George Floyd

‘We Have to Police Ourselves': DC Program Trains Officers to Intervene and Prevent Harm

The ABLE Project teaches officer bystander training to police departments for free

NBC Universal, Inc.

Millions asked a similar question while viewing that searing cellphone video showing George Floyd being killed by a Minneapolis police officer while other cops stood by: "Why aren’t they stopping him?"

A new project launched in the Washington, D.C., area aims to prepare police officers to do something that can be at odds with traditional training: Intervene in those situations.

The Active Bystander for Law Enforcement Project, or ABLE Project, is a collaboration between Georgetown University’s Innovative Policing Program and the global law firm Sheppard Mullin.

Jonathan Aronie, a lawyer leading the project, says there are universal issues that prevent bystanders from speaking up.

“Almost no officer in the country, up until now, has ever practiced saying to a senior officer, ‘get your knee off that neck.’ Or ever practiced saying to a senior officer, ‘hey, that was a bad search.’”

Among those recruited for the project are Brett Parson, a respected former D.C. Police official who helped create that department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit.

“We’re not just policing others. We have to police ourselves,” Parson said.

Parson retired from law enforcement a few months before George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis, but he saw the video.

He said ABLE will use decades of research to train officers in how to be an active bystander and confront potential misconduct.

About three dozen law enforcement agencies across the U.S. have signed up for the training provided by the ABLE Project.

The program provides bystandership training free of charge to police departments. But those agencies must commit to creating a culture of change.

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