Implicit Bias Training Positively Impacts Police – Community Interactions

Implicit Bias Training Positively Impacts Police – Community Interactions


Our biases have evolved from upbringing, education, and various experiences and exposures to threat in our lives and they exist to keep us alive. Unfortunately, our implicit biases also guide our interactions based on these stereotypes we’ve internalized and can result in unbalanced policing that increases vulnerability in the communities we are pledged to protect. According to Police Chief Magazine, “ Implicit bias is the unconscious, unknowing differential treatment of another person based on a number of discriminatory factors, including but not limited to race, color, age, sex, gender, nationality, disability, and religion.” Implicit bias works on two levels. Level 1 is an “automatic, intuitive” response —a “flash reaction to a stimulus based on pre-known ideas or experiences,” whereas Level 2 is a conscious response, a judgment and reflection-based action rooted in the initial, intuitive internal reaction to the perceived threat. The issue, then, is that those level 1 responses are not always accurate, and can perceive an interaction as a threat based on internalized stereotypes that the responding officer may not even be aware they hold.

It’s not enough to be aware of our implicit biases, because Level 1 reactions are split-second, before reflection and logic can step in. However, a recent study suggests that our implicit biases can be mitigated with cognitive training including Counter Bias Training Simulation (CBTSim™), MILO’s award-winning simulation solution. Created with over a decade of DOJ grant-funded research, evidence-based curriculum, and the immersive power of simulation technology, CBTSim is designed to positively impact police-community interactions, resulting in better relationships between officers and the communities they serve.

According to a 2017 Washington State University study funded by the National Institute of Justice, officers who experienced CBTSim training as part of an implicit and counter-bias training intervention were more likely to see beyond stereotypes and “engage in positive behaviors such as remembering community members’ names and using them throughout the encounter, expressing concern for community members’ safety…and spend time and establish common ground with community members.”

In addition, not only were positive community-officer interactions observed, but discrimination-based complaints against officers dropped in the implicit and CBTSim training group in the 6 months post-training by 50%, compared to a control group who did not receive training.

According to the author of this study, Lois James, PhD, these results “suggest that officers who received implicit and counter bias training treated people better and had a more positive impact on community members than officers who didn’t receive training.”

Police Chief Magazine explains that “for law enforcement officers on the streets, a foundational understanding and awareness of implicit bias will assist them in engaging the community with empathy and developing a heightened sense of self-awareness…which, in turn, will foster community relationships and impartial policing.”

MILO’s CBTSim counter-bias training is a tool that has been shown to positively impact police-community interactions, resulting in better decision-making in split-second interactions. Awareness of implicit bias is the first step; CBTSim training is the next step to building positive officer-community relationships, ultimately ensuring that every interaction can be safer, more productive, and bias-free.




This blog was reviewed for accuracy by MILO Cognitive Advisory Board member Dr. Lois James, the Assistant Director for Research at the Washington State University (WSU) College of Nursing.