Inside SJPD Fair and impartial policing - acknowledging our implicit biases

You are a police officer arriving at a scene and see a person seemingly loitering on a park bench. Or, perhaps you see someone peering into a parked car. You address the person. He abruptly turns to you and lifts his hand holding an dark object. What is your split-second reaction?

Famed journalist and author Malcolm Gladwell explored our ability to make spontaneous decisions in his book, "Blink." He pointed out that we will generally make snap judgements based on our experience, knowledge and training. He even suggested that in this age of information overload, instantaneous decisions can often be as good as or better than carefully planned and deliberate ones. However, he also pointed out that our conclusions based on limited information can be "corrupted" by our biases, even unconscious prejudice and stereotypes.

Dr. Lorie Fridell incorporated the concepts of "unconscious attitudes affecting spontaneous decisions" from Gladwell's book into a curriculum designed to help officers understand how the mind works—the Fair and Impartial Policing (F.I.P.) program.

In 2016, Chief of Police Eddie Garcia launched an initiative to bring F.I.P. to the San Jose Police Department (SJPD). He required all personnel (both sworn officers and non-sworn staff) to go through F.I.P. training.

What is Fair and Impartial Policing?

Policing and bias has been part of a national discussion in recent years. Researchers examining the psychology of bias have come up with a fuller understanding of how prejudice is manifested. The most overt is explicit bias where a person is aware of a prejudice towards a group. But, in recent years, scientists found that bias is more likely to manifest as implicit bias. Implicit bias works in our unconscious and is found in all of us, even in people who hold non-prejudiced attitudes.

Based on the modern science of bias, F.I.P. trains Department personnel to understand the effect of implicit bias. and gives them the skills and information needed to reduce and manage their biases. The training not only covers racial/ethnic biases, but also biases based on gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, socio-economic status and so forth.

"As police officers, we are professionals and approach our job with dedication and expertise. But, we are also human beings with likes and dislikes that are part of our make up. F.I.P. training helps us identify biases that could affect the way we do our job. We will learn the cause and effect of biased policing and how to avoid it." — Chief Eddie Garcia
"Social psychological research has consistently confirmed the existence of Black-crime stereotypes that can operate implicitly, even in people who explicitly hold egalitarian, non-prejudiced views. The good news is that, if people are made aware of these automatic responses, they can override them with controlled responses producing non-prejudiced behavior." — Dr. Lorie Fridell, developer of Fair and Impartial Policing
"Because we're police officers, we need to make sure we've installed a filter in ourselves—that we're making decisions based on facts, based on objectiveness. It's OK to have implicit biases. We're human beings. We 'size' people up, that's what we do. But, as officers, when we make a stop, you've got to confirm the facts. You've got to come out with neutrality. You've got to be fair and impartial." — Sergeant Tony Ruelas, F.I.P. trainer

Chief of Police Eddie Garcia's decision to bring F.I.P. training to the SJPD resulted from him attending a presentation by Dr. Lorie Fridell, Associate Professor of Criminology at the University of South Florida, a national expert on racial profiling and developer of fair and impartial policing. Dr. Fridell's lecture impressed Chief Garcia as a way to make the SJPD even more professional and strengthen its connection to the community.

How to counter our implicit biases?

As Dr. Lorie Fridell F.I.P. stated, "... if people are made aware of these automatic responses (implicit biases), they can override them with controlled responses producing non-prejudiced behavior."

In F.I.P. training, there are techniques for learning to override ones spontaneous responses. Contact theory is one method. Contact theory is the repeated positive contacts between the police and members of groups. The more officers have positive interaction with a group of people, the greater the understanding between both parties—reducing both implicit and conscious bias.

Coffee With a Cop is one of many positive contacts that the SJPD has with the diverse communities it services.

“Clearly, we’re living in a time when there’s strained relationships between police departments and communities. F.I.P. followed by Procedural Justice and Police Legitimacy training is another way for the SJPD to be more professional—to gain more insight and understanding into how we do our job, how we can be more effective and how our job affects the relationship we have with our communities.” - Lieutenant Jeff Profio, MERGE, K9, Bomb Unit, BFO Special Operations and director of F.I.P. training at SJPD

Civilian SJPD employees (911, warrants, traffic records, etc.) are required to take F.I.P. training because they interact with the public.

Interested in being a part of the SJPD team? Visit

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SJPD San Jose Police Department


Photography by Curt Fukuda, Brook Dain, and courtesy of Dr. Lorie Fridell

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