City of Houston Federal Update

Executive & Legislative Advocacy

De-Escalation TrainingLegislative Advocacy - De-Escalation Training Act

S. 4003

In 2020, Sen. Cornyn and Mayor Turner met with Houston area leaders after George Floyd’s death where they sought solutions to improve the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve.

Input from that discussion was incorporated into what became bipartisan legislation as Sen. Cornyn developed the Law Enforcement De-Escalation Training Act (S.4003) along with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.

In February of 2023, Senator Cornyn again joined Mayor Turner to review the new law. During the roundtable discussion, Cornyn highlighted how the law is aimed to help equip local and state law enforcement agencies with funding for specialized de-escalation training for officers and mental health professionals.

Houston leaders also discussed how the Task Force on Police Reform, appointed by Mayor Turner in 2020, has supported the Houston Police Department’s increased de-escalation training efforts, specifically the training efforts housed in the Houston Police Department’s Mental Health Division.

Police are often on the front lines of behavioral and mental health and substance use crises. Studies estimate that as many as six to ten percent of law enforcement encounters involve persons experiencing serious mental illnesses.

Currently, people in crisis account for between 25-50 percent of fatalities during law enforcement encounters. Navigating an encounter with a person experiencing serious mental illness or substance use is challenging, but there are solutions that can protect the safety of people in crisis, law enforcement officers, and bystanders.

Training in de-escalation tactics and other techniques can reduce excessive force complaints and fatalities during law enforcement encounters, and crisis intervention teams can improve outcomes. Law enforcement agencies across the country are seeking resources to conduct trainings in these techniques and practices.

The law will build off the existing Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program to create a dedicated stream of funding to local and state law enforcement agencies to train their officers and the mental health professionals who work with them in de-escalation tactics, alternatives to use of force, safely responding to mental, behavioral, and suicidal crises, successfully participating on a crisis intervention team, and making referrals to community-based mental and behavioral health services and support and other social programs.

The bipartisan Law Enforcement De-escalation Training Act will:

  • Require the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services to develop curricula in the training topics, or identify existing curricula, in consultation with law enforcement, mental health organizations, family advocacy organizations, and civil rights and civil liberties groups, among other stakeholders;
  • Authorize $124 million in grant funding over four years for training, including scenario-based exercises and evaluative assessments;
  • And require the National Institute of Justice and the Government Accountability Office to evaluate the implementation of the program and the effect of the training, to ensure that the curricula have a tangible impact on law enforcement encounters with people in crisis, and identify possible changes that would further improve outcomes.

Law Enforcement De-escalation Training Act will equip law enforcement officers with the tools to effectively and safely respond to people in crisis, was signed into law by President Joe Biden on December 27, 2022.