Sixty Tucson officers this week are receiving training in “fair and impartial policing” with the goal of creating a more effective force through the understanding of bias.
Lorie Fridell, an associate professor at the University of South Florida’s College of Behavioral and Community Science, coached the Tucson Police Department commanders and trainers who will go on to teach others in the department to recognize their own “unconscious bias” in order to better interact with the community.
Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor hopes to have all 950 or so members of the department trained within six months.
The training was scheduled before recent tensions in Missouri over two police shootings, Fridell said.
“There is nothing unique about Tucson,” she said. “This is a national issue.”
For members of the TPD, the instruction is intended to be “preventative,” Villaseñor said.
“I don’t believe there’s a person in this agency who would tolerate bias,” he said, but “just being human, you are going to have bias. It’s part of our makeup.
“Because of the issues we deal with here, particularly occurring with immigration … there is a lot of tension.”
Bias goes both ways, Fridell said.
“Police are one of our most stereotyped groups.”
Although explicit bias, such as racism, is less prevalent today, implicit — or unconscious — bias is harder to recognize in oneself, she said.
“Once one recognizes their own biases, they can begin to undo them,” she said. “The more we interact in a positive way with people different than us … the more we can reduce our bias.”
Added Villaseñor, “How we see ourselves, how we react to people, and how a seemingly innocent statement can be perceived by someone else” are all considerations to overcoming actual or perceived bias.