Initiatives tackle unbiased policing

Posted at 5:58 PM, Dec 29, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-29 17:58:56-05

A local police commission and a statewide task force are both trying to achieve the same goal of awareness and change to something called ‘unconscious bias,’ which has been a hot topic since shootings like Tamir Rice.

But what does that really mean?

“I’ve been reading up on it,” said Anthony Body, member of the Cleveland Community Police Commission. He’s been doing research on the topic to prepare for the next meeting at the start of the year.

“We see young or just African American males in general affected by implicit bias as it relates to how officers approach a situation,” he said.

Implicit or unconscious bias is set of positive or negative mental attitudes toward something that an individual is not fully aware they have.

“We all may feel as if we’re not biased or that we’re consciously aware, but we’re not,” Body said.

Dr. Ronnie Dunn is a member of the Governor's Community Policing Task Force and wrote part of his book on this topic.

“We tend to identify with and accept those from our own social groups more so than those from other groups,” he said.

Dunn said unconscious bias, played out more recently in officer-civilian relationships, is just a small window into the bigger picture.

“I think we have reached a critical tipping point in the life of this nation wherein we have to address these issues.”

Science shows we all carry these unconscious biases. And there's even an online test that helps us explore what those are. It’s a tool both initiatives will use as a reference.

Dunn said the test is a good starting point to enact change.

“Research has shown that once we become aware of these unconscious biases, there are mechanisms and things that can be done to offset them from impacting our decision-making.”

Like Dunn, Body said he’s determined to move the conversation about what it is to how we can change.

“Effective training, effective techniques to deal with the de-biasing in some of these unconscious biases that we have in our minds. What I’m trying to do is allow officers to see African American males in a different light.”

When it comes to truly moving things into action, Shakyra Diaz, Policy Manager of ACLU said conquering something like unconscious bias is more of an uphill battle than what some may realize.

"So it's not as easy as let's meet and make it happen. For a country that's had centuries and centuries of practices that negatively impact people of color, particularly African American people and those practices are still very much alive today, it's going to be very, a lot of hard work, very intentional work that we have to work with."

Both Body and Dunn will meet with their separate groups at the start of the year to discuss the next steps on this topic. 

Curious if you may be biased? Click here to take the test.


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