As the shooting of unarmed black men by police officers has drawn increased scrutiny, local police departments are increasingly turning to “implicit bias training” in hopes of helping their officers recognize their prejudices and develop strategies for enforcing the law equitably in spite of them, reports the Washington Post. The idea is that simply understanding your biases can help you overcome them and make more informed judgments. Recommended by President Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing as one way police departments can reform, the training has been offered in departments large and small, including in New Orleans, Los Angeles and Seattle.
Lorie Fridell, a criminologist whose Fair & Impartial Policing company travels across the U.S. conducting such training, said the firm is booked many months out, and the schedule is filling fast. “I'm actually receiving a request per business day,” she said. In a Baltimore class, trainer Edward Gillespie asked officers to consider that when they encounter someone on the street, they have limited information — a person's race, general age and perhaps a distinctive style of dress. Their biases, he said, fill in the rest. Science on implicit bias is not new, and police departments are not alone in offering bias training. Facebook unveiled a program on the topic for employees last year. Calls for reform by members of the Black Lives Matter movement and others have pushed implicit bias training to the forefront of the national conversation on law enforcement practices.