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Collier County deputies train to recognize implicit bias

When videos surface, they put our law enforcement under the microscope. They raise issues of bias and make people question training and actions that would land the average person in jail.

Collier County deputies just went through training to help identify how bias could affect them on a day-to-day basis.

Experts say what appears to be routine contact with law enforcement can escalate quickly. Sometimes this can happen when officers have an implicit bias against certain people.

That’s where training comes in.

The Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk invited WINK News and a session, which includes videos designed to help deputies identify bias.

Bret Hood is a retired FBI special agent. He said, “What we try to generate in this class is to establish that safety net where other people, our colleagues can criticize us and let us know when implicit bias is taking over.”

In one example, a video of a pool party in McKinney, Texas started with a call to police for trespassing. One officer pulled his gun on the teens. Nine more patrol cars followed.

And the situation quickly got out of hand with panicking party-goers and costing a 10-year officer his job.

In the training, they say, this is implicit bias… Making judgments about people and we don’t even know we’re doing it.

Hood travels around the country instructing people about this bias.

He said, “With police officers, that initial stereotype can lead us to believe someone is a criminal based on the way they look, based on the way they move, based on the way they act”

And that’s why Sheriff Rambosk recently put all of his sworn personnel, about 700 people, through special training.

“In law enforcement, if we can recognize that more readily, and set it aside we’ll have much better potential to have positive outcomes,” Rambosk explained.

While the Sheriff said they haven’t had any complaints in Collier, Hood’s class helped make everyone aware that bias does exist – and it can affect response.

Retired CCSO Captain Mark Baker is now a training manager and recognizes the importance of this training. “This person looks different or this person acts different, but what is it that you glean in that first few minutes of contact that may say everything is going to be alright, or hey what can I use from my experiences to make this outcome better.”

At the end of the training, the Sheriff knows his people understand the dangers of implicit bias, and that they will take it to the streets of Collier County to protect the community.

“If we do set it aside and try and listen and understand, we’ll make much better decisions.”

All law enforcement goes through some form of bias training. If you want to find out if you have any bias, you can go to the Harvard website and they have Project Implicit. You can take some of these tests yourself by clicking here, and they’re anonymous.

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Reporter:Rich Kolko
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