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.