SALT LAKE CITY — Law enforcement at the University of Utah recently spent four days participating in implicit bias training. The courses are intended to help public safety officials understand implicit bias and how to control responses in fast-moving and potentially dangerous situations.
Implicit, or unconscious bias is a psychological concept defined as a bias or stereotype felt by a person without that person known they feel or exhibit it.
“Research on “implicit bias” suggests that people can act on the basis of prejudice and stereotypes without intending to do so,” says the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
The focus of Implicit bias training for UofU officers
The Office of the Cheif Safety Officer at the University of Utah said the training was August 17 through August 20 and included four sessions: one tailored for command staff, two sessions for police officers, and one session was held specifically for community members in conjunction with public safety representatives.
The training encompassed themes such as sexism, stereotypes, racism and social injustice.
“This training is designed to bring attention to implicit biases and to provide officers with tools to help them recognize and address their bases,” said Scott Cunningham, the course instructor.
“These sessions focus on helping officers and the community understand that we all have biases, why they exist and what we can do to control our responses.”
Cunningham said officers have admitted to implicit bias working in the past. “They tell us that the situation turned out better because they took the time to acknowledge, question and address their implicit biases,” Cunningham noted.
Involving the community in implicit bais training
Since the killing of Lauren McCluskey in 2018, the University of Utah Police Department has been under scrutiny in relation to its handling of the case.
“This training is just the beginning of building the foundation of our interaction with the community,” said University of Utah Police Chief Chatman.
“We invited community members because we want to have conversations that build relationships and allow us to work together. I believe that you cannot police a community if you aren’t a part of it.”
The implicit bias allowed community members to air grievances about campus police. One student who attended the training said they learned who held positions of power at the university.
“There was room for expressing some very valid concerns about the effectiveness of policing on our campus,” said international student Javier Prado.
He alluded Cheif Chapman for taking the first step “toward a more holistic system of public safety — one that addresses the root causes of distress and instability among students.”
In June, the University of Utah Chief Safety Officer Marlon Lynch told Utah lawmakers his department had made some changes already and would make more in the future, to “re-establish” public trust.
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