CU Boulder police begin training program designed to teach officers how to intervene with peers (2024)

The University of Colorado Boulder Police Department has joined the growing number of law enforcement agencies across the U.S. that are training officers on a nationally recognized program that teaches them how to intervene with peers before a situation can escalade and potentially result in the killing of a civilian.

“I think the university is continuing to look at how we can better police and how we can better provide services to the community,” said Sgt. Brian Brown with the CU Boulder Police Department. “These programs are great representations of how we are trying to respond to the calls from our community and be better police officers. We couldn’t do our jobs without our community, and our officers understand that.”

Brown is completing training to be the department’s program coordinator as part of the Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement Project. The ABLE Project training was created in partnership by the Georgetown Law Center for Innovations in Community Safety and law firm Sheppard Mullin after the 2020 killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. Since it began, more than 260 U.S. law enforcement agencies have been accepted into the program.

CU Boulder’s Police Department applied for the free program in 2020, Brown said. To complete the application, departments are required to provide community recommendation letters. The campus’ police department received letters from former CU Boulder student government member Kavya Kannan, the Rev. Mary Kate Rejouis, who serves as campus chaplain at St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church and Dan Jones, CU Boulder’s assistant vice chancellor of integrity, safety and compliance.

Kannan, who graduated from CU Boulder in May, also helped create the campus’ Community Oversight Review Board, modeled after Boulder’s Police Oversight Panel.

“I really hope this (program) helps the culture not only at CUPD but other police departments across the country,” Kannan said. “I think it’s really important for other communities to do a lot in terms of holding the police accountable because we are ultimately the people being served. I don’t think that goes without police officers holding themselves and good practices accountable as well.”

Brown said the department also has worked with the Denver Police Department, who is in the midst of completing the program, to begin initial trainings.

Elisa DiTrolio, program manager for the Denver Police Department, said her entire department is almost finished with the program’s mandatory eight-hour training. Next, the department will complete the annual two-hour refresher course taught by officers who have gone through a weeklong training to be instructors for their department. This year’s course is on health and wellness, DiTrolio said.

Dionne Waugh, spokesperson for the Boulder Police Department, said the agency has not completed the program, but it is part of its goals. She was unsure whether the department had applied.

Right now, the campus’ police department is about 50% trained, but Brown hopes to have everyone fully trained by the end of November, he said. New officers also will complete the training before they begin policing.

The ABLE Project is designed to give officers the skills and confidence needed to be able to intervene during a situation like a foot pursuit, where an officer chases a suspect, Brown said. During that situation, the officer has a lot of adrenaline, but once use-of-force, or what the CU Boulder Police Department calls response to resistance has been applied, it’s important that the officer is able to calm down or another officer is able to intervene.

“An officer stepping in would potentially save that other officer’s career by remedying the involvement and supporting them when they need it by limiting the use-of-force,” Brown said.

In 2021, the CU Boulder Police Department recorded 14 use-of-force situations, which occurred during 12 interactions. It’s possible that any instance of contact with an individual could include more than one use-of-force action, said Christine Mahoney, spokesperson for the campus police department. The department responded to more than 5,110 general calls for service, which included fire response that same year.

While interviewing potential officers, Brown has found that people looking to join law enforcement want to be a part of an agency that requires trainings like the ABLE Project, he said.

“We find from them that they very much want to be part of an agency that has these standards,” Brown said. “We see this (program) as a future standard in law enforcement.”

CU Boulder police begin training program designed to teach officers how to intervene with peers (2024)
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