Belton: Police Dept. introducing bystander intervention training for officers

Published: Mar. 4, 2021 at 11:11 AM CST
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BELTON, Texas (KWTX) - There’s been a big spotlight on police training over the last year, and the Belton Police Department is bringing in a new program it hopes will continue to build community trust.

Belton PD is joining the ABLE Project, which stands for Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement. As part of the program, police officers will go through training on how to intervene with their fellow officers if necessary, like in the case of an officer using excessive force.

Chief Gene Ellis said he heard about the project last year and wanted to bring it to Texas. Ellis said we could talk all day about how law enforcement has a duty to intervene, but he says it’s actually a skill set, and one police need to work with so they can recognize any concerning behavior from their fellow officers.

The ABLE Project will teach officers techniques they can use to prevent bad situations.

“It sounds easy, but you need to be able to recognize it before it turned into a big deal,” Chief Ellis said. ‘You know, the obvious use of force or mishandling of somebody, but recognizing those signs that somebody might be losing control.”

Ellis said police officers deal with intense times of exposure to trauma. He said that can be everything from giving CPR to an infant that doesn’t make it, to pulling a child out of a wrecked vehicle, to some type of domestic violence call.

Ellis said if officers come from one of those calls, emotions may be running high. The intervention training can help officers identify concerning signs that may mean a fellow officer needs to take a call instead of someone else.

Chief Ellis said training for law enforcement should never end and the Belton Police Department tries to be a leader in modern policing. Ellis added the department is always looking for ways to improve and take care of people, especially the people in their custody. Ellis says it’s about creating a culture.

“At the end of the day, that’s what the active bystander for law enforcement training is all about, it’s actually not just saying here’s a training program, here’s a policy, but actually create a culture and organization and culture of law enforcement,” Ellis said.

Two instructors just finished the trainer course at the end of February and will begin training the other Belton officers over the next few months. Ellis said this won’t be just a one time training, but something they discuss often.

The ABLE Project is an initiative developed by Georgetown University Law’s Innovative Policing Program.

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