In rapid changing fields such as law enforcement, it is important for people to recognize their biases and prejudice. By understanding their own bias and prejudice, as well as, seeing how bias and prejudice affects people, police officers can change how their actions are conducted. In order to do this, an understanding of what bias and prejudice is, how it has evolved, and its impact must be shown. Once this is completed, police actions can be better guided resulting in better interactions with the world.
What Is Bias?
To begin understanding bias, one must know what bias entails and its origins. Bias as defined by the sixth edition of the Multicultural Law Enforcement; Strategies for Peacekeeping in a Diverse Society textbook is “a preformed negative opinion or attitude toward a group of persons based on their race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”(Shusta) Now that bias has been defined it’s important to see its history of it. Similar to water, trees, stars, ect… bias has been around since the dawn of time. A fun fact about bias: while it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact moment bias was observed, we can trace the origin of the word back to the 1520s. An interesting fact about bias is that contrary to belief humans are not the only species that experience it. This can be seen in a study conducted by Neha Mahajan and a group of psychologist which Daisy Grewl wrote about in an article for Scientific American. Grewl briefly writes about Mahajan and Co.’s discovery on Cayo Santigo, an island close to Puerto Rico. Grewl’s article highlights the experiment that was conducted on Rhesus Monkeys regarding groups and outsiders. This was done using the Implicit Association Test (IAT). The IAT measures unconscious bias by determining how quickly a word is associated with specific groups and reveals implicit bias.
Types Of Bias
Before discussing the effects of bias, it’s crucial to know that there are many types of bias. While most are directed at oneself or (i.g. Confirmation bias) the main ones dealt within law enforcement are implicit and explicit bias. Implicit bias according to the American Psychological Association (APA) is “attitudes or stereotypes that can influence our beliefs, actions, and decisions, even though we’re not consciously aware of them and don’t express those beliefs verbally to ourselves or others.” (Weir) An example of this in law enforcement would be, an officer disliking a certain minority group over another and pursuing justice more often with one group than the other over the course of a fiscal year. If implicit bias is what someone is unaware of than what’s explicit bias? Explicit bias as defined by the National Center for Cultural Competence (NCCC) is “when someone knows about their feelings and attitudes towards someone or a group of people”. (Two) An example of this in law enforcement would be, an officer targeting Hispanics who commit crimes because they don’t think Hispanics should be in the U.S because they’re criminals.
Effects & Solutions Of Bias
Bias has been briefly defined but no effects or solutions were given. That is the focus of the paragraph, how does bias affect people and how can people work to stop it? One experiment that showcased the issue of bias in police officers was Joshua Correll’s Police Officer’s Dilemma. In this people played a first player shooter game, in the game, there were unarmed white and black men. It was shown that when police officers played it took them less time to shoot the black men. Activities like these can be used to monitor which officers are more likely to shoot an unarmed person instead of an armed person, especially if they are different races. Another potential option for reducing bias is when a suspect is arrested use a different officer for the interrogation and booking process. The article written by Weir highlighted this as a way to stop officers from acting on biases that are present. Weir talked to a law and psychology professor by the name of Tom Tyler. In their conversation, Tyler hinted that having set protocol and a checklist regarding various situations would hold all officers to the same standard when conducting things such as traffic stops. During their talk, Tyler also hinted at the possibility of changing a department’s hiring practices to decrease racial disparity. Another way to reduce racial disparity and improving bias control given in the article was by John Dovido. Dovido reminded Weir that the act of community police would help rebuild the community’s trust in law enforcement. By conducting community policing practices you’d better understand groups of people who may have different interests or ideas than you. While it’s difficult to completely remove bias Dovido stated to Weir that if psychologists work to understand the police officer’s job difficulties and requirements than better more accurate training on bias could occur. (Weir) A solution for a whole department would be to experience the ADL’s bias training. The ADL which is a non-governmental organization train not only law enforcement but all forms of officials, including veterans. Some key points that make this training desirable is that they can focus on the needs of an individual department, focus on law enforcement’s role in community policing, and the perception of an individual and the community. Another law enforcement tool that can be used is the Department Of Justice’s (DOP) peacemaker the Community Relations Services (CRS). CRS has a bias toolkit that can be found online which provides five ways to reduce bias. The first idea is stereotype replacement which is just taking a stereotype and giving it a non-stereotypical response. This is accomplished by addressing a stereotype, labeling when it occurs, and thinking about alternatives. The second idea is counter-stereotypic imaging; which is creating opposite images of stereotypes. The final three are pretty similar and work off one another. Individuation, Perspective Taking, and Increasing Opportunities. These ideas focus on treating the many as one and getting together with the one or the many more frequently. (Understanding) By using these tools and experiments law enforcement can better learn how to stop the practice of bias from affecting their job.
