The Hickory Police Department is taking part in a program designed to show officers how to intervene when other officers are acting inappropriately or are in need of additional support.
Chief Thurman Whisnant told the Hickory City Council on Tuesday the department had been accepted into the Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement — or ABLE — program run by Georgetown University.
Whisnant explained the concept of active bystandership by referring to a situation from the days after the murder of George Floyd in which an officer in Seattle removed another officer’s knee from a man’s neck during an arrest.
In addition to preventing misconduct or mistakes, the program is also geared toward helping officers recognize when their colleagues are having personal problems and ways to help, he said.
Georgetown provides instructors through the program to teach officers things such as how to identify signs that other officers are struggling and how to take action when other officers are acting inappropriately.
Whisnant said the training also emphasized accountability at all levels of the department.
“One thing that we’re stressing is rank doesn’t matter,” Whisnant said. “If I’m not doing something right as a chief of police, it’s known and understood that I would expect that. We expect to help one another. So not only how to intervene but how to receive intervention when it’s necessary.”
In many ways, Whisnant said the program complements ongoing initiatives of the department, such as de-escalation training.
While he said the department has long had a duty to intervene in its use-of-force policy, they never did hands-on training on those procedures until the program.
“We do scenario-based training in virtually everything that we do, but for some reason we’ve never done scenario-based training when you talk about intervention with another coworker — whether it be on the scene of a critical incident, whether it’s a use-of-force incident or whether it’s, you come to work one day and your partner just, something is not right,” Whisnant said.
He added: “So we’ve just really got to change that way of thinking.”
Most of the department’s supervisors have been trained and the department expects to have all or nearly all officers trained by the end of the summer.
He added that the program was free and that Hickory was one of the first 70 agencies in the country to be accepted to the newly created program.
The council approved an extension for a developer who is in the process of renovating the Emporium building in downtown Hickory for new retail outlets.
Jacomine Investments received a $20,000 forgivable loan from the city last year to help with the costs of improvements to the building.
The developer requested another year to complete the renovation, citing the pandemic as one of the reasons the extra time is needed.
The council unanimously granted that request.
The extension was on the council’s consent agenda, which typically passes unanimously with little or no discussion.
Kevin Griffin is the City of Hickory reporter at the Hickory Daily Record.