KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Police receive training in de-escalation, but what if you happen on to a tense situation. Friday, an organization held what it calls “active bystander training.”
“The whole goal is to defuse it to avoid it turning into a bigger situation,” Community Member and Associate Director of Future Leaders Outreach Network Monica Portley said.
Neighbors are hoping to stop arguments before they turn violent.
The organization and the Kansas City Police Department responded with this active bystander training, about 50 people showed up to find out when they should jump in.
“So we are giving people skills to engage in those simple arguments to just distract and engage safely,” Wilkins said.
Education Strategists said the first step is to assess the situation before getting involved. If it’s safe, one option is to cause a distraction, like dropping your keys.
These are the 5 “D’s” of Bystander Intervention: Distract, delegate, document, delay and direct.
“Everyone’s attention goes to the loud noise that was made,” Public Outreach and Education Strategist at The Center for Conflict Resolution Larry Wilkins said. “If you’re in a shopping center, maybe use your basket to get in between the people that are having an issue with each other and reach for a candy bar.”
Those are just a couple ways Wilkins encourages the community to get involved — safely.
He said this is their first active bystander training.
People learned how to interact and de-escalate a situation. If they see conflict in their neighborhood, at the store or out in the community.
“I can’t do it all, but I can do something,” Portley said. “So, just identifying what that something is, was just a huge challenge for me because sometimes we seem invincible, but identifying when the right time is to do so.”
As an educator, Portley said she will take this training inside schools.
She works with kids in Kansas and Missouri and believes this training will help stop arguments from escalating into bigger situations where people get hurt.
A big topic of conversation Friday — using communication as a tool to deescalate a situation.
“Just being conversational and just making sure we’re not conflicting in the conversation,” Portley said. “But watching how we say things and avoiding stereotypes.”
Wilkins said it takes the community to make that change and believes this training will help curb violence.
“We are very aware of the extreme numbers we are seeing this year alone,” Wilkins said.
According to KCPD, the current homicide rate in Kansas City, Missouri is close to matching the same pace of the deadliest year on record.
“The majority of the homicides that we see started with an argument,” Wilkins said. “So if we deescalate or if we can put the small fire out that’s the argument that doesn’t lead to someone grabbing a weapon or feeling like they have to cause further harm in someone, I think that could lower the homicide rate, for sure.”
Pastor Thomas Shelton, who’s also a retired police office, learned these skills can help people put out some fire before they spread.
“We need to get involved in settling stuff. a lot of stuff doesn’t need to escalate to the point where somebody gets hurt, somebody goes to jail, it will stop it at the grassroot level. somewhere up there, before it gets to a serious situation,” Shelton said. “Then, our neighborhood will be friendlier, people will feel safer, and our violence in our communities will go down.”
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Thomas plans to go back to his church and spread what he’s learned.
Wilkins said they will also offer more training to people across the Kansas City area.