Tuesday, August 9, 2016

CSP Tackles Tough Topic of Unconscious Biases

Recent incidents across the country have heightened the focus of bias in policing. Well before tensions escalated in the wake of incidents in Ohio and Louisiana, leaders in the Colorado State Patrol were exploring opportunities to ensure that the CSP is addressing this tough topic head-on and training its members to minimize implicit bias.

CSP aims to have 100% of its members trained
in Fair and Impartial Policing.
CSP Chief Scott Hernandez has proactively implemented Fair and Impartial Policing courses for both uniformed and civilian members of the Patrol.

“We know that even the best law enforcement employees may have unconscious biases,” Chief Hernandez said. “By training all members of the agency, we have an opportunity to address tough topics facing the law enforcement profession and the communities we serve. I am fully committed to the curriculum and am excited that we have developed a comprehensive program to ensure fair and impartial policing standards throughout the Patrol.”

In July 2016, line-level State Patrol members began receiving Fair and Impartial Policing (FIP) training. The new training expands beyond existing training that CSP members already complete in “verbal judo,” de-escalation tactics and general best practices for fair and just policing. Over the course of six hours, the training:

  • Acknowledges that all humans have unconscious (implicit) biases; 
  • Demonstrates how beliefs that we’re not even aware of can affect our reactions – or our failure to react; 
  • And provides skills and tactics to reduce the impact of bias on how we act, thus resulting in fair, impartial and effective policing. 
“The core lesson of the class has to do with not overreacting or underreacting in situations while interacting with the public,” said Sgt. Shane Scovel, a State Patrol member who has taken the training and also is certified to deliver the course to others. “It has also been empowering to know that there is something that a Trooper can do to make a difference in a split second response.”

The rollout of Fair and Impartial Policing in the Patrol began in March 2016, when 25 CSP members completed a multi-day train-the-trainer course. CSP command staff and captains, along with their civilian counterparts, completed a training course for leadership that included additional training on how to identify and intervene effectively when bias may be affecting a subordinate’s behavior.
Now, the State Patrol is in the process of ensuring every single member has completed Fair and Impartial Policing training. The goal is to have all 1000+ CSP members complete the appropriate level of training by mid-2017.

“This training, although relatively new to me personally, has given me better awareness of looking for behaviors versus traits when I am patrolling out on the roads. Having studied and taught the class, I have a more careful thought process into how I might react to a situation involving force,” Scovel said.

Members of the Colorado State Patrol at a
Fair and Impartial Policing training.
He added that an important part of the training is implementing proven ways to reduce unconscious bias. For example, initiating positive contact with community members in a non-enforcement setting can help combat the unacknowledged stereotypes we acquire over our lifetimes.

“I know that anyone can benefit from this training both in a professional capacity and in their personal interactions,” Scovel concluded. “We are all better off evaluating each situation individually and each individual by their own merit.”

Basic tenets of Fair and Impartial Policing:

  • All people, even well-intentioned people, have unconscious or implicit biases. 
  • Having biases is normal to human functioning.
  • Biases are often unconscious, thus influencing choices and actions without thinking or decision making.
  • Policing based on biases or stereotypes is unsafe, ineffective and unjust.
  • Officers can learn skills to reduce and manage their own biases. 
  • Supervisors can learn skills to identify biased behavior in their direct reports and take corrective actions when they detect biased policing. 
  • Law enforcement executives and command-level staff can implement a comprehensive agency program to produce fair and impartial policing. 
Interested in learning more? Visit www.fairandimpartialpolicing.com.

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