We find the jargon less than direct, but the goal of a new police training initiative in River Forest is well-timed and on point.

The River Forest Police Department is completing its application to become certified under the ABLE project, an effort to train police officers on methods of intervention when fellow officers cross lines while interacting with citizens on the street. 

The name George Floyd did not come up April 11 when the department made a presentation to the River Forest village board on the topic, but it is clear the murder of Floyd on a Minneapolis street by one police officer with the complicit-to-active support of other officers is driving some necessary change in how we consider public safety and policing. 

Officer Ben Ransom came somewhat close to the topic when he told the board, “We can’t just stand by. We need to change the culture, which will support the officers’ health and well-being.”

Ransom said the training focuses not just on teaching officers when to intervene but also, and maybe more critically, on how to accept an intervention from a fellow cop. 

Police culture runs deep. It has its virtues and it has its demons. 

Change starts by publicly acknowledging how ingrained silence and self-protection run in American policing. 

This effort, offered by Georgetown Law’s Center for Innovations in Community Safety, seems a bit tangled up in an odd language of “bystandership.” But the goal is overdue. Police departments, says ABLE, “must commit to creating a culture of active bystandership and peer intervention through police, training, support and accountability.”

River Forest, its police leadership, and we hope its officers, get full credit for this effort. When complete, this small department will become the first policing body in the entire state to be certified by ABLE. 

Oak Park, which maybe, just maybe is beginning to get some cohesive movement toward change in policing, ought to be paying attention to the steady efforts in River Forest.

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