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NYPD Tackles “Implicit Bias” in the Police Force

The nation's largest policy agency launches a two-year training program created by a USF professor to improve how its officers interact with the public

TAMPA, Fla. (Feb. 8, 2018) -- The nation’s largest police agency is taking action to improve how its officers interact with the public. The New York City Police Department (NYPD) just launched a two-year “implicit bias” training program created by Lorie Fridell, PhD, associate professor of criminology, College of Community and Behavioral Sciences, at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

Lorie Fridell, PhD, (standing) USF associate professor of criminology, and her team of current and retired law enforcement officers, have trained hundreds of police agencies and thousands of officers across the country.

Fridell and her 20-member team are training all of NYPD’s 36,000 sworn officers on how to reduce and manage biases that many argue too often impact police work. She emphasizes the importance of having positive interactions with people of different backgrounds (race, gender, ethnicity, etc.) and recognizing when one unintentionally links groups to stereotypes. Trainees in these Fair and Impartial Policing classes learn about the science of bias, discuss how it might manifest in police work and acquire skills for managing biases.

“Because our biases are never going to go to zero, we need to manage our biases,” Fridell said. “Managing biases starts with recognizing their existence. Even though these can impact you outside conscious awareness, once I learned about implicit biases, I started to recognize the many times I made snap judgements about people or situations based on the first glance.”

Police agencies across the country have faced backlash for how they’ve apprehended or detained certain suspects, specifically in the Black community. Officer-involved shooting deaths and subsequent acquittals have sparked marches and riots in major cities such as Chicago, Baltimore and Milwaukee.

Fridell and her trainers, all of whom are retired or current law enforcement, have trained hundreds of police agencies and thousands of officers, including in St. Louis County, Missouri, where the Ferguson Police Department received a scathing report from the U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ), accusing it of widespread racial bias. The USDOJ intervened after a Ferguson police officer shot an unarmed Black teenager.

“We want police to understand how implicit bias might impact police decisions and the consequences of its manifestation. Our mantra is policing based on biases and stereotypes can make you ineffective, unsafe and unjust,” Fridell said.

Each NYPD sworn officer will receive eight hours of training that is customized to the various ranks and roles. The USDOJ has provided Fridell and the University of South Florida grant funding for the development and dissemination of the Fair and Impartial Policing training program.

Story by Tina Meketa, University Communications and Marketing

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