Half of the Decorah Police Department has completed unconscious bias training—and the other half will.
Decorah Police Chief David Smutzler says the topic of unconscious bias is a hot topic among police departments right now. The training being taken by the Decorah Police Department is aimed at teaching people the unconscious messages they learn from a wide array of sources from an early age. Many of these prejudices can unconsciously influence how we act toward one another.
Research confirms that everyone has unconscious or implicit biases, which is a function of the brain's need to categorize huge amounts of information. However, if left unchecked, unconscious biases and stereotypes can create an unhealthy work environment and lead to discriminatory behavior. Implicit bias training is notoriously challenging, because it can challenge lifelong beliefs and forces people to investigate and own up to their own biases.
Interactive exercises such as role-playing, simulations and group problem-solving are used in unconscious bias training. The training can be engaging, especially when structured to make sure people feel safe to voice their own perspectives.
The training is designed to provide officers with tools and techniques to adjust their automatic patterns of thinking and acting. Smutzler says his department has even added an electronic bias report form to its webpage in an effort to make sure such behavior is corrected.