UIPD trains on Fair and Impartial Policing strategies

The scene is set: After getting a call from passers-by, a police officer responds to a report of an unresponsive man lying on the ground. Another man is leaning over him with a hand on his neck while a woman looks on, distressed. What do you see?

Some might interpret this as a fight-in-progress; others could see it as a pair of good Samaritans responding to a medical emergency.

The point of this exercise—which was part of the University of Iowa Police Department’s Fair and Impartial Policing training this semester—is to highlight how people can interpret the same situation differently, and that, when possible, officers should slow down and challenge what they think they see.

The UI Police Department began Fair and Impartial Policing (FIP) training this semester after sending a group of officers to a course in Davenport last spring.

The training program, which was developed by the U.S. Department of Justice, emphasizes that even well-intentioned people have implicit biases that can influence their actions, that recognizing those biases is key in learning how to override them, and that policing based on biases can be unsafe, ineffective, and unjust.

Through group discussion, presentations, and various role-playing exercises featuring community volunteers, officers are encouraged to recognize their own biases, understand how those biases impact the communities they serve, and develop skills to reduce the influence of bias on their police practice.

“This training encourages officers to think about their own biases and gives them the tools to challenge those assumptions in a way that improves their safety and the safety of those they come in contact with,” says Officer Gabby Blanchard-Shreck, who led the training. “We’re also appreciative of the time community members carved out of their schedules to help with our role-playing exercises—and for providing testimonials.”

Some FIP strategies include officers implementing controlled responses to their own implicit biases by practicing procedural justice—treating people with dignity and respect, giving individuals a voice during encounters, being neutral and transparent in decision-making, and conveying trustworthy motives.

Because research indicates that positive contact with other groups reduces both conscious and implicit biases, officers also are encouraged to think of specific actions they can take to engage with members of their community in a positive way and to build trust and legitimacy among those they serve.

“Our department needs to have the trust and support of campus in order to promote safety and truly be an effective resource on this campus,” says Scott Beckner, assistant vice president and director of public safety. “This training will help our officers practice policing strategies that not only promote safety but build positive relationships with the students, faculty, and staff we serve.”


Contact:

Hayley Bruce, Office of Strategic Communication, 319-384-0072

Gabriella Blanchard-Shreck, UI Department of Public Safety, 319-335-5022