Some concerning statistics about violent crime in Kingston came to light in a report by Police Chief Fraser to the Police Services Board this week, but fortunately not all of his update focused on doom and gloom.
Chief Scott Fraser, who officially assumed the role of police chief the first of the year, made multiple reports to the Kingston Police Services Board (KPSB) on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024, at its first monthly meeting of the new year. Not all were positive, but the chief was optimistic as he updated the Board on the strategic plan moving forward, which includes a new training program focused on improved police culture.
Fraser enthusiastically relayed that Kingston Police had been accepted into the Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement (ABLE) Project, a program of the Georgetown University Law Center, on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024.
As the chief explained, ABLE training is an initiative that has gathered increased interest, in part due to the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, during an arrest on May 25, 2020. Derek Chauvin, one of the four officers who arrived on the scene, knelt on Floyd’s neck and back for nine minutes and 29 seconds; Floyd became unconscious and died due to a lack of oxygen. The other three officers were charged and convicted of willfully violating Mr. Floyd’s constitutional rights by not providing medical care, and two were found guilty of not intervening to stop a fellow officer when he was engaged in a crime. It is this type of misconduct that ABLE aims to prevent.
The goal of ABLE is the creation of a police culture in which officers routinely intervene in the conduct of other officers (even superiors) and accept interventions as necessary to prevent misconduct, avoid police mistakes, and promote officer health and wellness. Implementation support is provided at no cost to law enforcement agencies, but those agencies must commit to creating a culture of active bystandership and peer intervention through policy, training, support, and accountability.
Fraser explained that the program explores the science of why people do the things they do, and he referenced the Nuremberg Trials in the 1940s, during which Adolf Eichmann, one of the main architects of the Holocaust, transferred his own personal responsibility to his superiors when he testified that he and others were “just following orders.” This is an an example of the type of behaviour the ABLE program aims to eliminate.
Fraser noted that the training unit for Kingston Police would be certified to implement ABLE training, which uses scenarios to show officers how and when to intervene if a colleague is going too far and how to accept intervention with dignity and grace.
“So it’s going to be a great program,” he underscored.
The chief noted that part of the application process involved Georgetown University representatives speaking to members of the community “who feel over-policed… and underrepresented.”
“Then the police service has to agree to the training. The chief has to agree that ABLE be put in policy and that we will continually follow up — that it’s not just a ‘one-and-done.’ It’s eight hours of training for every officer and then two hours [followup training] every year after. [It also means] incorporating ABLE in everything you do,” the Chief explained, saying that the Board will begin to notice “a lot more of that terminology around this building once we have everybody trained, to remind everybody of the importance of it.”
In other KPSB news, the meeting saw the reelection of Jarrod Stearns as Board Chair, while Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson was reelected Vice-Chair.
In Ontario, a police services board is a “local board” according to the Municipal Act, but it receives its authority from the Police Services Act, which directs that every municipality maintaining a police force must have a police services board to provide civilian governance of the force.
Other current members of the PSB are:
- Professor Christian Leuprecht, provincial appointee
- Councillor Jamshed (Jimmy) Hassan, Council appointee
- Gail MacAllister, Council community appointee
- Lorie Sargeant, Secretary
You can learn more about the KPSB by visiting the Kingston Police website.