Years of academic research and on-the-ground experience have shown us that effective active bystandership can be taught. The Georgetown Innovative Policing Program, 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 benefits of meaningful active bystandership training are significant, and 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-based programs are implemented effectively and meaningfully, a law enforcement agency or regional/state academy 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 10 ABLE Standards.

Law Enforcement Agency Standards
(See below for regional/state academy standards)

1. Community Support. The agency will submit FOUR letters in connection with its registration.  Two letters must be from community 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, 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. (Training materials and facilitator guides will be provided by ABLE.) The training will cover 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 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 surveys will be made available through the ABLE website. The survey data 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. 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. Such training will be provided at no charge (other than necessary travel expenses).

 

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.

Regional/State Academy Standards
(See above for law enforcement agency standards)

1. Community and Leadership Support.The Academy will submit the following FOUR letters in connection with its registration vouching for the sincerity of the Academy’s interest in self-improvement in general and in ABLE in particular.

  • Two letters from community organizations (e.g., local group advocating for changes in policing, NAACP chapter, faith organization, etc.).
  • One letter from the leader of the Academy (e.g., Director).
  • One letter from the leader of one of the larger law enforcement agencies (e.g., Chief, Commissioner, Sheriff, Superintendent) for which the Academy conducts training.

2. Meaningful Training. New recruits will receive at least 8 hours of dedicated ABLE training and all officers will receive at least 2 hours of annual refresher training to the extent consistent with state law.  Additionally, the Academy will make the 8-hour training available to non-recruit officers as an elective, again, consistent with state law.  (Training materials and facilitator guides will be provided by ABLE.) The training will cover 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 Academy will actively encourage law enforcement agencies for which it conducts training to designate a program coordinator who will roll out, promote, and reinforce the ABLE program. The coordinator should be available to provide guidance and assistance to officers as necessary. The 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 Academy will institute an active bystandership awareness program to promote ABLE to the law enforcement agencies for which it conducts training. 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 Academy will actively promote the adoption of the following policies within the law enforcement agencies for which it conducts training:

  • A strong written anti-retaliation policy to ensure interveners are not punished, targeted, or otherwise ostracized.
  • A policy that ensures the law enforcement agency will promptly and fully investigate all instances of apparent retaliation and hold officers accountable for retaliation.
  • A misconduct policy that 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.
  • A disciplinary policy that recognizes a successful intervention that prevents misconduct from escalating as a potential mitigating factor in any consequent discipline proceeding.

6. Officer Wellness. The Academy will actively encourage law enforcement agencies for which it conducts training to adopt 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.  The Academy will actively encourage law enforcement agencies for which it conducts training to adopt reporting policies consistent with this standard.

8. Measuring Officer Perceptions. The Academy will conduct a pre-implementation and post-implementation perception survey among all participants who will receive the ABLE training. The surveys, which will allow for anonymous submission, will be made available through the ABLE website. The survey data will be shared with Georgetown University Law Center. 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 Academy will encourage law enforcement agencies for which it conducts training to implement ABLE department-wide, with the full and vocal support of agency leadership and command-level staff. The Academy also 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 instructors for interviews.

10. Paying It Forward. Academies employing ABLE-certified instructors will make reasonable efforts to make ABLE training (by ABLE-certified instructors) available to surrounding law enforcement agencies. Such training will be provided at no charge (other than necessary travel expenses).

If your regional academy, statewide academy, or other multi-jurisdiction training organization is willing to commit to these principles, you are welcome to: (a) apply to register 1-3 instructors for the next available ABLE Train-The-Trainer event, (b) announce that your organization is certified to conduct ABLE training, (c) make appropriate use of the ABLE trademark in accordance with the guidelines available on the Georgetown University Law Center website, (d) reference the ABLE name in your own training materials; (e) use the teaching materials the Georgetown University Law Center has makes available, 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 Innovative Policing Program. 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 trademarks may be used with appropriate attribution to the NOPD in accordance with applicable NOPD guidelines. NOPD neither evaluates nor certifies police agencies as meeting EPIC guidelines. Police agencies are responsible for self-certifying their adherence to applicable guidelines. The ABLE Project thanks the New Orleans Police Department for its contributions in this area.