The U.S. Department of Justice will require its employees to receive training designed to prevent implicit bias from affecting their decisions.
The DOJ announced in a Monday press release that all law enforcement agents and prosecutors would begin receiving this training over the next few weeks.
Implicit bias, defined as “unconscious or subtle associations that individuals make between groups of people and stereotypes about those groups,” can impact the way federal employees do their jobs and undermine equality and fairness under the law, the press release said. According to the DOJ, this decision would affect more than 28,000 employees, including more than 23,000 federal agents from agencies including the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Drug Enforcement Administration, as well as some 5,800 federal prosecutors.
“Our officers are more effective and our communities are more secure when law enforcement has the tools and training they need to address today’s public safety challenges,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch in the press release. “At the Department of Justice, we are committed to ensuring that our own personnel are well trained in the core principles and best practices of community policing. Today’s announcement is an important step in our ongoing efforts to promote fairness, eliminate bias and build the stronger, safer, more just society that all Americans deserve.”
According to Reuters, the announcement brings the DOJ in line with many local police departments throughout the country that have instituted mandatory implicit bias training in the wake of a number of shootings of unarmed black men by white police officers. Reuters also reported that, according to studies, black and Hispanic men are more likely to be stopped by police than members of other ethnic groups might be.
The ABA applauded the DOJ’s announcement.
“When unconscious biases impact the fairness and equality of our criminal justice system, complacency is not an option,” ABA President Paulette Brown said in a statement. “The Department of Justice has taken an important step to deal with the implicit bias that affects our law enforcement policies and procedures, and we compliment them.”
Brown also spoke about the work of the ABA’s Diversity &Inclusion 360 Commission and its findings as to how implicit bias compromises the administration of justice. “As a result of the commission’s work, the ABA has created an award-winning implicit bias training video for judges,” Brown said in the statement. “Training videos and toolkits have also been developed for prosecutors and public defenders.”
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