Fair and Impartial Policing, LLC

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July 30, 2018 Issue



Q&A with Dr. Lorie Fridell, CEO of Fair and Impartial Policing, LLC bringing the Science of Implicit Bias to Law Enforcement Training



Dr. Lorie Fridell

Chief Executive Officer


Fair and Impartial Policing, LLC



Lorie Fridell



Interview conducted by:

Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published – July 30, 2018


CEOCFO: Dr. Fridell, what is the concept behind Fair & Impartial Policing? 

Dr. Fridell: My company provides training for law enforcement on the topic that people usually associate with the phrases “racial profiling” or “bias policing.” Our training is different from the traditional training on this topic, however; we have incorporated the modern science of bias (especially the concept of implicit bias) into the curricula. The implication of the science of implicit bias for policing is as follows: even well intentioned officers, with their hearts and minds in the right place, have implicit biases that can impact perceptions and on behaviors.


CEOCFO: How has bias become a science? What do you mean by the science of bias?

Dr. Fridell: Social psychologists started studying bias and prejudice in the 1950s. During the early years of study they only understood one form of bias; we now call it “explicit bias.” An example of a person with explicit bias is a racist. This person links groups to stereotypes. That “grouping” might be based on race, gender, LGBTQ status and so forth. The stereotyping is based on animus and hostility towards that group and those stereotypes can impact on that person’s perceptions and behavior, producing discriminatory behavior. Key to explicit bias is that it is conscious and deliberate; the person with explicit bias knows it, owns it and might even tell you about it. As the social psychologists continued their research, they discovered (accidentally) another form of bias:  implicit bias. With implicit bias we still link groups to stereotypes, but it is not based on animus and hostility towards those groups. The stereotypes can impact on our perceptions and behaviors, producing discriminatory behavior. Implicit biases are not conscious and deliberate. They can impact us outside of conscious awareness, and the really bad news for your readers: even well-intentioned people are impacted by implicit biases. That is, even people who, at the conscious level, reject biases and stereotypes and prejudice have implicit biases that can impact their perceptions and behavior. This science changes the way we think about how bias might manifest in any profession, including policing.


CEOCFO: Does everyone not recognize that people have implicit bias?

Dr. Fridell: I think that is a good question, Lynn. I think if I asked the average person, “Do you have biases,” most people would say yes. If I then asked them to identify a situation where biases impacted their behavior, many could not identify an instance of their own biased behavior. Most people, I expect, understand the abstract concept, but they have not necessarily assimilated it fully and applied it to their own behavior. So I think it is true that most people, even before taking our class, would recognize their potential for bias. Indeed, it’s intuitive to most of us that we form impressions about people. The science of implicit bias is very much linked to common concepts, such as the “power of first impressions” and “judging a book by its cover.” In our course, we go beyond a general acknowledgement of the existence of bias and highlight for police the nature and pervasiveness of our human, implicit biases and we talk very frankly about how those implicit biases could be impacting their work. We address the consequences to them, to community members, and to their department, and give them skills to reduce and manage their biases.   


CEOCFO: Are there certain areas where police have more implicit bias? Would you give us a couple of scenarios where it comes up most? 

Dr. Fridell: Police are at risk of biased decisions and behaviors wherever they have discretion. And the situations at greatest risk for human biases are those that involve ambiguity. For police, this might be an “ambiguous person,” that is, a person they don’t know. This might involve an “ambiguous situation,” for instance where it is not clear whether a person’s behavior is threatening or not. Regarding the latter, picture a White woman, such as myself, turning around quickly and reaching into the car to get my driver’s license and registration upon police request. Would the average officer perceive a threat? I think not. What if a young Black male does exactly the same thing? Would the officer feel threatened? A trooper in South Carolina opened fire on a young Black male who behaved as I described. Bias can impact police whenever they have discretion and face ambiguous situations and people they do not know.  


CEOCFO: Statistically a young black man reaching into something is more likely to be problematic a middle-aged white woman. Where facts come into play?

