ABLE Standards for Law Enforcement Agencies
Years of academic research and on-the-ground experience have shown us that effective active bystandership can be taught. The Georgetown Law Center for Innovations in Community Safety, partnering with global law firm Sheppard Mullin, has created ABLE (Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement) to prepare officers to successfully intervene to prevent harm and to create a law enforcement culture that supports peer intervention.
The anticipated benefits of creating a meaningful culture of active bystandership at a law enforcement agency include:
|Reduced unnecessary harm to civilians||Improved police/community relations|
|Reduced unnecessary harm to officers||Improved officer health and wellness|
|Reduced risk of officers losing their jobs||Improved officer job satisfaction|
|Reduced risk of lawsuits against the department,
the city, and individual officers
|Improved citizen satisfaction with their
law enforcement agency
In order to ensure ABLE is implemented effectively and meaningfully, a law enforcement agency wishing to train their officers in the ABLE curriculum, access implementation support and resources, receive other ABLE training or technical assistance, and/or use the registered ABLE trademarks must commit to the following ABLE Standards. Regional or statewide academies wishing to participate in ABLE are asked to contact our team at ABLE@georgetown.edu.
I. Community Accountability
As part of the application to join ABLE, the agency must submit the following letters of support:
- A letter from the leader of the agency;
- A letter from the leader of the jurisdiction in which the agency is based, and
- A letter from each of two independent, community-based organizations vouching for the sincerity of the agency’s interest in self-improvement in general and in ABLE in particular.
Please review the guidelines for letters of support before obtaining your letters.
The agency agrees to provide, at minimum, annual written or in-person updates to each individual/entity that provided a letter. The agency must provide each community group that submitted a letter with the name and contact information of the agency program coordinator through which the group can provide feedback. The agency will also launch a public awareness campaign informing the community of their efforts to build a culture of active bystandership.
The agency will update ABLE whenever the agency leader changes, and the new leader of the agency will submit a letter of support to ABLE.
All officers and recruits will receive the initial, 8-hour ABLE training as well as 2 hours of annual refresher training using the curriculum provided by ABLE. Only ABLE-certified instructors—individuals who have successfully completed the ABLE Train-the-Trainer—may teach the ABLE curriculum.
Agency leadership will ensure that officers sent through the ABLE Train-the-Trainer (TTT) are given uninterrupted time to attend the event and to complete “homework” assignments during the training week. This includes ensuring that TTT participants are NOT assigned to work shifts or take on projects during the week of TTT training that could interfere with the training (including evening shifts/responsibilities before or after ABLE training days).
The initial training is to be taught by at least two ABLE-certified instructors to classes of no more than 25-30 participants.
Please review this overview of the ABLE Instructor role, including required skills and qualifications, to inform the selection of your ABLE instructors.
The agency agrees to abide by all ABLE training requirements and guidelines, including utilizing updated curriculum when it becomes available. If the agency wishes to make any changes to the curriculum, including timing, content, or organization, they will first secure the express, written permission of the ABLE Director.
III. Implementation and Program Coordination
As part of the application process, the agency will submit a completed ABLE implementation outline, based on the provided template, to create a culture of active bystandership per the guidelines provided by ABLE. The agency will finalize and pursue a plan building on this outline as part of regular, ongoing check-ins with a designated ABLE team member to assess agency progress and provide technical assistance.
The agency will implement ABLE department-wide, with the full and vocal support of agency leadership, to create a culture of active bystandership within the agency.
ABLE implementation will be spearheaded by a designated program coordinator, who will roll out, promote, and reinforce the program. The agency will update the ABLE team whenever a new program coordinator is assigned, as soon as possible.
The program coordinator will provide assistance to officers and collaborate with agency leadership to institute an ABLE awareness program to regularly promote the principles and benefits of active bystandership.
Please review this overview of the program coordinator role, including required skills and qualifications, to inform the selection of your ABLE program coordinator.
The agency will ensure all officers regularly receive messages from agency leadership, roll call training, and other reminders of the benefits of active bystandership.
IV. Supporting Intervention in Policy and Practice
The agency will enshrine the following in policy and procedure:
- A strong anti-retaliation policy to ensure interveners are not punished, targeted, or otherwise ostracized. The agency will promptly and fully investigate all instances of apparent retaliation and will hold officers accountable for retaliation.
- A requirement to investigate all apparent instances of a failure to intervene, whether discovered during the course of any use of force or other misconduct investigation, or otherwise.
- A recognition of a successful intervention – one that prevents misconduct from escalating – as a potential mitigating factor in any consequent discipline proceeding.
A model policy incorporating all required elements is available for download from the ABLE Resource Hub.
V. Employee Wellness
The agency will have a physical and mental wellness program, available to all agency personnel, that includes:
- No- or low-cost access to licensed professional mental health service providers to provide support to sworn officers and non-sworn professional staff in need. These providers can be either employed by the department or easily accessible through an outside referral and/or through the agency’s health insurance plan.
- Internal communications that publicize employee resources and make any employee assistance programming accessible to all agency employees.
- A dedicated point of contact knowledgeable about available wellness resources who can appropriately direct agency personnel in need of assistance.
VI. No New Intervention Reporting Requirements
ABLE is not intended to alter the agency’s reporting policies. If an incident is reportable per agency policy, it remains so after the implementation of ABLE. If an incident is not reportable, it does not become so as a result of the implementation of ABLE.
Active bystandership (peer intervention) is a tool to prevent problems before they arise, or to keep problems from escalating after they arise. ABLE aims to reduce or eliminate unnecessary harmful behavior and, thus, reduce or eliminate the need for reporting.
VII. Data and Research
ABLE is founded on decades of social science research and evidence-informed practice. Ongoing research and the continuous evaluation of our program is critical to ensuring that ABLE is impactful and our law enforcement partners are successful.
The agency will conduct a pre-training and post-training survey, provided by ABLE, among all personnel who will receive the ABLE training. The survey data, which is collected anonymously, will be shared with Georgetown University. Unless agreed otherwise with the jurisdiction, the data will be held in confidence by ABLE, and will be shared publicly only through aggregate reporting without reference to any specific agency.
Agencies will make good faith efforts to cooperate with research efforts undertaken by Georgetown University and its partners. Agencies may participate in research opportunities at their discretion. Agencies may pursue additional research and/or program evaluation opportunities; we ask that agencies notify ABLE of any such project.
VIII. Sustainability & Commitment
The work of ABLE is never “complete” or “over.” Successful and sustainable active bystandership programs acknowledge that every organization and its leadership must continually reassert the values and norms of active bystandership.
If your agency is interested in joining ABLE, please visit the Apply to ABLE page to learn more and submit an application. If you represent a regional or statewide law enforcement academy and you wish to offer the ABLE training, please contact our team at ABLE@georgetown.edu for more information.
Please note that our Standards were updated in August 2022. The prior ABLE Standards may be found on our Archived Standards page.
NOTE: “ABLE,” “Project ABLE,” “ABLE Project,” and “Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement” are registered trademarks of the Georgetown University’s Center for Innovations in Community Safety. The trademarks may be used with appropriate attribution to Georgetown in accordance with the guidelines set out above. Neither Georgetown University nor its partners evaluates or certifies police agencies as meeting these ABLE guidelines. Police agencies are responsible for self-certifying their adherence to these guidelines.