Announcing Updated ABLE Standards and Application Process

The ABLE Project® is dedicated to helping agencies create robust cultures of active bystandership, in which officers both give and accept interventions to prevent or stop harm. The ABLE Standards provide the guideposts for allowing such a culture to flourish. The ABLE team is excited to announce the launch of our updated ABLE Standards, which reflect the lessons we have learned working with a cohort that has grown to more than 260 ABLE agencies across the United States and Canada since our launch in Summer 2020.

The revised Standards will be supplemented by an enhanced application process, designed to prepare agencies to hit the ground running with ABLE training and implementation. To facilitate the smooth roll out of the new Standards, we will not be accepting ABLE applications between July 15th and August 15th, 2022. Our new and improved application portal will launch on Monday, August 15th, and we will resume processing new applications at that time.

Agencies submitting applications on or after August 15th must adopt the new ABLE Standards. Applications received prior to July 15th will be subject to the current Standards and will be processed in the order they were received. Due to high demand, please allow 3-5 weeks for application processing to be completed. We are confident the new application process will help us reduce processing time in the future.

Note that there are no new requirements for agencies accepted to ABLE prior to the revision of the Standards and the application process. The ABLE Team is confident the revised Standards reflect an opportunity for agencies to further strengthen the cultures of active bystandership they are building and sustaining. Therefore, we encourage any agency accepted prior to July 15th to commit to the revised Standards by completing this very brief form.

We ask all current and prospective ABLE agencies to review the revised Standards, located immediately below this text.

ABLE Standards for Law Enforcement Agencies
Effective August 15th, 2022

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 the Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement (ABLE) Project 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 send instructors to participate in an ABLE Train-The-Trainer event, 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.

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.

II. Training

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.

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.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Law Enforcement Agency Standards
In Place Prior to July 15th, 2022

  1. Community Support. The agency will submit FOUR letters in connection with its registration. Two letters must be from community-based organizations (e.g., local group advocating for changes in policing, NAACP chapter, faith organization, etc.) vouching for the sincerity of the agency’s interest in self-improvement in general and in ABLE in particular. Additionally, the agency will submit a third letter from the leader of the agency (chief, commissioner, sheriff, etc.) and a fourth letter from the leader of the jurisdiction in which the agency is based (mayor, city manager, county executive, governor, etc.).
  2. Meaningful Training. Officers (including agency leaders) and recruits will receive at least 8 hours of initial dedicated ABLE training and at least 2 hours of annual refresher training. ABLE training will be taught to classes of 25 or fewer officers by two instructors. (Training materials and facilitator guides are provided by ABLE.) The ABLE program will be taught as designed. Unless expressly approved in writing by the Georgetown University Law Center for Innovations in Community Safety in advance, you may not change the content, the timing, or the organization of the curriculum. The training covers the relevant social science, the inhibitors to active bystandership, and the strategies and tactics of giving and receiving an intervention. The principles of active bystandership also will be incorporated into relevant Academy (recruit and in-service) courses, including, among others, Use of Force, Stop/Search/Arrest, Report Writing, Traffic Stops, and Vehicle Pursuits.
  3. Dedicated Coordination. The implementation of active bystandership will be spearheaded by a designated program coordinator, who will roll out, promote, and reinforce the program. The coordinator will be available to provide guidance and assistance to officers as necessary. The coordinator, working with agency leadership, also will ensure that officers sent through the ABLE Train-the-Trainer (TTT) event 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 program coordinator position does not need to be full-time, but should be someone who is respected as a natural leader in the agency.
  4. Program Awareness. The agency will institute an active bystandership awareness program. The principles and benefits of peer intervention shall be promoted through regular internal and external communications, including clear messaging from the public safety executive. All officers who complete the active bystander training shall be presented with a visual representation, such as a pin, which they may choose to wear.
  5. Accountability. The agency will have a strong written anti-retaliation policy to ensure interveners are not punished, targeted, or otherwise ostracized, and the agency will promptly and fully investigate all instances of apparent retaliation and hold officers accountable for retaliation. The agency’s misconduct policy will require the investigation of all apparent instances of a failure to intervene, whether discovered during the course of any use of force or other misconduct investigation, or otherwise. The agency’s discipline policy will recognize a successful intervention that prevents misconduct from escalating as a potential mitigating factor in any consequent discipline proceeding.
  6. Officer Wellness. The agency will have a meaningful officer wellness program, including access to professional counselors and/or social workers available to provide guidance and support to officers in need.
  7. Reporting. An active bystandership program is not intended to alter the agency’s reporting policies. In other words, an intervention does not change the reporting obligation of any officer. If an incident is reportable per agency policy, it remains so after the implementation of the active bystandership program. If an incident is not reportable, it does not become so after the implementation of the program. Intervention is a tool to prevent problems before they arise, or to keep problems from escalating after they arise. An active bystandership program reduces or eliminates unnecessary harmful behavior and, thus, reduces or eliminates the need for reporting. It is not a means of increasing or lessening an officer’s reporting obligations.
  8. Measuring Officer Perceptions. The agency will conduct a pre-implementation and post-implementation perception survey among all personnel who will receive the ABLE training. The ABLE team will distribute the survey, and agencies must provide the names and email addresses of officers scheduled for 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 the ABLE Project, and will be shared publicly only through aggregate reporting without reference to any specific agency.
  9. Follow-Through. The active bystandership program will be implemented department-wide, with the full and vocal support of agency leadership and command-level staff. Agency leadership shall ensure all officers assigned to take the ABLE Train-the-Trainer are given sufficient/dedicated time and space to take the training without interruption and are not assigned shifts/responsibilities that will interfere with the ABLE training (including shifts or responsibilities before or after ABLE training days). The agency will do its best to cooperate with reasonable requests from the ABLE Project to evaluate the meaningful implementation of the program by sharing policies, training curriculum, and internal communications; and providing access to leadership and officers for interviews.
  10. Paying It Forward. Agencies employing ABLE-certified instructors will make reasonable efforts to make ABLE training (by those certified instructors) available to surrounding law enforcement agencies that have been accepted into the program. Such training will be provided at no charge (other than necessary travel expenses). This must be done in coordination with the ABLE team.

If your agency is willing to commit to these principles, you are welcome to: (a) apply to register 1-3 instructors in the next available ABLE Train-The-Trainer event, (b) announce that your agency is ABLE-trained following the completion of the internal training, (c) make appropriate use of the ABLE trademark in accordance with the guidelines available on the Georgetown website, (d) reference the ABLE name in your own training materials; (e) use the teaching materials Georgetown has made available through the ABLE website, and (f) contact the ABLE Project and any of its partner departments for advice and guidance as you set up your program.

NOTE 1: “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.

NOTE 2: These ABLE Guidelines are modeled after those in use by the New Orleans Police Department through its EPIC Peer Intervention Program. “EPIC” and “Ethical Policing Is Courageous” are registered trademarks of the New Orleans Police Department. The ABLE Project thanks the New Orleans Police Department for its contributions in this area.