When the Ada County Sheriff’s Office began working with the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge several years ago, one of our shared priorities was to work together to promote social justice — and to be a good example for other Idaho communities.
We got to realize a big piece of that ambition last week when Chris Saunders, the data analytics and intelligence manager at the ACSO, taught implicit bias training to Idaho’s newest batch of law enforcement patrol officers.
Notice that we didn’t say Ada County’s newest batch of patrol officers.
Saunders’ class was comprised of 36 rookie officers from all over the state, who just started work on their basic patrol certification from Idaho’s Peace Officers Standards & Training (POST) Academy.
Saunders – joined by Emergency 911 dispatcher Jeffrey Austin and patrol sergeant Ryan Wilke — have taught implicit bias training for hundreds of employees in Ada County, including patrol and jail deputies, prosecutors, court employees, and sheriff’s administration employees over the last two years.
Last week’s POST training marked the first time we were able to extend outside of our agency and into to the community.
So what is implicit bias? The short version is something like this: It’s a preconceived belief about people that you aren’t conscious of.
The Kirwan Institute For The Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State defines implicit bias as “the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner.
“These biases, which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, are activated voluntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control.”
The training helps people identify and be conscious of their biases so they can control how they respond.
While much of the discussion about implicit bias focuses on racial relations, there are also elements of gender and age issues to consider
Our MacArthur team analyzed several different implicit bias training programs before selecting the “Balancing our Biases – Facts, Myths, Strategies, and Solutions” created by the Calibre Press.
Saunders, Austin, and Wilke have trained thanks to funding from the Safety and Justice Challenge.
It can be a pretty intense class. There is discussion about racial profiling, how white and minority officers are dealing with the current climate, and the history of racism in the law enforcement profession. Check out https://secure.calibrepress.com/balancingourbias/ if you want to learn more.
Creating implicit bias training for our employees and working with POST to incorporate it into their curriculum is just a small part of what we are doing with the $1 million grant we got from the MacArthur Foundation in 2017.
While the goal of reducing our jail population has proved tougher than we hoped, we have made some progress – which we will be detailing in stories to come.
We’ve added a text notification system to help people from missing court dates. We’ve added employees to Ada County’s Clerk of Courts and Public Defender offices to work with people who do get arrested so they can navigate the criminal justice system more efficiently.
We’ve got a lot more to tell you about in the weeks and months to come about those plans — and other innovative ideas to come as our MacArthur plans come to fruition. So be sure to check back.