How a Holocaust survivor is altering US policing


Dr Ervin Staub

Picture caption

Dr Ervin Staub has been learning the psychology of violence for many years

A coaching programme designed to discourage police misconduct is being adopted throughout the US after months of protests over using extreme power. The Holocaust survivor behind the coaching believes that, after preliminary success in a single metropolis, it could change police tradition nationwide.

As World Battle Two reached its crescendo, the actions of two individuals left an indelible mark on Dr Ervin Staub’s life.

Born in Hungary to a Jewish household, he was a six-year-old little one when Nazi German forces occupied Hungary in 1944. On the behest of the Nazis, a whole lot of hundreds of Hungarian Jews had been rounded up and deported to extermination camps.

Two decisive interventions ensured Dr Staub and his household didn’t meet the identical destiny.

A girl named Maria Gogan hid him and his one-year-old sister with a Christian household.

“She taken care of us children,” Dr Staub advised the BBC. “I used to be strolling along with her and my sister in Budapest when the German tanks rolled in.”

For some time, Dr Staub and his sister posed as Ms Gogan’s family from the countryside. Then, when Dr Staub’s mom obtained protecting id papers for his household from Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, they moved right into a secure home close by.

Picture copyright
Getty Photographs

Picture caption

Advancing Soviet forces had been in a position to drive the Germans out of Hungary by 1945

To Dr Staub, Ms Gogan was a second mom. She continued to dwell with the household on the secure home, risking her life to convey them meals and go one other letter of safety to Dr Staub’s father by the barbed wire of a forced-labour camp.

One time, as Ms Gogan returned house, she was held up at knifepoint by Hungarian Nazis. They threatened to kill her for serving to Jews.

“A person who knew her got here in and mentioned, ‘let her go, she’s individual’. In order that they let her go,” Dr Staub mentioned.

Thanks to those acts of kindness, Dr Staub and his household lived to see the tip of Nazi tyranny in Hungary.

Media playback is unsupported in your gadget

Media captionEva Behar was taken to a Nazi loss of life camp in 1944. What can we study from her experiences?

After enduring the battle, and a decade of communism in Hungary, Dr Staub fled by way of Vienna to the US, the place he studied the psychology of violence, genocide and morality. He did a PhD on the subject at Stanford College and taught at Harvard College, earlier than making use of his theories on hurt prevention to experiments and discipline analysis.

For a challenge in Rwanda, for instance, he tried to advertise reconciliation after the nation’s genocide of 1994. Fittingly sufficient, his most up-to-date ebook was titled “The Roots of Goodness and Resistance to Evil”.

These days, it is not genocide that worries Dr Staub. It is the extreme use of power by law enforcement officials within the US.

Picture caption

Dr Staub fled by way of Vienna to the US, the place he studied the psychology of violence

To quell this violence, Dr Staub had a easy thought, one which hinges on the function of energetic bystanders like Ms Gogan and the diplomat who saved his life.

“These individuals had been heroic energetic bystanders who put themselves into nice hazard,” Dr Staub mentioned. “They’d an enormous affect on my motivation to check what leads individuals to assist others.”

At 82, Dr Staub is having fun with a renaissance of his faculty of thought. His active-bystander idea has began to achieve traction in 2020, a yr of reckoning for police forces within the US.

The case of George Floyd, a black man who died in custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota in Could, reignited a long-running debate about racial injustice and policing within the US.

Widespread requires police reform have sprung from the killing of Mr Floyd, and that of different black Individuals.

At greater than 30 police departments throughout the US, a coaching programme primarily based on Dr Staub’s concepts has been included in that push for reform.

Extra on policing and protests within the US:

Media playback is unsupported in your gadget

Media captionThe BBC’s Clive Myrie explains why the historical past of racial inequality has paved the way in which for modern-day police brutality

Dr Staub has lengthy stepped again from educating on the College of Massachusetts, the place he based a PhD course on the psychology of violence. He was eager about retiring for good this yr, however demand for this coaching has thrust him again into the fray of the police-reform motion in the midst of a pandemic.

