Case Studies

De-Escalation and Tactical Decision Making

We developed a 24-hour online course that uses scenario-based training to develop key cognitive skills for law enforcement officers.

Domain: Law Enforcement

Focus: De-escalation; Tactical Decision Making


To improve the tactical decision-making skills of novice police officers in situations characterized by ambiguity, uncertainty, unpredictability, changeability, time-pressure, competing/changing goals, and potential danger—especially situations requiring de-escalation of potential violence.


Our team has developed a 24-hour online course that uses scenario-based training to develop cognitive skills. The course includes 16 challenging scenarios based on real-life incidents, as well as four small-group discussions guided by experienced officers.


The course has been certified by the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) and is available to any police officer in the state in satisfaction of annual training requirements. This amounts to over 70,000 police officers in hundreds of agencies. ShadowBox plans to expand the offering to other states in future years.

Background and Description

Police officers on patrol are required to make countless, potentially life-and-death decisions in service to society. These decisions involve uncertainty, volatility, time pressure, shifting or competing goals, dynamic risk assessment, and physical danger, including risks not only to the officers and suspects, but also to bystanders. They often involve interacting with people who are hostile, emotionally disturbed, substance-impaired, stressed or otherwise not at their best. Moreover, use of force by the police has become a hot-button issue across the country. Practically any officer-involved-shooting (OIS) now makes national headlines and is accompanied by calls to “defund the police.” Law enforcement agencies across the country have recognized the need for a new approach to dealing with this issue.

Starting in 2015, ShadowBox collaborated with California POST to address the perceived lack of critical thinking in frontline decision making in general. ShadowBox performed a cognitive task analysis (CTA) based on interviews and observations of officer decision making, and from that CTA developed a package of eight ShadowBox exercises (SBXs). In 2017, ShadowBox tested the SBXs on the graduating class of a large basic academy with favorable results. Based on the results of that test, ShadowBox developed the course “The Guardian Mindset: De-escalation and Tactical Decision Making,” which was certified by POST in 2020.