Using Simulation Training to Mitigate Implicit Bias in Public Safety

Using Simulation Training to Mitigate Implicit Bias in Public Safety


Nationwide, the actions of law enforcement agencies have come under increased scrutiny. In state and local governments, many legislative bodies are introducing bills to mandate implicit bias and de-escalation training for law enforcement personnel. As an example, a bill approved unanimously in the state senate in Michigan describes implicit bias training as “an evidence-based program to provide fair and impartial law enforcement by increasing awareness of and improving response strategies to unconscious bias.”


Implicit bias is very different from explicit prejudice. Implicit bias comes from unconscious or unintentional beliefs, beliefs that we don’t verbalize or even know that we have. Phillip Atiba Goff, Ph.D., a social psychologist at UCLA and co-founder of the Center for Policing Equity, explains that implicit bias is a kind of identity trap. “They’re situations that trap us into behaving in ways that are not consistent with our values.”


These unconscious and unintended biases can result in unintended consequences for communities that law enforcement and public agencies are intending to serve; thus the move across the nation to propose implicit bias training not only in law enforcement but in many areas of government, including public education. As laws are enacted, MILO Range immersive simulators can close the gap in crisis management training for agencies not already including it in their curriculum.


“Understanding implicit bias is crucial for any agency,” says Jesse Trevino, MS, LCDCi. “For far too long the law enforcement community has simplified the idea of racism in policing to mean racial profiling. While important, social science tells us there is much more for police instructors to consider. We now know the science surrounding bias and race is more nuanced and the only way to know if, and how, these internal biases affect us as officers is through scenario-based training. Many agencies implement this type of training but it lacks depth and context. The most impressive aspect of MILO Range simulators is that instructors and participants can systematically unpack the context of training outcomes… and that is when learning happens.”


MILO Range has been developing comprehensive content since 1994 and has consistently been on the leading edge of agency training objectives. In 40+ countries around the world, from all branches of the military to federal law enforcement training centers, to university criminal justice programs, to small-town police forces, it is this kind of robust educational technology where the classroom is brought to the range. The technology is scalable to meet the individual needs of each agency, and instructor-led for specific training to meet local policy and objectives.


Every MILO Range simulator contains a ‘knowledge base,’ which is a repository for any content that deserves a place in the training setting. During training scenarios, the training module can be paused, dash-cam footage can be opened, Supreme Court decisions can be accessed, and then scenario training can be resumed. This knowledge base can also be accessed during debriefing, or as a standalone lesson.


Rest assured, when sending out casting calls for new content filming events, MILO Range searches for a broad range of actors so that each scenario can be filmed multiple ways, with multiple suspects and victims. From 9-year olds carrying AK-47s in a military setting to domestic disturbances with female aggressors to hostage situations filmed multiple ways with a variety of demographics represented, all of these scenarios provide extensive immersive training to counter any unintentional and unconscious biases that may exist.


Research on providing implicit bias training has mixed results; it may be difficult to implement and implicit associations and habits are hard to change. Regardless, MILO Range can provide the adaptive technology needed for intensive, immersive training, to ensure the very best results possible for our law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve.


By Dr. Joy VerPlanck and Jesse Trevino, MS, LCDCi

Dr. Joy VerPlanck is the Military Programs Manager at MILO Range Training Systems. She previously served in the US Army as a Military Police officer and as Director of Training for a national security systems integrator. Her continued research as a Doctor of Educational Technology focuses on de-escalation training and the use of simulation towards the development of creative thinking in crisis mitigation.

Jesse Trevino, MS, LCDCi, is President at SolutionPoint +, a US Marine Corps combat veteran, mental health police officer, police academy instructor, and criminology expert. Jesse’s innovative programs address social problems like homelessness, mental illness, and substance dependence. He is an adjunct instructor at a local community college, a police detective at a Fusion Center, and is involved with various projects to help law enforcement agencies around the country create effective de-escalation training programs and bridge connections in their communities.