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By David Madden

BLACKWOOD, NJ (CBS) — More than 200 police officers from as far away as Canada took part in day long exercises at Camden County College that sought to bring home a message spreading through departments nationwide.

A new way to approach potentially deadly encounters with people on the street, in which the aim is to have everyone survive the encounter, if possible.

De-escalation sounds like a good idea. It’s how you get there that’s the challenge. These officers were trained in what’s called ICAT, short for Integrating Communications, Assessment and Tactics.

Former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey admits that plan may not always work, but the alternative can be troublesome.

img 3022 Police Attend De escalation Conference In Camden

Officers in attendance at the conference. (credit: David Madden)

“Taking a life is not easy. It is not something to be proud of. You do what you have to do, but it’s something you’ve got to live with,” Ramsey told the conference. “And if there’s a way that you can resolve a situation short of that, let me tell you from personal experience. Do it.”

This session was put together by the Police Executive Research Forum. Executive Director Chuck Wexler addressed the group and said his aim is to give an officer on the street options short of pulling out a service revolver.

“Whenever I’m asked by the media ‘why do you think this officer did what he or she did,’ I said ‘We don’t blame the officer. The reason the officer did what they did is because that’s how they were trained to do it,'” Wexler said. “So if we don’t change the training, don’t expect to change the results.”

Wexler concedes not all these tactics will work everywhere, and some of the approaches might be considered controversial within the ranks of some police departments.

But the plan here is to discuss alternatives, the first step to changing attitudes, and that process takes time.

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