TAMPA, Fla. (WTSP) – As the debate over police shootings across the country has gotten more heated in recent years there's been an effort based in the Tampa Bay area to lay the groundwork toward a solution.
Dr. Lorie Fridell, an associate professor of criminology at the University of South Florida, developed a program in 2008 called “Fair and Impartial Policing," a training curriculum to help law enforcement personnel recognize and manage their own implicit biases.
"It's not the science of police bias, it's the science of human bias and how it might impact even on well-intentioned law enforcement,” said Fridell. “All of us need to understand our implicit biases because the first step toward reducing and managing them is understanding that they exist.”
“This training brings the modern science of bias to the national issue of bias in law enforcement,” she said. “Even well-intentioned people have biases that impact on their perceptions and their behavior and that includes well-intentioned law enforcement.”
Fridell says the program started gaining attention from law enforcement agencies all over the United States and Canada after police in Ferguson, Mo., shot and killed 18-year-old Mike Brown in 2014. Earlier this year she was contracted by the federal government to start giving the training to law enforcement officials with the FBI, DEA, ATF and U.S. Marshal Service.
"The material, the scenarios that we do, it's very real and it works,” said St. Petersburg Police Lt. Patrice Hubbard, who was trained by Fridell in 2014 and now administers the training herself for hundreds of people working for that agency.
"Just in the past year, the officers that have gone through the training, I can see differences in the way they react to certain things,” said Hubbard. "Everyone has that, we call it that 'aha moment', where it's like 'Oh, this is different. It's not telling me that I'm wrong, it's not telling me that I shouldn't feel this way, it's telling me that it's a natural human reaction'."
And this goes well beyond police work. Fridell says the training is now being applied to other professions such as education, the corporate world and medicine.
“I think this is going to be an issue that law enforcement is dealing with for many years to come,” added Fridell. “And it’s not just about law enforcement. Other professions too are recognizing that they need to be training their personnel in implicit biases.”