Course helps officers discover and suppress hidden bias

Posted at 6:19 PM, May 14, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-15 06:02:25-04

Virginia Beach, Va. - Police officers from around the region have spent the week in a special course to help them identify their hidden biases, and to ensure those biases don't affect their fairness as officers.

The course, called "Fair and Impartial Policing," explores the subtle reasons, usually developed over lifetimes, that explain why people make subtle judgments about others. The course doesn't explore obvious faults like racism, said Norfolk officer Melinda Wray, but biases that may center around age, or gender, or "whether someone is a dog person or a cat person."

According to the course website, the training costs around $30,000. That cost is being shared among the departments, said Officer Daniel Hudson. The officers who complete the course will in turn teach other officers.

"Some of it, honestly, is a little difficult to deal with," said Virginia Beach officer Lonnie Cain. "There was a little personal embarrassment that I have biases. But it is good to realize that because now I can work on it."

Wray said the course isn't designed to eliminate the kind of biases that are ingrained in humans. But rather to understand them, and manage them so police treat all people as fairly as possible. The change, she said, won't be immediate.

"It's not going to be today. It's not going to be tomorrow. It's not going to be next year that you will see some of these changes take place," she said. "But eventually the pendulum is going to swing. And the change is going to take place. That's why we are starting here. It's daunting, yes. But we're going to do it."