Technology Assists Officers with De-Escalation and Safety
De-escalation is not just the art of talking to someone (which is a common misconception). Part of the greater de-escalation topic that is often overlooked are the tools that can slow a situation down and provide officers with time, distance and shielding (cover) to safely communicate with a suspect rather than quickly being put into a situation where a quick decision is necessary which in turn may result in a use of force.
One such tool that we have to assist with de-escalation is a handheld thermal imaging device. How exactly does that play into de-escalation? As we encounter individuals breaking into businesses and or vacant/abandoned residences without power, going into the pitch-dark structures puts us in close quarters with the unknown. Is the suspect still inside? Are they armed? Is it just someone looking for a place to sleep or is it someone burglarizing the place that happens to have an extensive criminal history and or a violent offender with warrants that is not wanting to go back to jail?
Recently, we have been dealing with burglaries to a movie theater slated for demolition. Metal, wire and fixture thieves tend to rapidly hone in on abandoned or empty buildings and can quickly turn them into unsafe and uninhabitable structures in need of millions of dollars of repair. Needless to say, clearing 14+ movie theaters plus projection rooms and storage space in the pitch dark is no easy task.
At around 11PM on 5/9 , officers were alerted to sounds of sawing and an individual removing items from the theater. Officers entered the theater and an officer using the handheld thermal imaging device was able to assist with providing a safety sweep of each room prior to officers entering the room(s). In one theater room, the thermal imaging device located an individual hiding in the room. Had it not been for the thermal imaging device, officers would have had to enter the room and check every part of the room which would have put them in close proximity to the suspect and could have resulted in a use of force had the suspect chosen to fight.
The suspect, a 29-year-old male from SeaTac had a warrant out of Auburn for Assault and another out of Snohomish County for DUI. He was booked on the warrants. A case for Commercial Burglary was taken and forwarded to the Major Crimes Unit (MCU).