All 1700 Prince George’s County police officers will begin training with University of Maryland researchers to recognize and deal with implicit bias.
The training announced Friday will begin in March, said Prince George's County Police Chief Hank Stawinski.
The new PGPD training program is in partnership with the University of Maryland's Department of Sociology and the Behavioral and Social Sciences (BSOS) at the University of Maryland, UMD's Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, the MLAW program, and the UMD School of Medicine.
Implicit bias encompasses the attitudes, stereotypes, and lenses human beings develop through various experiences in life that can unconsciously affect how they interact with one another. Implicit bias impacts the decisions people make and the actions they take without realizing what they are doing or why they are doing it.
"The goal of implicit bias training isn't to condemn anyone, it is to make a person aware and if you are aware of your lenses then you can have a thoughtful response instead of a conditioned response,” explained Chief Stawinski.
Beginning in 2016 Stawinski partnered with University of Maryland Sociology professors Dr. Kris Marsh and Dr. Rashawn Ray who conducted research focused on Prince George's County and it's police department. That research is the foundation of the new program where PGPD officers will undergo 10 hours of training at the University of Maryland. One innovative dimension of the training is the use of virtual reality technology that will evaluate officers’ reactions to as many as 90 scenarios they may encounter every day.
"What distinguishes this collaboration is that it is based on the results of research conducted in our own community and on information we received from our own officers. We've taken all of that research and developed a tailored training program that will serve the interests of our officers and our community equally and enhance the public trust," said Stawinski.