With a youthful inquisitiveness that belies his age, Dr Staub has acquainted himself with the trimmings of 2020, from video conferences on Zoom to the calls for of Black Lives Matter protests. Instances have modified but for Dr Staub, the rules of moral policing coaching lastly seem like coming of age.

“Some individuals wish to defund police departments,” Dr Staub mentioned. “We do want police, however we additionally want a metamorphosis in police departments.”

Picture caption

Dr Staub has labored on reconciliation and schooling initiatives in Rwanda

The training, called Ethical Policing Is Courageous (EPIC), encourages officers to intervene in the event that they see misconduct inside their ranks. It was first launched by the police power within the Louisiana metropolis of New Orleans in 2014.

Crucially, it emphasises the duty, not of the perpetrator, however of bystanders. Each officer is reminded of their responsibility to behave in the event that they see dangerous behaviour, repudiating the so-called blue wall of silence. This ethos upends the way in which officers historically take into consideration loyalty to their companions.

“Loyalty is not saying, ‘properly, you’ve got completed one thing improper, I will shield you’,” Lisa Kurtz, an innovation supervisor on the New Orleans Police Division (NOPD), advised the BBC. “Loyalty is me saying, ‘you are about to do one thing improper, and I will cease you’.”

Picture caption

EPIC coaching encourages officers to intervene in the event that they assume a colleague is behaving badly

Ernest Luster, a veteran NOPD officer, mentioned the coaching has fully modified the dynamic of policing within the metropolis.

“There was at all times this notion with police of us versus them, of them towards us,” says Mr Luster, a sergeant with greater than 20 years’ expertise. “Now we’re working collectively to make the neighborhood secure.”

Mr Luster often begins his shift with a staff briefing. He reminds his colleagues to guard the neighborhood, from criminals and one another. On the beat, officers can put on EPIC pins on their lapels to sign they consent to intervention.

In the end, the sergeant needs the general public to see officers as heroes, not villains. To that finish, he likens an energetic bystander to Superman, “considered one of my greatest heroes of all time”.

Realizing how, and when, to step in is a lesson that each member of the power is taught in EPIC coaching. And nobody, not even the sergeant himself, is exempt from that lesson.

“You may have 50 years on the job, however you are still a human being,” he mentioned. “You are still susceptible to sure individuals pushing a button.”

Even Mr Luster, an EPIC coach, can recall an incident when he struggled to maintain his feelings in examine. He virtually hit a handcuffed man who had resisted arrest for trespassing.

“At that second, a rookie cop walks over to me. He places his arms on my chest, and instantly I thought of EPIC. Similar to that. And I walked away. Now, had he not completed that, I may have misplaced my job for extreme power.”

Picture caption

Sergeant Ernest Luster mentioned even he has wanted his associate to intervene

Mr Luster’s testimony definitely chimes with latest knowledge on police conduct in New Orleans. The EPIC programme, alongside different reforms, seem to have yielded outcomes.

A 2019 report by an independent police monitor famous a pointy drop in “important incidents” involving using power by officers in New Orleans. These incidents fell from 22 in 2012, to 5 in 2018. That yr, the NOPD didn’t shoot at, critically injure or kill any civilians, the report mentioned.

Satisfaction with police has elevated, too. A 2019 survey discovered that 54% of New Orleans residents had been happy with the NOPD’s general efficiency, an increase of 21% since 2009.

These improved outcomes sign simply how far the NOPD has come for the reason that darkish days of the 2000s. Again then, the power was engulfed by scandal. Criminality and misconduct had been rife.

“If you happen to take virtually each main federal felony that we now have in legislation, apart from probably treason, we have had a New Orleans police officer who has been arrested, convicted, prosecuted and sued for these acts,” Mary Howell, a New Orleans-based civil rights lawyer, advised the BBC.

Picture caption

Mary Howell has seen crime ebb and circulate in New Orleans over time

Ms Howell has devoted a lot of her 40-year profession to pursuing justice for the victims of those acts.

Some of the troubling incidents, she recalled, occurred within the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. That yr, New Orleans officers shot six individuals on the town’s Danziger Bridge, killing two. The entire victims had been African Individuals. None had been armed, nor had they dedicated any crimes. 5 officers in the end pleaded responsible to costs associated to the shootings, and an try to cowl them up.

