Understanding Implicit Bias: Research and Reality

Understanding Implicit Bias: Research and Reality
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1Module 1
Recorded on: 2020-11-04
Unit 1Slide Deck: Understanding Implicit Bias, Research and Reality
Unit 2Transcript: Understanding Implicit Bias, Research and Reality
Unit 3Workbook: Understanding Implicit Bias, Research and Reality
Unit 4Recording: Understanding Implicit Bias

Implicit bias is a hot issue that the Justice Clearinghouse has covered in past webinars. However, most of these past discussions centered on defining implicit bias and how it manifests. This session aims to look at the efforts being done to understand how implicit bias impacts policing and measure the effectiveness of these initiatives.

This sessions’ resource speakers are Renée Mitchell and Lois James. Renée worked in law enforcement for two decades and is currently a Researcher with RTI International, co-founder of the American Society of Evidence-Based Policing, a National Police Foundation Fellow, a BetaGov Fellow, a member of the George Mason Evidence-Based Policing Hall of Fame, and a visiting scholar at the University of Cambridge. Meanwhile, Lois is an assistant professor at the Washington State University (WSU) College of Nursing and Sleep and Performance Research Center with multiple honors, awards, and international recognition for her work.

Specifics Renée and Lois tackled are:

  • Differentiating implicit from explicit bias.
  • How implicit bias serves as mental filters with which we process the things that experience, and the sources of what becomes our implicit bias.
  • How implicit biases may not always be inherently negative, or the intentions may actually be positive but still have damaging results.
  • Examples of how implicit bias in the health care and policing field may play out.
  • The need for the law enforcement profession to address implicit bias the way the medical field did with an evidence-based approach with action items deduced from data gathered.
  • The various research methodologies utilized to better understand how implicit bias manifests in policing.
  • The conflicting findings of separate researches which demonstrate how:
    • Officers decision making particularly in use of force scenarios are impacted by implicit bias
    • Officers are able to override implicit bias.
  • The solutions being employed at different levels of law enforcement to address implicit bias.
    • Implicit Bias Training Programs which aim to make officers understand the impact of internal filters on their decisions.
    • Use-of-Deadly-Force-Judgement Decision Making Training that teaches officers to focus on the threat and not be affected by other variables.
    • Community Engagement Programs that allows officers to interact with people from different background to create positive associations that may be contrary to their existing implicit biases.
    • Emotional Intelligence Training that aims to raise officers’ awareness on their thoughts and conduct.
  • The article The Elephant in the Room which reviews:
    • Whether implicit bias training creates behavioral change, how long the changes last, and do these translate to improved citizen perception.
    • The potential for implicit bias becoming normalized instead of overcoming it.
    • The issues law enforcement agencies have in terms of familiarity with and funding for research to understand the impact of implicit bias training.
    • Evaluating the outcomes of training to create actionable solutions and determine where organizations should put their time and budget on.
    • The factors within and beyond the officers’ control that directly influence the outcomes of police-citizen encounters.
  • A glimpse into the ongoing study being conducted to test the effectiveness of different implicit bias training modalities.

Questions from the audience were about:

  • The value in a combined training approach.
  • The difference between implicit bias and racism.
  • Officers’ defensiveness when the topic of implicit bias is raised.
  • How stress and cortisol levels cause individuals to default to their implicit bias.
  • Addressing the implicit bias mindset in the correctional environment.
  • The danger in using implicit bias as a screener for hiring.
  • Normalizing implicit bias and using it as an excuse for use of force.



Resources and Handouts


Audience Comments

  • “That you are addressing the issue…. Being both a minority office & commander I have faced this issue daily over my 22 plus year career. Please keep educating the rank and file, this is the only true way to reach the communities we serve.” — Willie
  • “It was nice to hear that everyone has implicit bias and that is normal. If you say you don’t have it you are not a human being. That is the statement more people need to hear.” — Victoria
  • “As our agency explores the correct path to take for Implicit Bias training this was very helpful. I am looking forward to more research on this topic and hopefully webinars from you on the current trends in this area. Thank you very much for a great webinar.” — Tony
  • “During this pandemic and working at home, I have viewed several of your webinars. This one is arguably the best one. The presenters were very knowledgeable and stepped out of the box to present the topic. Well done.” — Steve
  • “It was valuable to hear the contrasting results in the research, as well as the direction the associated research is headed. It was also helpful to gain other ideas for training examples.” — Sara
  • “This webinar ranks within the top 5% of all the webinars I’ve attended with JC. Both presenters did a fantastic job of delivering the information in a way that was easy to understand and relatable. They are both good speakers, they did not stumble over anything, and gosh, they were just great! I would love to hear from them again! — Jill
  • I appreciated the approachability, clarity, and reasonableness of the instructors with regard to what is a delicate topic.” — Andrew


This webinar has been pre-approved by the Maine Animal Welfare Program for 1 Continuing Education Unit in Core 5 (Implicit Human Bias) for the State of Maine’s ACO annual training. You can find more information about Certification, required annual training or submitting materials for credit at Maine’s Animal Control Officer Resource Page.



Additional Resources
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After the Webinar: Implicit Bias – Research and Reality. Q&A with the Presenters
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