The two-and-a-half day training program is provided by Fair and Impartial Policing, a consulting firm that addresses how implicit and unconscious biases can manifest themselves in police work.
Officers from communities such as Norwalk, Darien, Westport, Milford, Manchester, Orange and Naugatuck as well as Yale University are joining in the program, which is being led by Noble Wray, the former police chief of Madison, Wis.
“All human beings have implicit bias. What we do in this particular training is look at ways it appears, responses and strategies to address it,” Wray said.
Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik is completing the training with four other officers, and they will be taking what they learn and teaching it to other members of the department. Kulhawik said they first reached out in October to arrange the training, and other law enforcement agencies expressed interest in participating.
“This program helps address systemic issues that may be present but we may not be aware of,” Kulhawik said. “The first step for us here is to look at ourselves, and make sure that we’re policing the community as best we can.”
Kulhawik said the Norwalk Police Department does not receive many formal complaints of bias, but he sometimes hears stories from community members who feel that they may have been targeted due to their race or other factors.
Wray said data such as traffic stops do not reflect implicit bias, and it can be difficult to determine whether a police officer’s behavior is driven by subconscious bias. He said part of the training involves asking questions about whether an officer may be biased and whether that influences how the officer handles a situation or deals with members of the community.
“It’s about having the individual recognize that they can have bias, and doing things to change it,” Wray said. “Issues of race and bias can often be taboo, and people can be afraid to talk about it. We say, let it go. Let’s talk about it and demystify the issue here.”
He praised Norwalk and the other participating towns for being proactive and looking to address whether implicit bias is an issue.
“It is a testament to this agency and other agencies participating. It sends the signal that this is important to us without having a major incident erupt and having us react to it.”
In July, a second training session will be held for citizens. That will most likely include members of the clergy, elected officials, Board of Education members and other community leaders.
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