Ms Howell mentioned she was dismayed by this and different comparable incidents, which occurred again and again in New Orleans. The violence, she mentioned, got here in cycles.

“You see the identical patterns with home violence,” Ms Howell mentioned. “There can be a horrible incident, after which there can be the sweet, and the flowers, and ‘I’m so sorry’. Then it will occur once more.”

At its nadir in 2012, the NOPD was brought under federal supervision. Generally known as a consent decree, the supervision order required the power to undertake sweeping reforms. Using power, stops, searches, seizures and arrests; every little thing was revised to rebuild belief and enhance public security. A brand new coaching regime was a key part of that change.

That coaching was the place Ms Howell and Dr Staub got here in. Ms Howell first stumbled throughout Dr Staub’s work within the Nineties. The lawyer learn a New York Times article in which Dr Staub talked about a training programme he had designed for police forces in California.

The coaching programme was commissioned after the beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles law enforcement officials in 1991. Dr Staub mentioned he noticed “no signal of this coaching”, regardless of assurances it will be applied.

Picture copyright
Getty Photographs

Picture caption

The Rodney King beating triggered race riots, marking one of many darkest intervals of police-community relations in Los Angeles

However, Ms Howell was satisfied Dr Staub was on to one thing. For his theories on hurt prevention, Dr Staub was seen as a cult determine in police-reform circles.

Years later, sensing a chance to spur change in New Orleans, Ms Howell revisited Dr Staub’s idea of moral policing. Possibly this might work within the metropolis, she thought.

At Ms Howell’s suggestion, the NOPD developed a peer-intervention coaching programme. EPIC was the end result.

When the consent decree got here into impact in New Orleans, Jonathan Aronie was one of many legal professionals appointed to watch its progress. He was impressed by EPIC, primarily as a result of it was aimed toward all officers, not only a “small variety of wrongdoers”.

“This was a programme for the excessive proportion of individuals on the earth, and within the police division, that wish to do the precise factor,” Mr Aronie mentioned. “They might wish to forestall hurt, in the event that they solely had a talent to do it.”

A brand new nationwide initiative, launched after Mr Floyd’s loss of life, seeks to present officers that talent.

Picture caption

Officers who full EPIC coaching can select to put on an EPIC pin on their lapel

The Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement (ABLE) challenge will supply help to police departments throughout the nation in growing their very own peer-intervention coaching programmes. Constructed on the rules of EPIC, ABLE coaching, technical help and analysis shall be supplied, freed from cost.

An preliminary $400,000 (£307,000) has been raised to fund the challenge, led by Georgetown College and legislation agency Sheppard Mullin. With demand for police reform rising, ABLE organisers are hoping extra funding will comply with.

“After the George Floyd killing we most likely acquired 100 calls from police departments wanting EPIC coaching,” mentioned Mr Aronie, chair of ABLE’s board of advisers.

By October, 34 police departments in Boston, Denver, Philadelphia and different cities may have undertaken a “coaching of trainers” for the ABLE programme. To qualify for the coaching, every company needed to decide to ABLE’s requirements and submit letters of help from outstanding neighborhood organisations.

By itself, this coaching doesn’t signify a panacea for police misbehaviour, Mr Aronie mentioned. It must be a part of a broader cultural transformation in policing that goes past “pimping the programme for publicity”, he mentioned.

Nonetheless, Dr Staub’s concepts have gotten the muse of that transformation.

Picture copyright
Getty Photographs

Picture caption

Protests over the loss of life of George Floyd and different black Individuals have swept the US this yr

EPIC “may have modified the entire dynamic” of Mr Floyd’s deadly arrest, Dr Staub mentioned. Had they acquired the coaching, the three officers who watched on “would have felt empowered” to intervene.

They, identical to Ms Gogan and the diplomat who took dangers for Dr Staub, may have stepped in to problem the actions of 1, with the mixed will of three.

“People could make an enormous distinction,” Dr Staub mentioned. “They’ve nice energy, and once they be a part of collectively, they’ve substantial energy.”

BBC World Service radio talked to Dr Staub about his function in remodeling policing within the US for its newest episode of People Fixing the World.

You may take heed to the podcast on BBC Sounds from 6 October.