IMPD training to reduce implicit bias in policing

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- We’re all supposed to receive equal treatment under the law, but that doesn’t always happen.

Wednesday, a national expert on crime trained IMPD officers and community members on how prejudices can impact policing.

It’s videos like these that typically spark nationwide debate about why officers choose to shoot and whether it’s motivated by implicit biases. These are prejudices we may not even be aware of.

“So once we go into the classroom, they’re sitting there very defensive and apprehensive and we start to talk to them about science,” said Lorie Fridell. “It’s not the science of police bias, it’s the science of human bias and how it might make them ineffective, unsafe or unjust.”

As the developer of the Fair and Impartial Policing training program, a Department of Justice-supported project, Fridell led frank discussions about stereotypes. She then forced everyone in the room to confront how that can impact the way we treat people who aren’t like us.

“This could manifest in decisions to use force and so the application of the training is to all places where police officers have discretion to make decisions,” said Fridell.

She stressed over and over again that most of us want to think there’s no difference in our behavior.

But she says the snap judgements happen in the blink of an eye because of how our brains are wired unless you challenge the thoughts as they happen. Some community leaders joined her in applauding IMPD for proactively working to train officers to do that.

“We think of it as, that’s your responsibility,” said Sibeko Jywanza, who works for the Flanner House. “As a police officer, you’re here with the community. You cannot go about it with a bias of this person is bad or this person may look like they’re doing something.”

The training continues for top administrative officials Thursday, then next month with even more IMPD managers, plus community members will get the lesson too.

“I think hopefully where we will get is what do you do about that? And how do you keep those biases from having a negative action?”

Fridell shared solutions on hiring, retention, promotion and community outreach. The latter is especially important, she believes, because there are theories that the more contact someone has with a group they typically stereotype negatively, the more positively they think about the entire group.

Chief Roach says he's committed to making sure every officer and recruit gets the fair and impartial policing training in 2018 and that IMPD works toward implementing more of the solutions or improving ones they’re already doing.