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IMPD officers to go through implicit bias training

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - The mayor of Indianapolis is calling for changes to the way city police officers are trained. The announcement comes after an unarmed black man was shot and killed last month after a chase.

During a press conference Friday morning, Mayor Joe Hogsett unveiled proposed changes to public safety policies.

He said IMPD will launch implicit bias training for officers. While departments around the country have implemented such training for cops, Hogsett said the training in Indianapolis would also involve community members.

"This effort will be the first of its kind in the entire country," Hogsett said. "IMPD and the Office of Public Health and Safety will bring in nationally recognized experts who have worked with the Department of Justice."

The launch of this initiative comes just weeks after Aaron Bailey was shot and killed by police after a chase. He was unarmed at the time of the shooting. Bailey's family and community activists have been outspoken about the case.

The FBI has launched an investigation into the officer-involved shooting and IMPD is conducting its own internal investigation.

"If a community does not bear witness together, if it chooses to look the other way in the face of a painful past, it risks its soul," Hogsett said Friday.

The idea behind implicit bias training is that everyone has stereotypes in their minds but they must learn how to prevent those stereotypes from overly influencing decisions.

We sat down with Dr. Anita Jones Thomas, dean of College of Applied Behavioral Sciences at the University of Indianapolis, to learn more about implicit bias and its impact on police work.

"I think it’s a great initiative for the city to really begin to think about what are some of the underlying factors around some of the shootings before we get to a place where shootings increase in their frequency," Jones Thomas said.

According to Jones Thomas, the training usually involves classroom work and playing out scenarios. With just a few clicks, anyone can take a test to get a better idea about their own implicit bias.

"The tests have shown a lot of racial bias," Jones Thomas said. "So, whites associated with good more frequently. Blacks associated with bad more frequently."

She said the right training can help people shift their perspectives.

"You can change the patterns in the brain, all of these stereotypes that we have are learned," Jones Thomas said.

She adds that implicit bias can have an impact on all parties involved in a traffic stop.

"For many people of color who are stopped by police, there’s certainly implicit bias on their perspectives about 'am I in danger?' 'Is this person going to be trigger happy?'" Jones Thomas said.  "The goal is to really help raise awareness so that people become more conscious of how their feeling about people in particular groups and then hopefully to change behaviors."

There is little data available to show how effective implicit bias training has been at other police departments.  Jones Thomas said the training is still fairly new and there are challenges when trying to determine why an officer decided to fire or not fire his/her gun in the field.