But having even the most diverse workforce won’t remove the need to do two critical things – address the prevalence of hidden, unconscious bias against black people and examine the racial impact of all of a department’s policies and practices, regardless of who is carrying out them out.
The actual implementation of police procedures is an arena ripe for these unconscious biases to emerge with terrible consequences. That phenomenon is called implicit bias, and it exists in all of us. I’ve observed a wrong use of implicit bias out in the world – often people think it means that we all have biases against each other, and these biases are evenly distributed. But they are not. We all do have biases, about ourselves and others, but those in this society overwhelmingly favor white folk. In one study, researchers used video to measure shooting responses [PDF]. Officers were told to shoot the armed man, whose image was sometimes black and sometimes white. Participants fired faster at armed targets if they were black, and more quickly decided not to shoot unarmed targets if they were white. White and black officers had similar responses, so there wasn’t much difference in decision making based on the identity of the cop. From recruitment to hiring to training, solutions to implicit bias are emerging all the time, and they need to be in every police chief’s toolkit.
Those solutions go far beyond recruiting and hiring people. They include modes of community policing, determining probable cause for a stop, and supervision of officers. Rather than focusing all the attention on diversifying forces, we should be asking police departments to examine all their work for its racial impact. Colorlines’ publisher, Race Forward, has a racial equity impact assessment that provides a helpful framework, and dozens of cities are looking at the Governing for Racial Equity network as a potential support for change. http://www.colorlines.com/articles/hiring-more-cops-color-wont-end-police-violence-against-black-civilians