It starts with a tap on the shoulder. It’s followed by three simple words, “I got this.” And it’s designed to stop any possible misconduct before it happens.
As of today, every Saint Paul police officer has gone through EPIC (Ethical Policing is Courageous) training, a first-of-its-kind peer intervention program designed to teach officers how to intervene successfully—regardless of rank or seniority—to prevent misconduct.
EPIC was developed by the New Orleans Police Department and its community partners to promote a culture of high-quality and ethical policing. It educates, empowers and supports officers on the streets to play a meaningful role in “policing” one another.
In other words, it teaches officers how to intervene with moral courage to stop a potential wrongful action before it occurs.
The SPPD launched its EPIC program in the fall of 2020, but the global pandemic put it on hold until recently. A few weeks ago, the department’s Training Unit began holding classes at the Rowan Training Center, and now all 585 officers currently working for the department, from those with a year of experience to the Chief, have gone through the program.
“We’re all human, so we’re all susceptible to human emotions. This program empowers all of our officers with the skills they need to intervene before problems escalate and occur,” said Saint Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell. “It lets officers know we expect them to make ethical decisions, we want them to intervene when they see something that’s not right, and we’ll support them when they do.”
The training is eight hours of discussion, video analysis and interactive scenarios focused on helping officers:
- identify behavior that necessitates the need for an intervention
- understand and be comfortable applying the strategies to intervene when appropriate
- understand the potential for adverse career and personal consequences for officers who end up in ethically perilous situations and
- understand how an intervention can mitigate adverse consequences.
EPIC builds on the department’s training program, which is focused on ensuring officers have the skills, knowledge and commitment to build trust through excellence, deliver exceptional service and treat everyone with the utmost respect.
Prior to participating in EPIC, every SPPD officers went through moral courage training, annual implicit bias training and crisis intervention team training.
The result is a police department that has become better trained, more professional and less likely to use force. According to data collected and made public by the SPPD, officers use force in fewer than 0.2 of 1 percent of the more than 250,000 calls for service each year. The department has received just one excessive force complaint from the public in each of the last three years. And civil payouts for police misconduct have hit record lows in recent years—$24,000 in 2019 and $5,000 in 2020.
“We have the best officers in the country,” said Axtell. “I’m incredibly proud of their commitment to training and delivering trusted service with respect—every day, without exception.”