Recognizing Implicit Bias

“Best class I’ve ever taken with probation. It was very interactive, fun, and there was never a dull moment.”

California POST & STC Certified

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Background

Research has shown us that we all have deep unseen biases that include racial bias. Consider the study conducted by the Urban Institute; researchers sent actors with similar financial credentials to the same real estate or rental offices to ask about buying or renting a home or apartment. In the end, no matter where they were sent, the actors of color were shown fewer homes and offered fewer discounts on rent or mortgages than those who were white.  The results even surprised some of the actors of color; they felt they had been treated politely, even warmly.

Law enforcement personnel, already predisposed to cynicism, are extremely susceptible to deep and even unknown biases.  One cannot expect a person to spend a career that is focused on looking for the bad in people to see the world with objective clarity.  Moreover, based on this job, it is human nature for law enforcement personnel to instantly judge others.  The officer safety aspect of quick judgements is a legitimate concern, but upon the backdrop of unrealized selective treatment as revealed in the racial/real estate study, it is hard to believe that law enforcement personnel would naturally treat people with complete equality.

According to TrustandJustice.org, research suggests that biased associations can be gradually unlearned and replaced with nonbiased ones. Perhaps even more encouragingly, one can reduce the influence of implicit bias simply by changing the context in which an interaction takes place. Mitigation strategies begin with sincere awareness of biases, and then require behavioral shifts to “unlearn” them.  Only through outcome-based training that secures the affective buy-in of law enforcement personnel can we hope to create equitable policing services.

Executive Summary

Recognizing Implicit Bias is made up of student-centered learning activities that allow attendees to safely understand their own biases with a scientific approach.  The curriculum design avoids an accusatory tone and focuses on objective facts revealed directly to each student by their own in-class discovery.  Students learn in a safe environment with exercises that reveal deep personal preferences (biases) on things that are not at all controversial.  It is a fun way to see things we like based on how we were socialized.  Ultimately, students personally decide how they will apply the knowledge and skills learned that teach them to recognize their own implicit biases and how to mitigate them. 

This is a highly interactive course and extremely well-reviewed.  These are just a few of the outstanding comments from a southern California probation department:

Best class I’ve ever taken with probation.  It was very interactive, fun, and there was never a dull moment.”

“Great speaker. Very engaging and open to questions.  Great insight.”

“Very insightful and very very enjoyable! Thank you sir.”

Course Objectives:

  1. Identify baseline benevolent affective dispositions needed to effectively combat implicit bias
  2. Identify at least three hidden biases held by most people
  3. Recognize personal biases
  4. Develop strategies to mitigate or eliminate biases
  5. Identify common slights and develop proactive strategies to respond to them effectively

Course Information

Course Length: 1 day (8 hours)
Certification: California Board of State and Community Corrections (STC)
Cost/Tuition: $0 for POST reimbursable agencies / $125
Max Class Size: 30 Students
Prerequisites: None
Recommended For: First responders and supervisors or any public servant in any capacity.

About the Course Designer/Instructor:

Vanessa E. Dixon, M.A., has over eighteen years of experience in both policing and academia. Beginning her career as a police officer in the City of Lowell, MA, she served as a patrol officer, firearms licensing administrator, school resource officer, and as a detective. In 2004 Vanessa transitioned to a teaching career serving as a Professor of Criminal Justice at Middlesex Community College attaining tenure in 2010. Additionally, Professor Dixon holds an IDI level III instructor certification from the State of California P.O.S.T. [More..]

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