BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Baltimore Police Department is launching a new peer intervention program that trains officers to intervene in problematic situations to prevent mistakes and police misconduct.
The department had been working to get the program started even before the protests following the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minnesota earlier this year. Officials said it could help officers get the skills they need to step in and stop something like that from happening again.
Floyd died on Memorial Day following an attempted arrest. Video on social media showed a Minneapolis police officer put his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes.
Four officers involved in the incident were fired and later charged.
“It is a very clear answer to the calls for reform,” Maj. Martin Bartness, a commander of education and training within the police department, said.
The program is called Ethical Policing Is Courageous (EPIC). It trains officers to intervene with their colleagues in potentially problematic situations to stop misconduct and save lives.
“We would not have the protests we did this summer if a colleague had intervened at the right moment,” Bartness said. “We would have George Floyd alive today and cities would not literally be on fire.”
So far, 100 officers have gone through the program, and the goal is to ramp it up next year to get every officer trained and able to intervene in all ranks. Officers are even being taught what to do if they see a superior acting inappropriately.
“I think that this is the type of communication and culture that we need to start having present when it comes to law enforcement,” Ofc. Cantell English said.
The department called it a necessary step forward in policing that could help officers regain the community’s trust.
“We have the opportunity to demonstrate that we’re accountable to ourselves,” Bartness said. “We have certain standards and expectations for ourselves and for our colleagues when misconduct and mistakes are occurring.”