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U.S. Department of Justice Adopts USF Professor’s Training Program, Aiming to Reduce Law Enforcement Biases

Program developed by Dr. Lorie Fridell trains law enforcement agents to recognize their biases and use that knowledge to create a stronger, fairer criminal justice system.

TAMPA, Fla. (June 29, 2016) – The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced this week that it will train all of its law enforcement agents to recognize their implicit biases using a program developed by University of South Florida Associate Professor of Criminology Lorie Fridell.

Fridell’s program, “Fair & Impartial Law Enforcement,” will be used to help more than 23,000 DOJ employees recognize and address their often unconscious biases.

According to the DOJ, in the coming weeks the training program will be rolled out to agents employed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); and the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS).

The first training session was held Tuesday at the Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, DC. Deputy U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates and leadership from the four agencies receiving the training were all in attendance.

The program led by Fridell, a nationally recognized expert in biased policing, is already used by hundreds of local law enforcement agencies across the country.

“The science-based training program is designed to help people understand how implicit biases can impact their lives and work,” says Fridell, adding that social science has shown that we all have biases. “It also helps participants make these discoveries in a blame-free environment, one that recognizes that even the most well-intentioned officers and agents can experience unconscious biases.”

According to Fridell, stereotypes associated with different groups of people can influence the interactions and decisions of those in law enforcement as they carry out their responsibilities. A faculty member in the USF College of Community and Behavioral Sciences, Fridell says these stereotypes may be based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, socio-economic status, or other factors.

The “Fair & Impartial Law Enforcement” program designed for the federal agencies has separate versions for three categories of people -- line personnel, supervisors and executive-level personnel. Fridell’s team was assisted in the development of the training by a curriculum design team comprised of individuals representing the four agencies that will receive the training.

“I have had officers tell me that this training has ‘opened their eyes’ and ‘made them think’,” says Fridell. “It is something they say now is in the back of their minds every day.”

“Our officers are more effective and our communities are more secure when law enforcement has the tools and training they need to address today’s public safety challenges. At the Department of Justice, we are committed to ensuring that our own personnel are well trained in the core principles and best practices of community policing. Today’s announcement is an important step in our ongoing efforts to promote fairness, eliminate bias and build the stronger, safer, more just society that all Americans deserve,” said U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch in a press release this week announcing the training.

Fridell has had previous work funded by the DOJ; this funding was from the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. Before coming to USF, she was the Director of Research at the Police Executive Research Forum. She is the author of several books and book chapters on the issue of bias in law enforcement.

Additional information about implicit bias training is available here.

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