MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A peer intervention program is empowering St. Paul police officers to police themselves, whether they have one day on the job or they’re the chief.

Chief Todd Axtell says it’s an additional tool in a toolbox that helps officers recognize when one of their own is not in command of all their emotions and may need to step back.

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“This program really allows and empowers our officers, and expects our officers to step in regardless of rank, regardless of time on the job, tap that officer on the shoulder when they may be getting heated and say, ‘I got this,’” Axtell said.

The training is called EPIC, or Ethical Policing is Courageous. It was first introduced in New Orleans.

Chief Axtell and his command staff traveled south to learn how to educate, empower and support officers on the street to play a meaningful role in policing one another.

“This is an addition to our ongoing training of implicit bias training, crisis intervention, de-escalation, moral courage training,” he said. “The more training we have, the more awareness we have of who we are and how our emotions can impact the jobs that we have.”

(credit: CBS)

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Sgt. John Cajacob has led the charge in training all 585 St. Paul officers.

“What’s great about this training is it is interactive. It’s built by officers, it’s designed by our officers to be useful for our officers,” Cajacob said. “One of the things we wanted to do is implement a policy that is tailor-made for out officers and our department.”

Officer Lou Ferraro was one of the first to go through the eight-hour course.

“Becoming an active bystander in law enforcement is the most important thing that we could do for our community,” Ferraro said.

He came up with the concept of a pin that all who are trained now proudly wear.

“This pin is not only a symbol of me saying that I’m willing to do that for my fellow officers, but it’s also me saying I’m willing to accept that from another officer as well,” Cajacob said.

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Chief Axtell says the additional training is part of an ongoing effort to provide transparency and establish trust in the community. All new recruits will go through EPIC training.

Reg Chapman