Eliminating bias from policing begins with the leadership of the police chiefs. What they say in their policies and what they emphasize in speaking with their officers can have a significant impact on their departments.
Policies and best practices should be taught in the academy and regularly reinforced through ongoing training on anti-discrimination, implicit bias, and cultural literacy (as discussed further in the section on Community). Trainings should be mandatory, adequate, and regular to teach officers and supervisors how to detect and protect against biased policing and to remind officers that those who act in a discriminatory way will be held accountable. In addition, departments should consider the role that encouraging peer interventions can have in advancing the culture and practice of impartial policing.
Departments should consider the diverse communities they serve in determining whether additional policies focused on certain groups of residents would help remove bias in policing and add to officers’ understanding of the diverse populations that they serve. Asking for input on trainings is one way in which departments may foster relationships between officers and residents.
Larger departments may also consider hiring a chief diversity officer to monitor the department’s ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion within the department itself. The chief diversity officer should be charged with ensuring impartiality and equality in hiring and promotion decisions.
They should also consider hiring training liaison officers to work with particular communities (e.g., immigrant communities) to help ensure that police-community relationships are cultivated consistently and positively. Rather than waiting for a conflict to arise, these proactive and ongoing conversations between police and various constituencies can help develop a rapport and understanding among the groups that promote public safety and forge better relations both before and after a crisis.
Departments should take seriously, document, and investigate all complaints of biased policing. As part of this effort, departments should make it easy and efficient for both members of the public and officers to make complaints, including by providing a channel for anonymous complaints.
Any officer who has knowledge of or information about conduct that qualifies as biased policing must report that information to a supervisor. Taking complaints seriously also means conducting a regular review and analysis of public and officer complaints to address any patterns that raise concerns. In an effort to promote transparency, departments should also publicly report data related to biased policing.
No officer or member of the public should be discouraged or intimidated from, or coerced into, filing a complaint alleging a violation of a department’s impartial policing policy. And departments should forbid any retaliation against those who file complaints and address such action should it occur.
Supervision, Review, and Accountability
Of course, training and systems for reinforcing bias-free policing are only the first steps in ensuring officers are fulfilling their duties to all whom they serve. Supervisors are responsible for monitoring law enforcement activities under their supervision to ensure that bias-free policing is practiced. And supervisors have an obligation to ensure the timely and complete review and documentation of all allegations of such violations.
Police chiefs and other supervisors must be empowered to hold accountable any officers who are found to have violated any anti-discrimination or bias-free policing policies. Those policies should make clear how officers will be held accountable for policy violations, which may include counseling, training, suspension, and/or termination.