Active Bystandership: Applications for Criminal Justice Agencies

Active Bystandership: Applications for Criminal Justice Agencies
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1 Module 1
Recorded on: 2022-05-03
Unit 1 Presentation Materials: Active Bystandership
Unit 2 Transcript: Active Bystandership
Unit 3 Workbook: Active Bystandership
Unit 4 Recording: Active Bystandership

Issues are inundating the law enforcement profession as it relates to how officers interact who are the members of the community they have sworn to serve. There is much public scrutiny surrounding mistakes and misconduct committed by law enforcement which consequently impacts the officers’ health and wellness.

Leading the discussion on active bystandership and how New Orleans and Baltimore served as trailblazers in an approach that hopes to address existing law enforcement issues are:

  • Jonathan Aronie, Co-founder of the Georgetown Sheppard Mullin Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement Project
  • Gary Cordner, Academic Director in the Education and Training Section of the Baltimore Police Department
  • Travis Taniguchi, Research Director for the National Policing Institute

Specifics they covered for this session include:

  • The objective, guiding principles, and existing research that led to the inception of the Ethical Policing is Courageous (EPIC) initiative in New Orleans.
  • The stakeholders from different disciplines that designed the training curriculum.
  • The initial success based on the perception of the officers and the community of the training and the program, and the desired behavioral outcomes.
  • The conference held to promote the program to other agencies.
  • How the George Floyd incident resulted in the increased demand for the EPIC training.
  • The impetus to reframe it as a national initiative with set standards as Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement (ABLE).
  • The application process through letters of support expressing the agency’s desire to authentically change the culture and implement active bystandership.
  • ABLE’s objective of using intervention skills to prevent misconduct and mistakes and promote officer health and wellness that served as its pillars.
  • ABLE’s training model which enables fast and exponential growth.
  • How active bystandership differs from duty to intervene in terms of how it tackles the practical, actionable skills to actually intervene instead of a mere policy and concept.
  • How EPIC was introduced into the Baltimore Police Department (BPD).
  • Adapting New Orleans’ curriculum and tailoring it to Baltimore’s situation to develop a one-day course led by a cadre of instructors and champions of culture change across the agency.
  • BPD’s EPIC that emphasizes the health and wellness pillar and the pivotal events in Baltimore which facilitated buy-in to and adoption of the program.
  • Features and elements of the BPD EPIC that contributed to its overall success.
  • The National Policing Institute’s research to evaluate the impact of the EPIC training for BPD.
    • The methodology, the areas examined, the questions asked, the measurement employed to assess effectiveness, and the survey respondents.
    • The positive findings of the research in terms of promoting active bystandership, increased confidence and willingness to intervene in different circumstances and moral challenges.
    • Inconclusive results in terms of the correlation of officers’ confidence in their ability to intervene and their perceived usefulness of the training.
    • Suggested improvements officers would like to see through more scenario-based training and integration with other forms of training activities.
    • Next steps for the evaluation through longitudinal studies, data gathering from more agencies, and collecting success stories.
  • BPD’s current challenge in terms of demonstrating the impact of EPIC/ABLE.
  • The dilemma on whether measuring through reporting or driving behavior is more a valuable indicator.

Questions from the webinar participants are about:

  • Whether the EPIC training is mandatory, the length of the training program, and its cost.
  • Modifying the program or the existence of comparable programs for other justice professions outside of law enforcement.
  • ABLE’s difference from duty to intervene.
  • Options for smaller rural agencies who want to take part in ABLE.
  • Availability of the program in specific states/areas within the United States.
  • Conducting pre- and post-evaluation on incidents of force and civilian complaints or issues.



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Resources and Handouts


Audience Comments

  • “I learned about the ABLE program and how it changes the culture of the agency, I also appreciated the explanation about the fact that agencies have a duty to intervene policy and that this is the training that accompanies that policy.” — Fabienne
  • “The perspective shared outline the importance of bystander action with peers. Changing outcomes, being proactive, and minimizing liability exposure to the participating agency. Well structured and delivered. — Michael
  • “One of the most valuable things I learned from this webinar is the difference between the ‘duty to intervene’ and the holistic approach of ‘active bystandership.'” — Janeen
  • “Great to know there are programs that work, to be shared with all police departments. THANK YOU!” — Roseann
  • “This was a great intro. I learned assessing and measuring is going to be challenging. The numbers of those who may choose to intervene post-training are impressive. Just eliminating racist jokes and being antiracist is such an amazing concept. We have been seeking this for a year or so here. Our community organization is going to be joining ABLE training at the invitation of the U.S. Attorney in our region.” — Mary





About the National Policing Institute: Formerly known as the National Police Foundation, the National Policing Institute’s mission is to pursue excellence in policing through innovation and science. It is the oldest nationally-known, non-profit, non-partisan, and non-membership-driven organization dedicated to improving America’s most noble profession – policing.

The National Policing Institute has been on the cutting edge of police innovation for over 50 years since it was established by the Ford Foundation as a result of the President’s Commission on the Challenge of Crime in a Free Society (1967) and the related conclusions of the Kerner and Eisenhower Commissions, taking place during the same era.



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