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Implicit Bias and Police Work: Class Discussion

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The cover story for the (freely available) December 2016 APA Monitor is on racial bias and police work. The author of the article provides a nice summary of the research to date and how police departments are moving forward to reduce inequalities in their work.

In preparation for class discussion (small groups in class or online discussion boards) or as a stand-alone assignment, ask students to read the article and respond to the following questions:

  1. Before we can address a problem, we need to know that a problem exists. What evidence is there that police officers show bias against blacks?
  2. Explain the difference between explicit prejudice and implicit bias.
  3. What is the “the police officer’s dilemma,” and how is it used to test for implicit bias? How do police officers do on this test as compared to civilians?
  4. Many police departments have brought in experts to run implicit bias workshops. Are these workshops effective at reducing implicit bias?
  5. What alternatives have been proposed for reducing the effects of implicit bias rather than implicit bias itself?
  6. Bonus question: What is your local police department doing to reduce the inequalities in how officers treat different members of your community?
  7. What can you do, as a citizen of your community, to encourage your police department to make changes that will move police work to be good for everyone in your community?
About the Author
Sue Frantz has taught psychology in community colleges since 1992, and has been at Highline College in the Seattle area since 2001. She has served on several APA boards and committees, and was proud to serve the members of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology as their 2018 president. In 2013, she was the inaugural recipient of the APA award for Excellence in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at a Two-Year College or Campus. She received in 2016 the highest award for the teaching of psychology--the Charles L. Brewer Distinguished Teaching of Psychology Award . She presents nationally and internationally on the topics of educational technology and the pedagogy of psychology. She is co-author with Doug Bernstein and Steve Chew of Teaching Psychology: A Step-by-Step Guide, 3rd ed.