The Lethbridge Police Service has been selected as a successful applicant in a new American program working to increase accountability and safety within law enforcement.
Georgetown University Law’s Active Bystandership For Law Enforcement — or ABLE — project is training 34 police agencies from across North America with intervention skills designed to save lives.
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“This isn’t just training; this is a cultural shift,” said Jonathan Aronie, chairperson of the ABLE Project board of advisors.
“We’ve known from decades of research that you can actually teach people to be active bystanders. You can teach people to intervene to prevent harm to others. But it’s nothing that has been taught in policing, ever.
“The big gap is we’re not training on how to intervene, and any of us — police or non police — know how hard that can be.”
LPS Training Unit Const. Tianna Fielguth said that is exactly why she spearheaded the application.
“You don’t get taught how to intervene when a sergeant is doing something wrong,” Fielguth said. “You don’t have the language to do that as a 21-year-old when it’s your third day on the job. It’s a skill and we want to put our members through event scenarios where they have to do that.”
Aronie said the Georgetown Law program is brand new, but has already had its first trial run.
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“The predecessor to the ABLE project has been working in New Orleans in the United States for years and we’ve seen the change that it has driven,” Aronie explained.
“We’re quite confident, not that this will solve the world’s problems, but this will make a significant contribution to preventing harm, saving lives, saving careers and driving cultural change. We’ve seen it work.”
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Lethbridge is the only Canadian agency selected for the program this year, which Fieguth said is a point of pride for LPS.
She explained that the research-backed program of accountability goes both ways when it comes to seniority.
“We’re going to be rolling this out from the top down, starting with the chief and our executives, all our staff sergeants, all our sergeants,” Fielguth explained. “Everyone is going to get this training, and even more importantly, how to accept it as someone of rank.”
She says the goal is to empower police officers of all ranks to speak up proactively.
“It’s kind of about redefining loyalty,” Fieguth explained.
“Instead of: ‘I’m going to show loyalty to you by covering up what you did,’ it’s: ‘I’m going to show loyalty to you before it even happens and I’m going to prevent it from happening because I care about you.’”
The constable adds that Lethbridge’s ongoing support is important for the success of the program.
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“Part of the ABLE program is involving the community,” Fielguth said. “Our goal throughout implementing this training is to involve the community in whatever we can and have them aware of what we’re doing.”
Training is underway and will continue throughout the year.
Both LPS and ABLE program officials hope this will inspire other Canadian police agencies to apply.
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