What Is Prejudice?
When trying to understand prejudice the same starting point as bias is needed. Prejudice as defined by the sixth edition of the Multicultural Law Enforcement; Strategies for Peacekeeping in a Diverse Society textbook is “A judgment or opinion formed before facts are known, usually involving a negative or unfavorable thoughts about groups of people.” (Shusta) Given the definition, how prejudice occurs and solutions can now be examined.
What Causes Prejudice To Occur
The main focus of the following paragraph is to show the effects of and possible solutions to prejudice. Prejudice can be harmful to all involved and can cause tension. The tension created is related to a US Vs. Them mentality. Dovido says that this mentality can be detrimental to people’s views because it can make someone feel like they’ve been dehumanized. (Weir) Some common causes for prejudice stated by Daisy are blows to self-esteem and being reminded of our morality. Daisy then went on to talk about how psychologist Cathrine Cottrell and Steven Neuburg believe that prejudice evolved from group living. This is due to group living making us wary of people outside of our group. This was proven to be true by the rhesus monkey experiment conducted by Mahajan and Co. The reason for this is because they could spread illness, steal natural resources, and cause bodily harm to others. In order to protect ourselves from this, the process of quickly identifying those who don’t belong in our group formed. By conducting this process it then becomes an unconscious reaction. This means that something occurs without the thought or realization of it occurring.
Effects & Solutions To Prejudice
One way to change this process and overall prejudice is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. By stopping and thinking about how someone else feels or thinks the automatic distancing and prejudice will start to diminish. When prejudice diminishes, the way people view and treat each other changes. An interesting supporting point to this claim is made in an article on the American Psychological Association (APA) website. Tori DeAngelis wrote an article on New Ways To Combat Prejudice. In her article, DeAngelis says that if people believe prejudice can change it is more likely to compared to when they don’t believe. (DeAngelis) DeAngelis’s article could prove useful if paired with an article written by Lucie Coulliard who writes for the Daily Collegian. Couillard interviewed people on the impacts prejudice has on society. In her article, Coulliard quotes Naren Holman who compares the effects of prejudice to soil erosion. Holam told Couillard that one thing barely has an impact but when multiple things occur over a period of time it changes thing Holam then discusses with Couillard how people that experience prejudice are viewed as outsiders and not as equals. Couillard then quotes a conversation with John Sanchez. Sanchez told Couillard how prejudice is a gateway to racism, homophobia, and inferiority. The next conversation Couillard uses for her article is with Aron Maiolo. Maiolo explains that when faced with prejudice someone loses their chance to share who they are and their story isn’t heard. The final conversation Couillard brings up in her article is with Sam Richards. Richards says that prejudice doesn’t allow people or societies to learn or grow. (Couillard) All of these effects of prejudice affect police officers because if individuals let prejudice affect their views, then reported incidents may not be completely accurate or can rub off on officers. This is just another example of why training on prejudice is crucial for good policing to occur. Knowing these causes and effects can also allow officers to better inform and respond to victims, witnesses, and the public.
When bias and prejudice are realized by law enforcement, the way citizens and criminals are treated can be changed. When change like this occurs the world and it’s relations can improve as well, allowing for a better functioning society. It won’t be an easy task as change never is, but with everyone’s cooperation policing and community policing can improve drastically.