I believe we all can agree that on one level or another we have seen a huge disparity in the interactions between those of different races — both within the ranks of law enforcement and amongst neighbors. The tragic police shootings at times are used as a preventative tool – a reaction to a perceived threat or merely to underlying bias that gets triggered. Leadership and organizers are trying to get to the root of racial bias and how to understand and expunge it. Precincts are holding workshops …But in the world of biases, there are both implicit and explicit types. As outlined in the APA’s article, “Policing in Black and White,” explicit is easily detected as it is a bias one openly expresses in conversation, implicit biases can become deadly if undetected. Implicit biases are ones we all have but of which we are unaware until we are asked to make a quick decision in a situation where stereotypes come into play. If we don’t make an effort to understand and deal with both levels we are merely putting a bandaid on the problem. Officers are now more than ever becoming aware of these biases and are eager to work on them. David M. Corey, PhD, a police psychologist and founding president of the American Board of Police and Public Safety Psychology says, “The police officers I’ve worked with are looking for effective ways to reduce implicit or unintended bias, and they welcome advice based on psychological evidence, not politics…We feel like we have to do something, but sometimes the action we take proves to be merely window dressing,” he says. “My worry is that could cause a police agency to think they’re doing enough, or that the monies being spent will prohibit spending for other areas, including research.” This has not stopped many of the 15,000 law enforcement agencies across the country from implementing bias trainings. Psychologists, while still left with many unanswered questions, are developing bias detecting and reshaping programs including screening tactics to ensure new hires are best equipped to handle implicit biases.
While bias screening, detecting, and reshaping is helpful, the American Psychological Association offers up a more auspicious solution; one at which our very own Pittsfield Police Department is excelling — rebuilding a community. While human contact and ‘walking your beat’ has decreased among patrol duties, so has the relationship between officer and citizen. “In the past, an officer used to walk a beat. They’d get out of their car, get to know people,” says John Dovidio, PhD, a social psychologist at Yale University . “Effective policing requires the cooperation of the community. If the community doesn’t trust you, they won’t give you info to help you do your job,” says Dovidio. “If you can create a sense of being on the same team, having the same goals, it makes policing more effective.” Local Officer Darren Derby Is making great head way. Please check out his social media postings, #HoopsNotCrime, #GetOutOfYourCruiser, Operation Copsicle, Cop on Top, Cops N Kids.. Keep up the good work, officers!