Dr. Fridell: You raise a critical point that is important to our training. In the training, we talk about the various characteristics (stereotypes) that society links to various groups, and that includes identifying the groups that society links to street crime and threat.  For instance, studies have confirmed that people link males, Blacks, and Hispanics to crime and threat. A key principle in our training is that stereotypes can be based in part on fact. We do not beat around the bush; it is a fact that people of color are disproportionately represented amongst people who commit street crime. I am a criminologist and we have been studying who commits crime and why for many years.  In understanding this link between people of color and crime, we do not find that race or ethnicity is the causal factor. It is not because you are Black that you might be disproportionately represented; the link is through income. Low income people are disproportionately represented among people who commit street crimes. People of color are disproportionately represented in low income levels, and that helps us to understand what I said before: people of color are disproportionately represented amongst people who commit street crime. It is the same for males; it is the same for teenagers. After recognizing this important point, however, we follow up with a big “but.” Yes, we can recognize that some of our stereotypes are based in part on fact, but that does not justify our treating an individual as if he or she fits the group stereotype. This is where we go wrong.  


Having said that, Lynn, it is also important to recognize that there are legitimate uses of demographics in policing and these “legitimate uses” are set forth in agency policy. All agencies allow their officers to consider demographics as part of their decision-making when demographics are part of a specific suspect description. If the witness reports that the robber was a 6’, male, Hispanic, in a white t-shirt and red shoes, the police can use “Hispanic” and the other descriptors in their investigation. Some agency policies allow for even broader uses of demographics in police work. The “broader use” acknowledges that sometimes there is intelligence relevant to a defined geographic area of a jurisdiction wherein a particular demographic group is linked to a particular crime. For instance, police may have multiple sources of information indicating that White, college-age youths come to a particular 4-block area of the city to buy drugs. Some agencies have policies that will allow their officers to use demographics, such as White college-age youths, in their decision-making if those demographics are linked to documented criminal patterns.  


CEOCFO: What are you teaching policemen? Are you teaching how to overcome in a stressful situation? How does a policeman keep from reverting back to what was the past norm when making that split second decision?

Dr. Fridell: These are good questions. First of all, you asked, what are we teaching police? The questions we ask and answer in this training are as follows: (a) what is implicit bias, (b) how might it manifest in the police profession, (c) what are the consequences of biased policing, and (d) what do you do about it (“skills”). We have different training programs for different segments of the agency: patrol officers, first-line supervisors, mid managers, command level; we also have a train-the-trainer program. The skills units (“d” above) vary across these different curricula. The patrol officers need skills to reduce and manage their biases. The first-line supervisors need to know all of that, plus how to “supervise to promote fair and impartial policing.” As we go further up the ranks, including the command staff, we are discussing in the sessions the higher-level agency processes that need to support fair and impartial policing. The topics include recruitment & hiring, agency culture, the leadership message, training, measurement, accountability and so forth. Also at the highest levels, we recognize that they are guiding and holding to account two groups: the well-intentioned officers who have implicit biases and the individuals with explicit biases.    


Second, let us go back to your good question about stressful, split-second decisions. When I think about law enforcement decisions and then law enforcement training in bias, I actually have two categories of decisions. One category includes those decisions where the officer has a moment to contemplate such as, “Would I be requesting consent to search but for the fact that this person is Hispanic?” That is a contemplative decision. The strength of our training is for that category of decisions. The other category of decisions, as referenced in your question, is comprised of those split-second decisions. Often those occur in a use-of-force type of situation where the officer has to decide (often very quickly), “Do I pull out my gun?” “Do I shoot?” and so forth. That category of decisions requires a different type of training, which is high quality use-of-force training. While we do not provide this high-quality use-of-force training, we discuss in the command-level sessions what the elements are. Specifically, we share the theoretical and empirical support for particular elements of this training that can help to reduce officer biases in those situations. It is all based on the science of implicit bias.


CEOCFO: We hear about officers who are being less active in the face of biased-policing criticisms. What do we do?  

Dr. Fridell: Police and others refer to this reduction in activity as “de-policing” and this can be a negative outcome of the attention police are getting on the topic of biased policing. Particularly in the months after the events in Ferguson, when officers all across the nation were getting a lot of very negative attention, officers felt besieged. They believed they were going to get hit upside the head, no matter what they did, so some decided to “lay low”–reducing their proactive policing. This is not what we want to happen, but it is understandable. To prevent this, officers need to know that they will have community support when they do the right thing, which is most of the time. And we need strong police leaders who can convey empathy for what their officers are feeling and experiencing, but lead them back to work. 


