I-TEAM: Richmond County Marshal’s Office pioneers new program

Published: Apr. 14, 2022 at 7:33 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Tournament week brought big crowds and more than 66,000 people for Richmond County deputies to oversee.

This comes as agencies across the nation struggle to retain and recruit while grappling with allegations of misconduct among officers. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is now pushing for “Active Bystandership” among all forms of law enforcement.

The I-TEAM underwent the first-of-its-kind training as the Richmond County Marshal’s Office is the first agency in Georgia to implement it.

The Richmond County Marshal’s Office completed Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement or A.B.L.E a week before the tournament drew tens of thousands to Augusta.

The training is unlike any other that exists - teaching officers to speak up even to higher-ranking officers in order to prevent misconduct mistakes and keep officers mentally healthy.

The I-TEAM has shown you repeated stories over the year, when officers may have benefitted from A.B.L.E. A Saluda County deputy using explicit language while responding to a domestic violence call.

Browder: “You want a divorce so [expletive] bad, why don’t you make something happen?”

Victim: “Oh, my god,”

Browder: “That’s why I have a [expletive] job because of people like you. [expletive] stupid. This is my third domestic for the day and I have only been on 2.5 hours.”

Across the river- a Richmond County deputy was charged with assaulting another deputy with a flashlight while on a medical call. Further south, a Hephzibah officer loses his cool when a man wearing headphones walks by loudly singing.

Tucker: “Don’t let me be catching you f***** walking down the road again.”

Jefferson: “May I ask what your name is sir?”

Tucker: “My name is Tucker. Write it down.”

Jefferson: “Can I take a picture of your badge, please? Come on, please sir?”

Tucker: “He’s got five seconds.”

Jefferson: “Just want your name so I can make a report. That’s all I am asking.”

All three officers made headlines exposed by News 12′s ITEAM. All three officers were involved in preventable situations that spun out of control.

“We have a lot of mistrust with officers in these days and times a lot of misconduct,” says Marshal Ramone Lamkin.

Six of his officers have either been fired or resigned during allegations of misconduct over the last five years. A drop in the bucket compared to larger agencies throughout the nation.

“Culture will eat policy for breakfast so you could have policies all day but if you have a culture that is different from your policy that culture going to eat that policy all day long and people going to do what the culture and not what the policy says.”

This is why he mandated all of his employees undergo active bystandership for law enforcement or A.B.L.E. training. A.B.L.E. promotes and teaches officers to intervene when they see another officer, even a superior officer, stray from training or act in a manner that could lead to mistakes and misconduct.

“If an officer from another agency is doing something you got to stop them. ‘Hey, pump the breaks. Hey, you can’t do that.’ It doesn’t matter if you work for the Marshal’s Office, State Patrol, the Sheriff’s Office, Board of Ed, AU, anyone if we see some time of wrongdoing you are going to stop it because of the important part in protecting the citizens of this county.” Explains Marshal Lamkin.

The I-TEAM’s Liz Owens sat in a room full of marshals, sworn and civilian, during one of the very first training sessions.

Colonel Bill Probus was our instructor.

Liz: “Do you think it will help slow it down?”

Probus: “I think it will because it gives the officer the tools to recognize before it gets to that level… It frees each other up to intervene if you see me heading a certain way if I am tactical mistake or some other kind of mistake for you to step in and back me out of that situation so I don’t make that mistake.”

A.B.L.E frees officers to break away from the good old boy system to speak up when they see a brother or sister in blue go down the wrong path, without fear of retaliation.

Colonel Probus explains, “The three pillars of able are three simple things. One, we want to prevent misconduct; secondary we want to prevent police mistakes and the third pillar is wellness. It’s part of our wellness program, the ability to recognize stress and that we are going down a road we don’t need to go down.”

Across the nation, law enforcement agencies continue to struggle with retention and recruitment while a record-breaking number lost officers lost their lives in the line of duty last year.

Suicide among law enforcement has become such a concern the FBI began tracking the number of officers who died by their own hands this year.

Liz: “I know they teach training, but to mentally decompress?”

Marshal Ramone: “No, they don’t when I went to the academy they didn’t teach that. I went to the academy in 1988 especially then you thinking you got to be the hero, the guardian, the savior of everything and it teaches you there is another side to be being a savor you got to learn to deal with those emotions, you learn to involve your family you learn to have different aspects other than law enforcement.”

As a mental health crisis emerges from the pandemic and spotlight shines on the conduct of the badge. A new way of policing is beginning to emerge in Richmond County.

The Marshal’s Office is the first in the state to implementable, Statesboro has followed and is also incorporating the program.

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