AUSTIN (KXAN) – Austin Police Department said it was updating its officer training across the board with two new training programs aimed at reducing the use of force and creating a culture of active intervention among peers within the department, according to an APD press release.
The first training program, Integrating Communication, Assessment, and Tactics (ICAT), is offered by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) which has been working with APD on innovative cadet training since 2018. The second is called Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement (ABLE), a training program that teaches officers to routinely intervene and accept interventions as necessary to prevent police misconduct and mistakes.
With ICAT, PERF will certify certain law enforcement agencies to train other members within the organization on tools, skills, and options officers need to “successfully and safely defuse a range of critical incidents,” the release said. ICAT emphasizes scenario-based training and lectures to build on critical thinking, crisis intervention, and communications.
PERF facilitated new cadet training for APD in 2018 and their tactics have remained part of APD’s Cadet Training Curriculum.
In 2020, the city council put a halt on cadet classes in 2020 until the department could revamp its training curriculum to prioritize de-escalation and community relations, contributing to APD’s ongoing staffing issues, because a higher number of officers were leaving, but cadets weren’t coming in.
In February 2022, Chief Joseph Chacon presented an update on the academy curriculum to the council. It included the status of the recommendations put in place by Kroll Associates, a third-party group called to audit APD’s training program, including formalized anti-racism and cultural diversity workshops. Since then, APD has graduated new cadets under this ‘reimagined’ training program.
The next steps in ICAT training are purchasing a new simulator to be used for the scenario-based training and conducting site visits with other agencies that had adopted ICAT training and shown improvement, according to the release. Approval for purchase was currently pending, tentatively scheduled for April 2023.
ABLE is in the process of being implemented as APD worked on revising department policy to “meet the necessary standards” to be able to adopt it, the release said. They expect to be eligible for ABLE training by the fiscal year 2023.
Still dealing with staffing shortages, APD will initially seek outside trainers to offer ABLE training to cadets, with the goal of eventually establishing and utilizing ABLE trainers within the department.
APD said it was prioritizing training incoming officers, but currently working to integrate both pieces of training into the Officers into the Continuing Education training calendar. Given “training resources,” APD anticipates the training to current officers could take up to three years.
Looking to the future, APD said it was considering extending the training to other personnel in the department, identifying benefits to training first-line supervisors and dispatchers. Training new cadets and current officers, though, still remains their highest priority.
Once adopted, ABLE training will be mandatory and executive leadership is “considering the feasibility” of making ICAT training mandatory for all current officers.