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215 Police Departments Eye 'Active Bystandership' Program

Thanks in part to the George Floyd case, training police to intervene if they see a colleague at risk of harming a detainee has gained traction in 215 police departments, reports the New York Times. Originally used in the airline industry and hospitals to prevent mistakes, a Georgetown University active bystandership program teaches officers to intervene immediately if they see misconduct. The New Orleans Police Department adopted it into its recruit training and saw the number of police shootings, canine bites, car chases and use-of-force complaints drop, although because of other recent policy changes, it's unclear how much of the reduction is due to the new program.

Police departments have long suffered from a culture of silence that punishes disclosure of wrongdoing with retaliation, including firing. The issue came into sharper focus in the Floyd case, where three officers stood by while Derek Chauvin killed Floyd. "It’s so hypocritical to criticize the community around ‘no snitching,’” said Sheriff Jerry Clayton from Ann Arbor, Mi., “and then we turn around and say, ‘I can’t talk about that thing that happened.’” The training calls for taking over for an officer who may be at risk. The catchphrase "I got this" became popular in the New Orleans P.D. If the officer is still intent on potential misconduct, officers are encouraged to physically intervene, even with higher ranking officials. Michelle Gross from Communities United Against Police Brutality had tried to get the Minneapolis P.D. to adopt the program prior to the killing of Floyd, but faced resistance. “What it really comes down to is they don’t want to actually change the culture," she said. "They like the culture the way it is.”


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