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Colorado police agencies to receive "ABLE" training aimed at preventing officer misconduct

Police in Denver
Posted at 8:44 PM, Oct 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-12 23:35:17-04

DENVER — Police departments across Colorado will soon have access to training aimed at preventing police misconduct.

The Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement (ABLE) Project was developed by academics at Georgetown University Law Center to train officers to more quickly identify warning signs that an interaction with a fellow officer is becoming precarious, and then empower them to intervene.

The program quickly spread to police departments across the country after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, and amid nationwide protests for social justice. It is offered by Georgetown Law at no cost; however, participating agencies must meet and maintain standards set by the ABLE Project.

“Those are about delivering the training in a meaningful way, with fidelity to the model that we’ve created, implementing policies to encourage intervention, and to protect officers who do intervene,” said ABLE director Lisa A. Kurtz.

The training consists of in-depth discussions and roleplaying scenarios where participating officers walk through real life examples in which an interaction with officers ended in misconduct of some kind. While bystander training has existed in many sectors for decades, Kurtz said the hierarchical nature of police departments can make intervention especially difficult.

“What we know from social science is that humans, in general, think we are a lot better at intervening than we actually are,” Kurtz said. “[We] have them actually, in the safety of the training environment, walk through what they would do, how they would intervene, how they would step in to stop that harm, and how they would address the underlying causes of that harm so that they could stop similar situations from occurring in the future.”

Two hundred eighty five agencies in the United States and Canada have introduced ABLE training, and many more are on deck to join now that Colorado is looking to take the training statewide.

Kurtz said ample anecdotal evidence has emerged from police departments and the communities they serve of the positive changes of the training. Her team is working on several research initiatives to compile quantitate data to illustrate the program’s concrete impacts.

All Denver Police Department officers have completed the first phase of the training, and all officers with the University of Colorado Police Department are expected to complete the training by the end of November. Denver7 spoke with a representative from each department about the implementation of the program, and the impacts it will have on morale and culture within the departments.

“It’s about avoiding mistakes and preventing police [misconduct],” said Sgt. Brian Brown with the University of Colorado Police Department. “For us, it’s that olive branch saying we’re listening to what you’re saying and we’ve sought out to become better. And this is what that training looks like, you know, in the law enforcement landscape.”

“Officers are just as upset and just as frustrated when we see the acts that cause the badge to be tarnished,” said Lt. Joe Unser with the Denver Police Department. “We’re going to continue to strive to make those changes and become a better department and do a better job of policing the city — because that’s what citizens expect, and that’s what they deserve.”

Denver PD, in collaboration with Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, will work to bring ABLE Program training to departments throughout the state. In particular, they will aid smaller departments which likely do not have the staffing to dedicate their own trainers.

Interested agencies can apply through the ABLE Project website or connect directly with the Denver Police Department.