Widely used police diversity training unlikely to change officers’ behavior, study finds

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Tire Nichols, 29, black, who died earlier this month after a shootout with police at a traffic stop in Memphis, has become the latest face of the racial justice and police reform movement fueled by a string of similar lawsuits. Black men died from injuries sustained while in custody.

While these cases spur calls for law enforcement to invest more in diversity education, St. A new study from the University of Washington in St. Louis shows that the day-to-day implicit bias education programs now prevalent in most U.S. police departments are less likely to reduce racial inequality. policing

“Our findings suggest that diversity education currently being implemented is unlikely to change police behavior,” said lead author Calvin Lai, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and Brain Sciences at the University of Washington in St.

“Police officers who received training were more bias-knowledgeable and more motivated to address bias in the workplace,” Lai said.

Published on February 3 in the journal Psychological ScienceThe research assesses the experiences of 3,764 police officers from departments nationwide who attended one-day bias training sessions provided by the nonprofit Anti-Defamation League.

Emphasizing discussion and active learning rather than lecturing, interactive workshops are designed to help officers understand how their worldview is shaped by their identity and culture, and to appreciate how these biases can affect their behavior.

Lai’s assessment of the program, which covered 251 training sessions held between July 2019 and January 2022, is based on police officers’ responses to surveys conducted before, immediately after, and one month after training.

When officers were asked about their thoughts on education, many reported that it was surprising and insightful. For example, one officer wrote, “It opened my eyes to the prejudices we all have as human beings,” and another wrote, “I really liked the course because it opened my eyes to implicit biases I never knew I had.”

The officers surveyed had an average of 15 years of service, and most had served in their departments for more than five years. Most were below the rank of sergeant, 77% male, and 79% holding a bachelor’s degree or higher. Of those reporting their race, 47% were white, 20% Black, 27% Hispanic/Latin, and 2% Asian.

The final part of the training program focused on developing skills to manage bias in policing. These strategies included intentionally bringing awareness of current mainstream bias, and other interventions designed to help officers avoid perceptions based on negative stereotypes and see people as unique individuals with their own perspectives.

While the training provided immediate and long-term understanding of bias, it provided only a temporary boost in concerns about bias and motivation to use strategies to limit bias in law enforcement interactions.

“Educating about implicit bias was effective at raising awareness of the existence of implicit or implicit bias in a permanent way, but little else,” Lai said. “Our study shows that current generation diversity training programs are effective at changing minds but less consistent at changing behavior.”

Lai, who is currently working with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Policing Services to develop a new bias management training for law enforcement, says it’s important to manage expectations about what can be accomplished in a single independent training session.

His work documents the shortcomings of the Manage Bias program, which the Anti-Defamation League considers one of the best diversity education programs available in the country. The program is research-based, comes with an 80-page instruction manual, and is delivered by two-person teams of highly trained facilitators.

“All-day training is more intense than other diversity training, which usually only lasts one to three hours,” Lai says. Said. “Still, we found little evidence for long-term efficacy.”

Lai’s research suggests that police departments can increase the effectiveness of diversity education by demonstrating genuine, long-term commitment to program goals and by ensuring that classroom bias education lessons are integrated with other institutional initiatives, empowered by police executives, and considered as part of the work. yield.

“It’s hard to change minds, it’s hard to create social change, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing,” Lai said. “We need to dispel all-or-nothing thinking about the effectiveness of implicit bias education and focus on specific changes that police departments can implement to make a real difference in outcomes.”

This work was supported by donations from the Anti-Defamation League and the Russell Sage Foundation. Co-authors include Jacklyn Lisnek, a former lab director in Lai’s lab and currently pursuing a PhD in social psychology at the University of Virginia.

More information:
The impact of implicit bias-focused diversity training on police officers’ beliefs, motivations and actions. Psychological Science (2023). DOI: 10.1177/0956797622115061

Provided by the University of Washington in St. Louis.

Quotation: Widely used police diversity training unlikely to change officers’ behavior, study findings (2023, Feb. 4), Feb 4, 2023 https://phys.org/news/2023-02-commonly-police-diversity-officers-behavior Retrieved from. html

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