How the UCF police department is trying to eliminate officers’ implicit bias

UCF PD training officers to recognize, stop implicit bias

ORLANDO, Fla. – For the past six years, the University of Central Florida Police Department has hired Dr. Lorie Fridell, a University of South Florida criminology professor and a national expert on implicit bias, to train officers to recognize, acknowledge and eliminate bias.

UCF Police Chief Carl Metzger said implicit bias can cloud officers' decision-making.

“Whether or not to conduct a traffic stop, whether or not to stop an individual on the street, whether or not to issue a ticket, whether or not to search your car,” Metzger said. “Implicit bias, those are the biases that we all have, I would say, make snap judgments about an individual based on their appearance. And we do it every day. Specifically in police work, we have to be very much aware that those biases exist.”

Metzger said implicit bias is not only improper and unfair, it's also dangerous.

“Because you may let your guard down because you believe you’re talking to someone who isn’t part of a particular group who you might have the implicit bias against,” Metzger said. “And we have had officers shot and killed in Central Florida in the past because I strongly believe they let their guard down because they were talking to individuals who did not fit the mold of someone you would think of as being dangerous.”

Metzger said Fridell would regularly visit the UCF Police Department to conduct in-person bias training but lately has been so busy that she has been unable so newly hired officers have not undergone the in-person training. In order to continue the in-person training, Metzger is sending an officer to Fridell to learn how to teach bias training and then share the training with other officers.

All officers - veterans and new hires - have undergone virtual bias training via computer module.

Metzger is also working to develop a process that identifies implicit bias in officer candidates before they are hired.

"We're still figuring out exactly what that means because it needs to be objective and fair," Metzger said.

Metzger said identifying an explicit bias is much easier. During the hiring process, candidates are asked questions about bias while taking a lie detector test.

"During the voice stress analysis the question would be about membership in some sort of subversive organization such as the KKK for instance, or some other group that might stereotype or be racially divisive," Metzger said.

Candidates who admit to an explicit bias or are deceitful are not hired, Metzger said. The UCF Police Department recently added a “duty to intervene” requirement to its policing policy after feedback from community members.

“Everything an officer needs to do should they see something happening that is in violation of our policy or in violation of the law,” Metzger said. “The duty to intervene, this new policy spells out what the right thing (to do) actually is.”

Metzger said training scenarios incorporate the duty to intervene and test an officer’s decision-making when a fellow officer unexpectedly violates policy in the scenario.

UCF’s updated policing policy is posted here.

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