Earlier this month, the Task Force on 21st Century Policing delivered its interim report to President Barrack Obama. The 109-page U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) document outlines best practices and recommendations on how certain policing practices can promote effective crime reduction while building public trust.

Recent events, including those in Ferguson, Missouri, have exposed the need for immediate and improved relationship-building between police and the community making the report’s release especially timely and valuable.

During seven listening sessions conducted between January and February of this year, government officials, law enforcement officers, academic experts, technical advisors, leaders from established nongovernmental organizations (including grassroots movements), and technical advisors presented findings and offered recommendations on key issues including:

  • Building Trust and Legitimacy
  • Policy and Oversight
  • Technology and Social Media
  • Community Policing and Crime Reduction
  • Training and Education
  • Officer Safety and Wellness
  • The Future of Community Policing

Panelists and presenters agreed that training and education are critical to reducing racial profiling and discrimination by police. Biased policing—whether actual or perceived—threatens the relationship between the police and the diverse communities they serve.

Since 2009 and with funding from the DOJ Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (DOJ/COPS Office), Circle Solutions has, under a sub-contract with the University of South Florida, designed the seminal Fair and Impartial Policing Training Program. Based on decades of research by social psychologists, this unique training program applies the science of implicit bias to law enforcement policy and practice.

Under COPS funding, two curricula for recruit/patrol officers and for first-line supervisors, as well as a training-for-trainers, have been developed and are being implemented nationally. The goal of this interactive training is to recognize/understand how implicit biases can impact perceptions and behavior and to develop skills to override these implicit biases—not allowing them to control a law enforcement officer’s behavior.

The FIP training also addresses the importance of departmental policies to address when race, ethnicity, and other demographic descriptors can and cannot be used in making law enforcement decisions.  Finally, the FIP training emphasizes the importance of developing a comprehensive departmental approach to promoting fair and impartial policing, including: assessment of organizational policies and practices, recruitment and hiring, outreach to diverse communities, training and education, supervision and accountability, and measurement.

While training and education alone cannot solve the underlying and complex issues that give rise to tensions between some police departments and the communities they serve and protect, it can be an important strategy and tool for increasing awareness and reducing implicit bias in policing.

 

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