River Forest police officers will soon have another tool in their toolbox to potentially reduce unnecessary harm to residents and officers.

Police Chief Jim O’Shea said department officials are completing an application to become certified in the ABLE Project, a training initiative of the Center for Innovations in Community Safety at Georgetown Law.

ABLE is an acronym for Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement. The goal of the project is to prepare officers to successfully intervene to prevent harm and create a law enforcement culture that supports peer intervention in high-stress, high-stakes decision settings.

O’Shea said River Forest would become the first agency in Illinois to be certified in the project.

In an overview of the project presented at the April 11 village board meeting, officer Ben Ransom explained that bystandership is an important component of the initiative.

“We can’t just stand by,” he said. “We need to change the culture, which will promote officers’ health and wellbeing.”

He noted that the training will not only teach an officer how to intervene but also how to receive intervention from a fellow officer. O’Shea said Georgetown officials report improved relations with residents to participating agencies.

According to the ABLE Project website, 240 agencies are certified in 40 states in the U.S. and three Canadian provinces.

ABLE training is provided at no cost to law enforcement agencies but, according to the project website, “Those agencies must commit to creating a culture of active bystandership and peer intervention through police, training, support and accountability.”

ABLE notes on its website that a culture of support and intervention is more the norm in healthcare, aviation and in college settings. “It is time to adopt these principles in law enforcement, so that the tools of active bystandership can help prevent unnecessary harm in this context as well.”

Once certified, River Forest will have access to the project’s train the trainer program and certification and training portals. In addition, implementation and technical assistance is provided.

O’Shea said he learned about the program through the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Support for the program followed.

“Nobody from the department saw any downside,” he noted, adding that village President Cathy Adduci “became very interested very quickly.”

The application process includes letters of support from community organizations and village government and a letter of intent from O’Shea to adopt the project’s 10 standards. O’Shea said letters of support have already been received from officials at Dominican University, District 90 and the Community Center and the letter from Adduci is being drafted.

The 10 standards include community support; meaningful training; dedicated coordination; program awareness; and accountability. Also, officer wellness; reporting; measuring officer perceptions; follow-through; and paying it forward.

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