Grant addresses de-escalation, emergency response for law enforcement

A USDA Delta Health Care Services grant has been awarded to the University of Tennessee at Martin Criminal Justice Program for its De-escalation Techniques and Emergency Response Project. The two-year DETER Project is funded at $547,293 and will develop a public-health training facility on the university’s Martin campus to deliver de-escalation and emergency health intervention education and training to reduce the injury and mortality rates of police-citizen encounters.

Jackson State Community College and Carey Counseling Center, Inc., will partner with UT Martin for the project, which includes the purchase of a VirTra judgmental use-of-force simulator and real-life de-escalation training. Drs. Brian Donavant and Cindy Boyles, both UT Martin criminal justice faculty members, wrote the grant and will guide the project.

“We’re excited to help police and our local communities reduce violence and improve public health,” Donavant said. “This is also a great opportunity for our students to gain critical insight and skills for their future careers.”

In the grant proposal, Donavant and Boyles noted that major health organizations, including the American Medical Association and the World Health Organization, recognize the health and mental health impacts of excessive police force. DETER will provide needed training to social workers, mental health professionals and citizen groups, as well as law enforcement officers as now required under Tennessee state law and under consideration in other Delta Region states. “We’re excited to help police and our local communities reduce violence and improve public health,” Donavant said. “This is also a great opportunity for our students to gain critical insight and skills for their future careers.”

Karen Perrin, Jackson State assistant professor of criminal justice, said DETER will help to reduce risk to law enforcement officers and the people they serve. “This is a great opportunity for Jackson State, UT Martin and Carey Counseling to work together to facilitate meaningful change for our community,” Perrin stated.

DETER’s specific focus will include diverse and marginalized groups in the Delta Region, which includes West Tennessee and the counties and communities that support these groups. The project will improve public health by training current and aspiring police officers in critical assessment, de-escalation tactics and less-lethal strategies for citizen interaction. DETER will also train social workers and civilian crisis intervention teams, as well as educate adult, youth and minority stakeholders in strategies that reduce public-health risks during police interaction. More information about the DETER Project is available by contacting Donavant at bdonavan@utm.edu or Boyles at cboyles2@utm.edu.

The UT Martin Criminal Justice Program awards a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and partners with the Law Enforcement Innovation Center, an agency of the UT Institute of Public Service, to offer the National Forensic Academy Collegiate Program. The NFA Collegiate Program held its 10th program this past summer. Learn more about the criminal justice program at www.utm.edu/departments/crimjust/.

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