ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Superior Police Department trains to prevent harm

Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement aims to prevent misconduct, reduce police mistakes and protect officers and the public.

From left, Assistant Superior Police Chief John Kiel, Superior Police Chief Nicholas Alexander, Capt. Paul Winterscheidt and Lt. Thor Trone, talk during the Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement (ABLE) project training
From left, Assistant Superior Police Chief John Kiel, Superior Police Chief Nicholas Alexander, Capt. Paul Winterscheidt and Lt. Thor Trone, talk during the Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement (ABLE) project training at the Government Center in Superior, Wis., on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

SUPERIOR — Distract, delegate and divert are new tools in the Superior Police Department’s arsenal to better serve the community.

They are techniques all officers are learning now that the Superior Police Department has been accepted into the Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement (ABLE) Project.

"I want him to enjoy being a dog," said Marik's partner, Sgt. Nick Eastman.

Created by the Georgetown University Law Center Innovative Policing Program in cooperation with the global law firm Sheppard Mullin LLP, the project provides free training and support for U.S. law enforcement agencies committed to building a culture of peer intervention that prevents harm, according to a news release.

The Superior Police Department is one of more than 200 law enforcement agencies across the United States and Canada to adopt the program, the news release said. It’s the first agency in the region to be ABLE trained.

Half of all Superior police officers got their training Wednesday, Jan. 26, and the other half of the department was trained Thursday, Jan. 27, by certified instructors within the agency.

ADVERTISEMENT

Instructors were trained over the course of a week in December to give officers the tools to successfully intervene when other officers' conduct could put themselves or the public at risk of harm.

“It’s a set of different techniques,” said Superior Police Sgt. Matt Brown, a certified trainer for the ABLE Project. “We’re actively learning different ways you can intervene when you see something happening that needs to be corrected. There’s different methods for that. Whether the officer steps in and they themselves directly address the issue, or possibly they delegate and have someone who might be a better person to step in, step in.”

Brown said the goal of the ABLE project is to stop reportable incidents from getting to that level.

“I really appreciate this program because it recognizes that we’re all human,” Brown said. “It recognizes that we might be having a bad day, bad week, bad month … or certain situations might be a trigger.”

Members of the Superior Police Department discuss some things they learned running through scenarios at the Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement (ABLE) project training
Members of the Superior Police Department discuss some things they learned running through scenarios at the Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement (ABLE) project training Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022 at the Government Center in Superior, Wis.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

The program is designed to help officers recognize when their peers may be treating people less than ideally and gives them the tools to intervene, regardless of rank, said Jonathan Aronie, Sheppard Mullen partner and chair of the ABLE Project board of advisers.

All officers in a department, including the chief, are required to participate in the eight-hour training session.

Chief Nicholas Alexander was among the officers who received training Wednesday. He pointed to the three former Minneapolis police officers currently on trial for civil rights violations and their failure to intervene when George Floyd was murdered by a senior officer, Derek Chauvin, as a reason the training is important.

Following Floyd’s murder, the Superior Police Department strengthened its own duty to intercede policy to make it more visible, Alexander said.

ADVERTISEMENT

“I think it’s appropriate that when we have policy mandates ... we provide effective training to help our officers work with those policies,” Alexander said. “I was looking for various options.”

Alexander said he learned about the Georgetown University Law program while listening to Wisconsin Public Radio. He reached out to agencies in Southern Wisconsin that were already participating in the ABLE Project.

“Intervening in another’s action is harder than it looks after the fact, but it’s a skill we all can learn,” Aronie said. “And frankly, it’s a skill we all need — police and non-police. ABLE teaches that skill.”

ABLE focuses on evidence-based strategies and tactics that empower and educate police officers on how to intervene when another officer’s conduct to prevent misconduct, reduce officer mistakes and promote officer health and wellness, regardless of rank, Aronie said.

The new gear will replace aging items and ensure officers have the tools they need.

The program is designed to prevent problems before they occur.

“You do need to recognize it, make a decision about what to do, and act to stop it,” Alexander said.

During scenario-based training, he pointed to a similar situation to one that cost Floyd his life. An officer with a knee on the neck of a suspect occurred in Seattle not long after Floyd’s death, but ended differently because another officer simply moved the officer’s knee and pulled it under his shoulder where it belonged.

The ABLE Project seeks to ensure every officer has the opportunity to receive meaningful, effective active bystander training to help agencies transform their approach to policing by building a culture that supports and sustains successful peer intervention to prevent harm, said Professor Christy Lopez, co-director of Georgetown Law’s Innovative Policing Program, in the news release.

ADVERTISEMENT

The program was developed in June 2020 based on a program developed by Dr. Ervin Staub, other consultants and the New Orleans Police Department in 2014 called the EPIC (Ethical Policing is Courageous) peer intervention program.

“Our hope is that by other agencies seeing what we’re doing that they in turn will approach ABLE,” Brown said.

He said that would allow Superior to meet its commitment to pay it forward by assisting those agencies with training.

“It’s been kind of a good journey coming into it,” Alexander said.

The program did a good job breaking it down on all different levels and all types of professionals, such as pilots and surgeons, that could benefit from their peers intervening when there is a risk of harm.

“This is something a lot of professions do to up their game, to be better,” Alexander said. “The ultimate goal is to reduce harm, both to the public and employees.”

Superior Police Sgt. Matt Brown, left, talks about intervention points during the Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement (ABLE) project training
Superior Police Sgt. Matt Brown, left, talks about intervention points during the Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement (ABLE) project training at the Government Center in Superior, Wis., on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com.
What To Read Next
Fundraising is underway to move the giant ball of twine from the home of James Frank Kotera, JFK, to the Highland Town Hall in Douglas County.
Visit all 24 ice sculptures and answer questions online for a chance to win $100 in Superior BID bucks. The contest runs through Feb. 14.
As reported by Douglas County.