NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA– One of the most used phrases of 2020 is “police reform.” It’s a hot button topic of discussion that most believe is a necessary part of improving the relationship between communities and law enforcement officers.
NOPD in recent years has initiated a program that deters police misconduct when handling a situation or apprehending a suspect. It’s a nationally renown and adopted active bystander training program called EPIC.
New Orleans Police Chief Deputy Superintendent of Investigative and Support Bureau, Paul Noel is one of the brains behind the project and says, “Look at the amount of hours that American police officers go through and the amount of hours of training with their firearms and use of force. Most officers are never going to have to use their firearms. We train countless hours. We should be doing the same amount of training for peer intervention and active bystander-ship.”
EPIC is a mandatory program for all of NOPD’s officers and EPIC stands for Ethical Policing is Courageous and has been part of NOPD for five years. It stand in direct opposition to a “blue wall of silence culture” of American law enforcement.
“I testified with another police officer in front of the Legislature in Louisiana just a few weeks ago. The recommendation that we made is that all Louisiana officers should take up this peer intervention training. We’ve teamed up with ABLE in Georgetown University to spread this all across the country,” says Superintendent Noel.
Georgetown University Law Center’s ABLE is an acronym for Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement and is a national police peer intervention program founded upon the success of NOPD’s EPIC.
Upon the creation of EPIC, both officers and leaders of the community were consulted. Lisa A. Kurtz is an NOPD innovation manager and says, “ABLE has 34 agencies that have signed on. This includes the Baltimore police department, Philadelphia police department and the entire states of New Hampshire and Washington. This could be part of improving relationships in communities so that there is not that suspicion or mistrust that have come from decades of unfortunate incidents.”
The death of George Floyd sparked much civil unrest in 2020, but it only the catalyst in a long ling of incidents between specific communities and police. George Floyd reminds the United States, about the importance of body cameras as well as how just a few short seconds can change the lives of both officers and civilians.
Paul Noel says the actions of police departments affect communities states away and that everyone should be accountable for being our brothers keeper and says “It’s very important for me personally, that those police officers have the courage to step up and intervene. If I’m doing something stupid and making a mistake and not realizing it I want somebody to stop me so that don’t lose my job, potentially go to prison and embarrass my family and myself.”
EPIC’s active bystander program focuses on the three pillars of preventing mistakes, preventing misconduct and working with fellow officers to improve wellness. There’s an initial eight hour training and then EPIC is implemented in other programs in the department throughout the year. Officers then earn a pin that shows the’ve been through the course.
“This has the potential to be a huge part in changing the way that we look at policing in this country.” says Kurtz.
NOPD’s EPIC is spreading far beyond it’s native New Orleans. There is now EPIC training in agencies in Canada, Scotland and Ireland.