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Crime & Justice

The LAPD teaches its officers to check their own implicit biases




LAPD Sgt. Emada Tingirides mixes more traditional police work with building relationships in the Nickerson Gardens Housing Project in Watts, as part of the departments Community Safety Partnership program.
LAPD Sgt. Emada Tingirides mixes more traditional police work with building relationships in the Nickerson Gardens Housing Project in Watts, as part of the departments Community Safety Partnership program.
Frank Stoltze

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The L.A. Police Department has been training recruits about implicit bias for over a decade, and the education is meant to make sure that personal biases do not affect the way officers treat people of different races, genders, sexual orientation and more.

It came about after the discovery of widespread corruption among officers in the late 1990s, known as the LAPD Rampart scandal.

The U.S. Department of Justice issued what's known as a consent decree that mandated reforms within the LAPD.

"The consent decree put us into a 10-year, scrutinizing review of many facets of our departments," says LAPD psychologist Luann Pannell, "particularly in training in cultural diversity, different races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, persons with disabilities."

New recruits must go through several two-week-long courses that address these issues on many different levels.

Active field officers will also get a four-hour retraining in these areas every two years, as well as attend special sessions when an event prompts the department to reconsider how officers should handle similar situations in the future.

Pannell says these trainings are designed where officers will role-play and act out scenarios to get a better idea of how to act in real-life.

For example, recruits may be asked to stop a person on the street – an actor in this role-playing – who is black and matches the description of a suspect.

But that recruit must then explain to that person why they were stopped.

"How do you articulate that both respectfully and in a way that reflects, 'I'm here to do a job and serve the community, but I'm not here to indiscriminately stop somebody'?" says Pannell.

She adds that these trainings may not address all the concerns of protesters who say that officers engage in racial profiling. But Pannell believes that these sessions are one piece of how the LAPD is trying to reform its interactions with the community.

"Just having a program itself doesn't work as much as having a series looking at hiring and recruitment and background and training."