WSU researchers partner with Cleveland PD for implicit bias study

Researchers at the Washington State University Spokane campus made big strides Tuesday with their technology designed to improve how police officers train.

Spokane, Wash. -- Researchers at the Washington State University Spokane campus made big strides Tuesday with their technology designed to improve how police officers train.

Back in December, KREM 2 looked at the research being done through WSU’s Simulated Hazardous Operational Tasks Laboratory. The training simulator referred to as the Counter Bias Training Simulation or CBT Sim is designed to test officers' bias in judgment and behavior on the job. Assistant Research Professors Lois James and Stephen James have combined real-life video scenarios modeled after evidence and research from actual police-involved shootings.

Spokane police and a few departments in Oregon have tried the simulation, but now researchers said they wanted to take on larger departments, so they are working with Cleveland Police in Ohio. James said they are looking for some concrete data on whether this type of training simulation will affect an officer’s behavior and decision-making.

"There really hasn't been any connection between training and behavior change on the street,” James said.

To make that connection James and her colleagues will use a $750,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. James said they plan to randomly assign 400 CPD patrol officers to one of four groups. One group will do classroom training in implicit bias while another group will be trained using the CBT Sim simulator. A third group will be trained using both methods and a fourth group will not receive any additional training.

"It is a really rigorous evaluation of the training. We have put out the simulation based training. We have speculated that it is very effective, but of course we don't know that for sure, because there has never been any really rigorous evaluation connecting implicit bias training to officer’s behavior on the street,” said James. "It's critically important. Most people would have recognized I believe that implicit bias training is probably a good idea and has value for officers."

James said she connected with the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission when they began searching for police departments to participate in the study. She said they were looking for a large department with a diverse group of officers in a diverse community. James also mentioned the CPD was one of the first departments they heard from that expressed interest in the study.

CPD has had some very high-profile officer-involved shootings, most notably the shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. Rice was shot and killed by a CPD officer in November 2014. The officer was not indicted, but he was fired from the force.

Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams wrote in a letter in support of the research that this project is critical.

“We understand the commitment required to participate, and are excited to play a pioneering role in the evaluation of implicit bias training for improving police decision-making, promoting public perceptions of police legitimacy, and enhancing the outcomes of police-citizen interactions,” Williams wrote.

The study is set to begin January 1, 2018. Researcher will spend the first 18 months collecting data. After that time, officers will begin training as the study is set to last three years. The equipment and technology will be shipped to Cleveland and it will stay there until the study is complete. 

© 2017 KREM-TV


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