As part of Hamilton County's initiative to make changes through declaring racism a public health crisis, all Sheriff's Office deputies will undergo training aimed at creating a culture where officers aren't afraid to speak up if they see fellow officers acting inappropriately.
The Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement (ABLE) Project is run by the Georgetown Innovative Policing Program at Georgetown University's law school, and the global law firm, Sheppard Mullin. The training aims to create a culture within police departments of preventing misconduct, avoiding police mistakes, and promoting officer health and wellness. It's an outgrowth of the EPIC Peer Intervention Program, in which Hamilton County deputies are also participating.
Major Earl Price is excited about the ABLE project and says the first training sessions begin next week.
"This is really what the public is looking for," he says. "They're looking for transparency, they're looking for honesty out of the police agencies as well as corrections. They're just looking for us to be honest people ... and you got to be able to walk it, not just talk it. You got to prove it and this is one way of doing it."
Price says the department had to meet a 10-step process to qualify for ABLE training, including writing an anti-retaliation policy and being willing to help train other police departments. He adds it's important that everyone is trained because "if you're going to change a culture from the top down, you've got to change it from the bottom up.
"This program is going to be installed right into our basic corrections academy (for new recruits). Also, this program is going to be taught to our civilian as well as all of our uniformed personnel. The goal is to make sure that every employee gets ABLE-trained."
The aim is to have everyone trained in 2021. It includes eight hours of training in the first year and two additional hours every subsequent year, according to Price. He says he's never seen a program like this here in his 39-year career.
"You're going to have officers that are going to be looking out for each other to save lives, to protect the safety of that officer, to make sure that that officer is doing the right thing and not covering up where something's wrong," Price explains. "That's something that we should've had years ago."
Hamilton County is also working with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center to create a training program addressing implicit bias. The first 80 employees, all senior managers, are scheduled to begin that training program in late January and early February, according to Freedom Center President and CEO Woodrow Keown, Jr.
Hamilton County commissioners, led in the initiative by Commissioner Victoria Parks, voted unanimously in July to declare racism a public health crisis.
"We have to accept the harm done historically and correct it," Parks said at the time. "That's what this resolution is. It's an opportunity for us to get this right so that my grandchildren don't have to grow up in an environment like I did."