CEOCFO: Do you find that the police departments that are engaging with you tend to be ones that really need the help or more so the more forward thinking ones that are probably doing pretty well now, but want to make sure?

Dr. Fridell: The agencies that need our help are those agencies that hire humans to do the work of policing. That said, those agencies come to us in two ways. Some are proactively seeking best practice in training on police bias. Their leaders are going to conferences and reading police periodicals to find out how to improve their agencies and they learn that implicit-bias-awareness training is state of the art. And yes, Lynn, we find that these police leaders are implementing a lot of other best practices within their agencies. They are adopting de-escalation training, critical incident training (to deal more effectively with people who have mental illness), they are implementing progressive hiring practices. The second way agencies come to us is through referrals, or sometimes directives, because they have experienced issues in their jurisdictions linked to biased policing. We have received a number of agency referrals from the U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ). Some come to us through the Civil Rights Division because they were facing a law suit from that unit and decided to enter into a consent decree (instead of litigating the law suit). Implementing implicit bias awareness training might be a component of that decree. We also get referrals from the USDOJ Office of Community Oriented Policing Services or “COPS Office.” They provide services for agencies that “are teetering on the edge” of a civil rights lawsuit, but they are not there yet. They receive support for adopting reforms, including training in implicit bias awareness, to move away from that ledge.    


CEOCFO: What has changed in your approach from when you first started and you first developed courses as you work with more and more police on all the levels? What have you learned?

Dr. Fridell: The number one thing we have to do in the classroom is reduce defensiveness. This is probably cops least favorite topic! They would much rather go to Taser training or even use-of-force de-escalation training than to a course entitled “Fair and Impartial Policing.” Our audiences, Lynn, across the nation are usually somewhere between defensive and outright hostile. So our first challenge is to reduce that defensiveness. They are not going to assimilate the material and/or adopt our “skills” unless we do this. I partnered early on with a very creative curriculum designer and we work with sworn officers to get this right. Some important messages are as follows. “We are here to talk about the biases that all people have. This isn’t about you being a police officer, this is about you being a human.” “We are here to talk to you about how your mind can play tricks on you and, if you let your biases impact you, you are going to be unsafe, ineffective, and unjust.” You can see them perk up when they hear that this course is going to make you safer; they perk up when you tell them this will make them more effective.”   


The characteristics and quality of the FIP trainer in the front of the room is also important for getting the trainees on board with the content. I am the only non-sworn trainer on the team. All of my other trainers are either current or retired sworn officers, because they provide the credibility that I need in the front of the room. I only train at the command level; therefore I am training either a room of command-level personnel, or my favorite version is when my participants include both command-level personnel and community stakeholders. These people will tolerate an academic.


The training has to provide a safe environment for self-reflection and engaging activities to keep the attendees stimulated. We insist on small numbers in the classroom. We insist on the tables in a U-shape so it’s easy to talk with each other during the day, not just the instructor. We have role plays, small group discussions, large group discussions and other types of exercises and reflection opportunities. So they are actually “grappling” with the material and not just listening to someone at the front of the room.  


You asked what I have learned and part of what I’ve learned personally is how to be a business woman, although I still have a ways to go. I am a Criminology professor who “accidentally” found myself running a business. Fortunately, I’ve surrounded myself with smart and knowledgeable people who have helped me learn and grow. 


CEOCFO: Why should people pay attention to Fair & Impartial Policing? Why is the company and the concept important?

Dr. Fridell: The social psychologists introduced us to implicit bias and now a number of professions are starting to train on this science. What is important about our program is that we are bringing the science of implicit bias to the very important and very powerful profession of law enforcement. In fact, when I rank professions in terms of the potential consequences of their biased behavior, law enforcement is certainly in the top tier. They can deprive you of your liberty; they can take your life. We are proud to be the #1 provider of implicit bias awareness training for law enforcement in North America. 


We are now exploring new markets—having identified an unmet need for this training in other professional realms such as education and the corporate world. We seek partners within these other realms so that we can team up to bring all that we have learned to new audiences.   



“What is important about our program is that we are bringing the science of implicit bias to the very important and very powerful profession of law enforcement. In fact, when I rank professions in terms of the potential consequences of their biased behavior, law enforcement is certainly in the top tier.”
- Dr. Lorie Fridell


Fair and Impartial Policing, LLC



Lorie Fridell







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