Tallahassee Police Share Anti-Bias Training

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By: Chris Gros

Tallahassee, FL - In an effort to build trust with residents, Tallahassee Police officers are sharing their anti-bias training with local civil rights leaders.

"Sitting down at the table, dialoguing and being able to understand exactly where we are. Where we're going, what are the outcomes? What are we looking at? What are the goals of the whole work shop?" said Rev. Don Tolliver.

Members of the NAACP, the NAN and county commission met at the Bethel Veteran's Center Tuesday. It was there that TPD officers broke down on-going, fair and impartial police training.

"They're here to protect and serve not only the black community but the minority community. We cannot give up on situations and circumstances that happen throughout the country and even in our community," said Rev. Tolliver.

The training was developed by Lorie Fridell, a criminology professor at the University of South Florida. The key, she says, is teaching officers to recognize, reduce and manage their implicit biases.

"This is often outside of conscious awareness, can still impact perceptions and behaviors," said Fridell.

Organizers of the workshop say they're also paying attention to recent controversy Baltimore, Maryland.

"Are we going to see community policing? And I mean true and effective community policing. Not police community relationships but community policing," said Dale Landry of the NAACP.

Officers at the workshop say that nearly everyone in the department will undergo the training. That includes employees that aren't even officers-- like staff in the records department.

Tallahassee -- Police officers are learning how to put aside their biases while on the beat.

All this week, expert Lorie Fridell has been holding classes on fair and impartial policing.

Fridell is a criminology professor at the University of South Florida and travels the country to conduct seminars on reducing police bias.

The key, she says, is teaching officers to recognize, reduce and manage their implicit biases.

"This is often outside of conscious awareness, but can still impact perceptions and behaviors," said Fridell.

In the wake of the Ferguson Missouri controversy, Fridell says there's great demand for the guidance that helps officers balance impartial policing and aggressive crimefighting. She also teaches police leadership ways to reduce bias in the way the department is run.

"What about your policy, recruitment, hiring, outreach supervision?" said Fridell.

And her lessons go well beyond the racial bias that has gotten so much attention in recent years because of controversial incidents nationwide.

"We talk about biases that might pertain to gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status," says Fridell,"so we're talking about all the types of bias that might impact on humans and therefore might impact on police officers."

Police Chief Michael DeLeo invited Fridell to Tallahassee for these seminars.

"We know that there's trust issues, not necessarily here but with the profession nationwide," said the chief.

He says it's part of a top to bottom review and adoption of best practices for Tallahassee PD.

"Policing is ultimately about people and relationships and this is showing our commitment to upholding our end of the bargain," said DeLeo.

DeLeo, who took over as Tallahassee chief about a year ago, says he wants to be at the forefront in improving the agency.

Retired attorney Robert Travis with the NAACP was among community members invited to attend the training alongside officers. He commended the classes, along with other efforts by the police chief to reach out to the community.

"He says we have problems, which everyone knows, he admits it and says we are trying and will change," said Travis.

Travis mentioned the new chief's efforts to attend meetings by a lot of local community organizations, saying that hasn't happened in the past.

The chief says the profession is about helping people and he wants to make sure his officers effectively communicate with people in the community.

"They understand the process. They understand what we're doing and why we're doing it. Then there's a common ground there. And they understand that they're treated fairly, even though they may not be happy with the outcome," said DeLeo.

About 75 Tallahassee police officers took the fair and impartial policing training this week, including commanders and on-staff instructors. Starting next week, the department will hold classes to pass on the training to the rest of the force.

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