DOJ pushes “implicit bias training” for local police officers

Conservatives and some liberals have reached a common way to express sympathy (maybe genuine, maybe not) with the police. They like to say that when officers kiss family members goodbye in the morning, they don’t know whether they will return home to them that evening.

This is true. But here’s a concern I have not heard mentioned: When officers kiss their families goodbye in the morning, they don’t know in what spirit they will return home to them that evening.

Officers who police crime infested neighborhoods may well return home dispirited. Take the neighborhood in Milwaukee where a black officer killed Sylville Smith. As Rich Lowry points out, three people were murdered last weekend within blocks of where the officer shot Smith on Saturday afternoon, and five people were killed in total over a nine-hour period Friday night and Saturday morning.

Lowry notes that Smith had a long arrest record. It included arrests for a shooting, a robbery, carrying a concealed weapon, theft, and possession of heroin and cocaine. He beat a shooting rap at a jury trial in 2015 when a witness recanted, allegedly after Smith intimidated him.

Yet Smith was also the victim of crime, at least according to his mother. She says her son got his gun because he had been shot twice and robbed four times.

From all accounts, things aren’t much different in Baltimore and Chicago these days. I suspect there are plenty of other cities one could add to the list

How dispiriting it must be for police officers to patrol these mean streets day after day, especially now amidst all the criticism and accusations of racism. No wonder Baltimore’s police force is failing to retain so many officers.

But never fear. The U.S. Department of Justice has an answer. It has been pushing localities to provide “implicit bias training” for police officers and will require federal law enforcement officers and prosecutors to undergo it. Loretta Lynch is a big fan.

Joe Davidson discusses this development in a column for the Washington Post. Davidson’s report is deficient, though. He never tells his readers what “implicit bias training,” or for that mater “implicit bias,” is. We are told what “implicit bias” it is not. It’s “distinct from explicit bias”.

We are also told that “it is something we all carry around unconsciously in one form or another.” But what is it that we “all carry around unconsciously” and how does it manifest itself?

Maybe it manifests itself in walking down the street, hearing footsteps, turning around and seeing somebody white, and feeling relieved. This is what Jesse Jackson said happens to him. He described the experience as painful. It must also have been dispiriting.

For police officers, maybe “implicit bias” manifests itself in suspecting that serious criminal activity is common in African-American neighborhoods where five people were killed in a nine-hour period. This, at any rate, appears to be what the DOJ wants them to stop doing.

Maybe the distinction between explicit and implicit bias is that the latter form stems from experience, while the former stems from prejudice — i.e., prejudgment not informed by experience.

In the case of police officers, what the left and the Justice Department apparently deems “implicit bias” may just be common sense. How can an officer, black or white, patrol the mean streets in neighborhoods like the one where Sylville Smith was shot and not be on high alert for crime?

How, in view of the rising anti-police sentiment can an officer, black or white, patrolling these neighborhoods not be concerned about his or her physical safety? In view of the overt anti-white racism (extreme “explicit bias,” if you will) some residents manifest, how can a white police officer not be especially concerned?

Justice Department employees may take to “implicit bias” training. They rarely, if ever, have to police bad neighborhoods.

As for big city police officers, I imagine they will laugh the training off. I hope they do. Their “implicit biases” are hard earned and, I submit, increasingly important to their self-preservation.

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