HOUSTON – A new training at the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Academy is meant to prevent misconduct, avoid police mistakes and promote officer health and wellness.
“We’re human. Mistakes happen and we hope to be able to prevent the mistakes from happening by our colleagues looking out for each other and intervening when necessary,” said Instructor Deputy Chris Wells.
The Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement or ABLE is an eight-hour course in a classroom and then simulations.
“Some of it is having the courage to step up to your co-worker and making sure their mental health and wellbeing is OK,” said Wells.
In the field, the training urges officers to intervene in tense situations, if necessary, even involving superiors without fear of punishment or retaliation.
“You step in and say, ‘Hey, hold on. Wait a minute. You don’t want to make this move because it can turn bad,’” said Wells.
It’s an act that may have changed the outcome in the George Floyd case.
Two officers involved in Floyd’s arrest were charged in connection with failure to intervene in Dereck Chauvin’s use of unreasonable force, that’s according to a federal indictment.
Every Harris County Sheriff’s Office employee is required to take the course.
“It’s definitely good to teach us it’s OK to talk to others,” said Deputy Damaris Lopez.
It’s working to change the culture.
“It will help change the attitude, particularly for my generation where we haven’t spoken freely about our feelings or helping others with theirs,” said Sgt. Kirby Burton.
Georgetown Law School in Washington created ABLE and the training has expanded to 138 agencies nationwide.
“It’s the compassion. The integrity. The courage. Your morals. We really want to stand behind all of those things and take care of each other,” said Wells.
Employees are required to take a similar course every year.