Tempe police honor ASU team, police employees for creating de-escalation curriculum

A partnership between Arizona State University and the Tempe Police Department has yielded a curriculum designed to help officers keep contacts with the public peaceful and productive — and a Team Award from the department acknowledging the important collaboration.

Officers now benefit from the de-escalation curriculum developed by faculty and doctoral students from the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, instructional designers from the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions and employees from the Tempe Police Department, said Tempe Police Commander Michael Horn.

The wording of the award citation purposely identifies all the recipients, including the ASU team headed by Professor Michael White, as “employees,” Horn said, even though they work for the university.

“Dr. White and most of his team are not employees, yet we view him and his team as active partners and just as at home here behind the secured doors as other employees,” Horn said. “I’ve told many a person publicly: Dr. White and his team can walk around our buildings all the time. We trust him, his team and ultimately we genuinely want to be better and help the overall law enforcement community better serve. We are not afraid to learn and trust Dr. White to guide that process and find results, whether positive or identifying where we have to evolve.”

The citation reads: “Team Award (Ribbon and Certificate) – Presented to a group of Tempe Police Department employees whose collective efforts significantly impacted the overall service delivery for the Police Department.” 

White, who is associate director of the ASU Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety, said he is incredibly honored to be part of the award.

“I have conducted research with and for the police for the last 20-plus years, but this award recognizes the most innovative and collaborative project of my career,” White said. “Start to finish, this project reflects a true partnership between the Tempe Police Department and Arizona State University.”

Assistant Chief Mike Pooley, a co-leader of the de-escalation project, said White was amazing to work with.

“He and his team brought a methodological approach to this innovative de-escalation project grant. There was little if any academic research on de-escalation training in law enforcement and we wanted to change that. Dr. White’s experience, background, approach and credibility was deeply appreciated in this pursuit.”

Interim Chief of Police Jeff Glover said ASU, being “in our front yard,” is a great partner for the department.

“On this de-escalation grant, we had an ASU team provide us guidance on the curriculum development and instruction while Dr. White and his team drove the research component.  As a result, law enforcement collectively now has a research-based approach to de-escalation that shows incredible promise.”

Other members of the ASU team include: Carlena Orosco, a crime analyst for Tempe Police and a student in ASU’s criminology and criminal justice doctoral program; Victor Mora, a student in ASU’s criminology and criminal justice doctoral program; Watts College instructional designers Mike Burnett and Mary Mathis Burnett; and Corinne Corte and Amanda Voigt from ASU’s Success Courses.

The team worked with funding from a Smart Policing Initiative Grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Mark J. Scarp