The daylong implicit bias-oriented training programs now common in most United States police departments are unlikely to reduce racial inequity in policing, research finds.

“Our findings suggest that diversity training as it is currently practiced is unlikely to change police behavior,” says lead author Calvin Lai, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.

“Officers who took the training were more knowledgeable about bias and more motivated to address bias at work,” Lai says. “However, these effects were fleeting and appear to have little influence on actual policing behaviors just one month after the training session.”

Published in the journal Psychological Science, the study evaluates the experiences of 3,764 police officers from departments across the nation who participated in one-day bias training sessions provided by the nonprofit Anti-Defamation League.

The interactive workshops, which emphasize discussion and active learning over lecturing, were designed to help officers understand how their worldview is shaped by their identity and culture and to appreciate how these biases may affect their behavior.

Lai’s evaluation of the program, which covered 251 training sessions held between July 2019 and January 2022, is based on police officers’ self-reported responses to surveys conducted before training, immediately after training, and one month later.

When officers were asked to describe their thoughts about the training, many reported that it was surprising and insightful. For instance, one officer wrote, “it has opened my eyes to the bias we all have as human beings” and another said, “I really liked the course because it opened my eyes to implicit biases I never knew I had.”

Officers participating in the study had an average of 15 years of service and most had been with their departments for more than five years. Most were below the rank of sergeant; 77% were male and 79% held a bachelor’s degree or higher. Among those who reported their race, 47% were white, 20% were Black, 27% were Hispanic/Latino, and 2% were Asian.

The final section of the training program focused on building skills to manage bias in policing. These strategies included mindfulness, such as intentionally bringing bias awareness to the present moment, and other interventions designed to help officers avoid perceptions based on negative stereotypes and see people as unique individuals with their own points of view.

Read the full article about police bias training by Gerry Everding at Futurity.