Institute Researchers Complete Evaluation of Implicit Bias Training


Albany, NY, September 11, 2020 – Finn Institute researchers, in collaboration with the IACP/UC Center for Police Research and Policy, recently completed an evaluation of implicit bias awareness training in the New York City Police Department.  The evaluation assessed impacts on awareness and knowledge and also on behavior.  One randomized controlled design assessed the effectiveness of the training in raising officers’ awareness of and knowledge about unconscious bias, providing officers information about skills with which to manage their own unconscious biases.  A second randomized design assessed the impacts of the training on disparities in enforcement actions against various racial and ethnic groups.

The training – an 8-hour training, using the Fair and Impartial Policing (FIP) curriculum, and delivered by FIP instructors – yielded increases of moderate magnitude in officers’ knowledge about implicit bias and its potential implications for policing.  It appeared that some of those gains decayed over time.  Asked to rate the likelihood of using each of five strategies for managing implicit bias to which the training introduced them, nearly half of the trainees rated the likelihood of using all five as either a 6 or 7 on a 7-point scale anchored at 7 as ‘very likely.’ Actual use of the strategies, as self-reported in a follow-up survey, was less prevalent.  No pre-/post-training changes in enforcement disparities could be detected, however.

Rob Worden, the project director, cautioned that “we don’t know whether or to what extent enforcement disparities stem from officers’ implicit bias,” and that “we should not suppose that a single day of classroom training will by itself transform police work on the street.”  Co-author Sarah McLean added that, “Ours is one evaluation of implicit bias training for police, and we hope that as additional research is done, the evidence base will expand to support strong conclusions about the value of the training.”

The report is available here.

See coverage of the evaluation in the Wall Street Journal here.

See coverage of the evaluation by National Public Radio (NPR) here.

See coverage of the evaluation by the Christian Science Monitor here.

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