CLARKSTOWN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The Clarkstown Police Department is arming its officers with words and honing their communication skills in an effort to prevent conflict.

“We respond to so many different situations — emotionally distressed persons, domestic incidents, shoplifters, traffic stops — and we encounter many different people in many different situations,” Officer Christopher Bax said.

And as recent high-profile police shooting cases around the country have shown, it only takes a split second for an encounter to turn deadly.

“We want to take a confrontational situation and deescalate it, bring it down to get it to a civil resolution,” Bax said.

In January, the department hosted a training seminar called Arresting Communication, which was attended by dozens of police officers from across the region.

“We forget that the most important tool on our belt is our communication skills,” Police Chief Michael Sullivan said. “The best way to solve a problem is to prevent it from happening in the first place.”

Officers are being taught to listen, to create a rapport and defuse tension.

“One of the tactics that we’re teaching officers is to slow things down a little bit,” Bax said. “When you take a step back, when you give yourself that time and space, now you could actually work things out a little bit better.”

Sullivan said they’re getting “back to the basics,” adding communication skills will help avoid conflict.

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