Dozens of law enforcement agencies in Florida and around the country have chosen to take part in a training initiative that is designed to encourage officers to step in when they see one of their colleagues using excessive force or behaving in a way that endangers the public. The Project ABLE program is being organized by Georgetown University’s Innovative Policing Program. The acronym stands for Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement. On Dec. 7, the Orlando Police Department announced that it would be participating.
The bystander effect
At least 60 police departments have vowed to participate in Project ABLE. During the one-day program, participants take part in series of role-playing exercises that reveal how what psychologists call the bystander effect could prevent them from acting even in situations where intervention is obviously warranted. The initiative also teaches participants to notice signs of stress in fellow officers that could lead to violent confrontations in the future. Psychologists began studying the bystander effect in 1964 after the murder of a 28-year-old New York City woman that was witnessed by 38 people who did not come to her aid or call the police.
Chilling video footage
Georgetown University-based Project ABLE on a similar program developed for the New Orleans Police Department. The bystander effect became the subject of fierce debate in 2020 as cities around the country were rocked by violent protest following the release of chilling video footage showing police officers standing by while their colleagues assaulted and sometimes killed African-American suspects. Police departments are not charged for the training, but they are expected to put policies that promote peer intervention into place.
Interacting with police
Experienced criminal defense attorneys may challenge the legitimacy of charges filed against individuals who are assaulted by police officers prior to being taken into custody or treated roughly during questioning. If you are worried about being involved in a violent incident with a police officer, an attorney could give you advice about interacting with law enforcement and explain the civil remedies available if you become a victim of police brutality.