ABLE Project: WPD one of first to join program for bystander intervention training


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The Wilmington Police Department is one of the first few departments nationwide to join a program that teaches officers to hold each other accountable.

The program is also designed to promote healthy culture within departments.

“We are looking at doing, I like to call it a reset, of our organizational culture,” Wilmington Police Chief Donny Williams said.

WPD is one of the first in the country to join the national program “ABLE Project.

“Active Bystanderhsip for Law Enforcement,” Williams said. “It teaches officers, based on evidence, how to intervene if they see an officer make a mistake, misconduct, and it benefits their health and wellness.”

The “ABLE Project” stemmed from a program used by the New Orleans Police Department.

“1 – It’s evidence-based. 2 – It teaches an actionable skill, and 3 – It brings community and police together,” ABLE Project Board of Advisors Chairman Jonathan Aronie said. “This is one of the few programs that I’m aware of that police like it as much as community members.”

WPD’s command staff met with the chairman of the program’s board of advisors for the first time Tuesday morning.

They also heard from the deputy chief of the New Orleans Police Department.

“We talk about how it’s from the top down, bottom up,” New Orleans Police Department Deputy Chief John Thomas said. “Yes, it’s not only internally, but I’ve heard a guy who’s an activist who says the police are much nicer now.”

Williams and national program leaders say the project has shown an improvement in not only relationships between police and the community, but also within departments.

“It’s one thing to tell them to intervene, but you need to give them the tool on how to intervene,” Williams said. “Again, misconduct is a big piece of this, but it’s also making mistakes, but we want to make sure that when our line level officers see other line level officers making mistakes, that they’re correcting it also.”

Next month, Williams says they’ll send two captains and a detective to a two-day training.

He hopes to start training with the entire department, including himself, in the fall.

Last month, Williams started having one-on-one meetings and has already met with more than half of his team.

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