The University of Colorado Boulder Police Department is embarking on training CUPD officers in tactics aimed at reducing unnecessary harm to community members while increasing satisfaction with police, joining a select group of about 215 police departments nationwide committed to transformational police reform.
CUPD was selected to be part of the ABLE (Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement) Project through the Georgetown University Law Center. ABLE training is designed to help first responders do a better job of identifying police misconduct in peers and to intervene when necessary. ABLE’s board of advisors, made up of civil rights, social justice and law enforcement leaders, reviews program applications and grants inclusion to the training.
“This type of training will give our officers the tools they need to intervene in one another’s actions if needed,” said Assistant Vice Chancellor for Public Safety and Chief of Police Doreen Jokerst. CUPD worked with the Denver Police Department on its application to the program and continues to receive support from DPD for initial training.
During a time when police agencies are faced with lawsuits and costly verdicts for proven misconduct, agencies view this training as practical and necessary.
CUPD Training Sergeant Brian Brown says CUPD’s early adoption of ABLE Project standards is par for the course for the agency. “We are always committed to being early adopters of progressive police training such as the ABLE Project, which we feel enhances our culture and is in line with other training we’ve embraced, including Integrating Communications, Assessment and Tactics (ICAT), which we also adopted early on,” Brown said.
The ABLE Project was launched in June 2020, shortly after the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and is modeled after other national programs that have successfully targeted issues with active bystandership, such as drunk driving. ABLE is not a reporting program, but rather is focused on in-the-moment intervention.
Officers learn about the legal duty to intervene if they observe a fellow officer infringing on certain constitutional rights of citizens. Further, they learn how to voice their concerns and take immediate action to prevent fellow officers – or even superiors – from causing harm.
Members of both the campus and wider Boulder community wrote letters of support urging the ABLE Project board to consider CUPD for selection in the training.
Student government leader Kavya Kannan (2021-22), who was instrumental in creating the Community Oversight Review Board to help increase accountability and transparency in policing, wrote, “The ABLE Project is an incredible opportunity for CUPD to deepen its investment in its officers, dually adding accountability and making a commitment to better protecting and serving the entire campus.”
Reverend Mary Kate Rejouis, who serves as campus chaplain at nearby St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church, said that CUPD’s efforts in training officers to be active bystanders shows forward-thinking leadership. “Their willingness to work hard on overcoming possible abuses of power and bias is an asset to the whole community,” she wrote, adding, “In a world that needs people to stand up for a common good, they’re leading the way to show all of us how to be active bystanders.”
And Dan Jones, CU Boulder’s assistant vice chancellor of integrity, safety and compliance, lent his support for CUPD’s acceptance into the program, writing, “Chief Jokerst is a leader in police reform, training, and innovation. I steadfastly support that her department will adhere to the 10 ABLE standards.”
Jokerst said she is grateful for the support as her department embarks on the training, which has led to groundbreaking reform in police departments around the nation. “We want to thank our community partners who assisted us in our application. We see the ABLE Project as being directly aligned with our vision and mission at CUPD.”
So far, 17 CUPD officers have been trained in ABLE Project standards. CUPD hopes to have all of its officers ABLE-trained in the coming months.