Could addressing performance appraisal with community input, and departmental funding review and allocation play a role in changing the paradigm?
This was one of the central planks of the Obama administration’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing: Racial disparities could be addressed by trainings designed to root out unconscious and unintentional bias. The Justice Department and private foundations have disbursed millions of dollars to local police departments to give this training to their officers. This month, Texas announced that it would require every police officer to receive implicit-bias training.
This training assumes that the problems of race in American policing stem from discretionary decisions by individual officers, driven by unconscious prejudice. But law professor Jonathan Kahn has shown that the research basis for this training is flawed. While implicit bias appears when you group large numbers of people together, it doesn’t show up consistently at the individual level, which is how police officers usually interact with the public. More important, advocates of such training have not proved a connection between the scoring on bias tests and actions in the world. They also lack evidence to support the effectiveness of the training to influence officer behavior.
Such training also fails to address American policing’s explicit racism problem. Officers have been associated with white-supremacist organizations, have made racially offensive postings on social media and have exchanged racist texts and emails; they are also represented by union officials who often defend officers’ racist conduct.