Over the next few months, all 1,300 officers in the Metro Nashville Police Department, as well as new recruits, will take a six-hour course to help them identify their own cultural blind spots. The training sessions start Thursday.
The basic principle behind the training is that everyone — even people with good intentions — has implicit biases, and that the key to overcoming those biases is to recognize them. That principle is supposed to help police feel less defensive when they have these conversations,
according to a national researcher who helped develop the training.
But Lt. Grant Carroll, with the MNPD training division, says the discussions can still be difficult.
“It does challenge people,” he says. “Most of us believe we don’t take race, gender, ethnicity into account when we make decisions, and so it goes against our own self-concept of who we are.”
The implicit bias training was created by a national organization call
Fair and Impartial Policing. It takes officers through case studies and video clips, reiterating the point that, when people make split-second decisions, those choices are often based on stereotypes.
One example: Officers will watch a video of a crying woman being comforted by a man on one side and a woman on the other, seemingly in a domestic violence case. Is the man an abusive partner? Is the woman a friend? What if it’s a same-sex couple? What do police need to know before they react?
This comes during a particularly tense time for police nationwide, and the presentation does emphasize recognizing racial bias. But Carroll says the new program was not created in response to Black Lives Matter. Rather, he says, the goal is to improve what he says is already a good relationship with the community.
The Nashville police department already tests new applicants before they’re accepted. Recruits have to appear before a panel and answer questions intended to reveal biases, which results in some washouts. The new training is meant for everyone to take and then will be incorporated into the police academy.