Multiple news stories concerning unjust police interactions with racial minorities have revealed the problems with prejudice and police training. Of students arrested in New York City schools in the 2016-17 academic year, 92% were Hispanic or Black, even though they only make up about two-thirds of the total student population, reports Chalkbeat.
While many people talk about reform, not much happens beyond the conversations. The New York Police Department, however, is trying to address this problem through mandatory implicit bias training for all members.
What is implicit bias?
Implicit bias is unconscious stereotypes and attitudes a person has toward a specific group of people. It can be based on race, physical ability, religion, socioeconomic status or other characteristics (often protected classes). These biases negatively affect people’s behavior, even if those people are not intentionally trying to show prejudice. Most people are unaware of their implicit biases or their effects on how they treat others.
Is the training effective?
Implicit bias influences how law enforcement officers interact with suspects and victims. The goal of the training is to help officers learn how to be fair and impartial by recognizing when bias is present and handling it appropriately. Whether it actually works is up for debate.
Critics argue that it can make bias worse instead of better. Another flaw is that the program has no way to measure results to see if officers have learned the material and use it. There is not enough data yet to determine the program’s effectiveness. However, many have agreed that its approach has been an improvement over past training methods.
On a personal level, many police officers have found the training to be eye-awakening and helpful in being aware of and managing bias to improve fair policing. While this action offers hope, it is only the beginning of many steps toward reducing unfair police practices especially based on race.