ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WDVM) — This week, Alexandria Sheriff’s Office deputies started participating in the Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement (ABLE) Project. Over the coming months, all deputies and civilians will receive eight hours of evidence-based active bystandership training designed to prevent harm and “change the culture of policing.” The curriculum was formed by civil rights, social justice, and law enforcement leaders around the country.
The Georgetown University Law Center has selected 34 other law enforcement agencies and training academies to participate. Officers will learn to “prevent misconduct, reduce officer mistakes, and promote health and wellness,” starting with two training deputies, who will train the rest of the deputies and civilian staff. The jail employs many non-sworn personnel, including record staff and support services staff.
Captain Sean Casey says the sheriff’s office has been following the “See Something, Say Something, Do Something” model since Sheriff Dana Lawhorne was elected nearly 14 years ago. “You’d think it’s common sense but what we’ve come to realize is that in order to have the tools to actually intervene and be confident in intervening when you see misconduct happening, it takes a lot more than that,” Captain Casey said.
It’s not a matter of not wanting to intervene. Casey thinks it’s about confidence, especially for deputies who are new to the job. “You don’t really know when you should be intervening or when you shouldn’t be intervening; what’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate. So it can cause hesitation. And it can not make it clear in your mind when you’re supposed to,” Captain Casey said. “There are a lot of situations that I think law enforcement is faced with that are kind of murky. It can be a grey area with all the split second decisions and things that happen when you’re dealing with folks in volatile situations that law enforcement usually is.”
The sheriff’s office was selected partially because of letters of recommendation from Mayor Justin Wilson, Correctional Services Advisory Board Chair Amy Reed, and Human Rights Commission Vice Chair Matt Harris.