got back two weeks ago,” he shouts. “Two weeks ago!” The man is an Iraq War veteran.
“Tell me about it,” an officer calmly asks. He is met with anger.
“What are you trying to do? Don’t try to talk to me. Nobody understands what it was like over there.”
“Sir, I’m here to help you,” the officer responds. He watches the man’s hands closely to see if he grabs a weapon.
The man is unarmed. He starts to calm down. Suddenly, lights come on.
The two officers are standing in front of a screen inside the Los Angeles Police Department's Force Option Simulator.
This exercise is part of a one-week class, the latest effort by the LAPD to train cops how to de-escalate encounters with people who may be aggressive or mentally ill. The message here: slow down and try to empathize with the person.
This training session comes just 10 days after the fatal shooting of Charly “Africa” Keunang on Skid Row. The 43-year-old Cameroonian man, a robbery suspect, is seen on videotape fighting with four LAPD cops as they tried to subdue him. Police say he tried to grab one of their guns, so they fired.