Sheriff’s Office Joins National ABLE Project

Sheriff Dana Lawhorne is proud to announce that the Alexandria Sheriff’s Office has been selected to participate in the Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement (ABLE) Project.

Page updated on Oct 6, 2020 at 10:09 AM

The Sheriff’s Office has been accepted into the Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement (ABLE) Project, Georgetown University Law Center’s national training and support initiative for U.S. law enforcement agencies committed to building a culture of peer intervention that prevents harm.

By demonstrating agency commitment to transformational reform with support from local community groups and elected leaders, the Sheriff’s Office joins a select group of 34 other law enforcement agencies and training academies chosen to participate in the ABLE Project’s national rollout. To date, hundreds of agencies across the country have expressed interest in participating.

Backed by prominent civil rights and law enforcement leaders, the evidence-based, field-tested ABLE Project was developed by Georgetown Law’s Innovative Policing Program in collaboration with global law firm Sheppard Mullin LLP to provide practical active bystandership strategies and tactics to law enforcement officers to prevent misconduct, reduce officer mistakes, and promote health and wellness.

ABLE gives law enforcement officers the tools they need to overcome the innate and powerful inhibitors individuals face when called upon to intervene in actions taken by their peers.

Sheriff Lawhorne said seeking inclusion to join the ABLE Project reflected important priorities for the Sheriff’s Office.

“I have always been open to any initiative that improves our ability to meet the expectations of our community,” said Sheriff Lawhorne.  “That’s why we aggressively sought to be a part of this. It’s important to us as an agency, it’s important to the community we serve.”

Alexandria leaders backing the Sheriff’s Office’s application to join the program included Mayor Justin Wilson, Correctional Services Advisory Board Chair Amy Reed, and Human Rights Commission Vice Chair Matt Harris, who all wrote letters of support.

Mr. Harris expressed his appreciation for the “efforts of ABLE’s founders and team members to help change law enforcement culture so that officers and deputies would routinely intervene as needed” and added that the peer intervention approach “would surely improve outcomes for law enforcement officers and for the people they serve.”

Professor Christy Lopez, co-director of Georgetown Law’s Innovative Policing Program, which runs ABLE, explained: “The ABLE Project seeks to ensure every police officer in the United States has the opportunity to receive meaningful, effective active bystandership training, and to help agencies transform their approach to policing by building a culture that supports and sustains successful peer intervention to prevent harm.”

Chair of the ABLE Project Board of Advisors, Sheppard Mullin partner Jonathan Aronie, added: “Intervening in another’s action is harder than it looks after the fact, but it’s a skill we all can learn. And, frankly, it’s a skill we all need – police and non-police. ABLE teaches that skill.”

The ABLE Project is guided by a Board of Advisors comprised of civil rights, social justice, and law enforcement leaders, including Vanita Gupta, the president of the Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights; Commissioner Michael Harrison of the Baltimore Police Department; Commissioner Danielle Outlaw of the Philadelphia Police Department; Dr. Ervin Staub, professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the founder of the Psychology of Peace and Justice Program; and an impressive collection of other police leaders, rank and file officers, and social justice leaders.

  • For more information about the ABLE Project, visit the program’s website.

  • See a list of the ABLE Standards to which every participant must adhere.

  • These articles share more information about active bystandership generally, and the ABLE Project in particular.

The Sheriff’s Office began exploring the ABLE Project earlier this summer, and members of the Command Staff and Training Unit attended a virtual open house in July and an executive leadership conference on peer intervention in August.

The ABLE Project Train-the-Trainer event began in late September with two Sheriff’s Office instructors participating to become certified as ABLE trainers. In the coming months, all employees (deputies and civilians) will receive eight hours of evidence-based active bystandership training designed not only to prevent harm, but to change the culture of policing. Sheriff Lawhorne invites community members to follow the Office’s progress in this critical area through social media including the Office’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/AlexandriaVASheriff.

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