GRPD implicit bias training: ‘Don’t bring your baggage’

Training is among 12 recommendations to improve GRPD-community relations

Grand Rapids Police Department, GRPD, implicit bias training
Grand Rapids police officers take implicit bias training. (May 17, 2016)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Tuesday marked day one of implicit bias training for the Grand Rapids Police Department, an effort to stop prejudice from impacting officers’ decision-making.

The training operates as series of conversations — officers talking about their experiences dealing with stereotypes and perception. Chief David Rahinksy says the effort is about taking a step back to recognize life experiences so officers don’t let biases color the decisions they make the street.

Rows of officers listened as an instructor talked about what Rahinsky says we inherently learn growing up.

“Treat people fairly. Everyone should be treated equitably. Don’t bring your baggage to the decision-making table,” Rahinsky said.

Just outside GRPD headquarters, 24 Hours News 8 ran into a man who identified himself as David K, who sang these words:

“The cops on the block won’t have nothing to do, they just being doing their job and they ain’t looking for you. When people gain love and won’t be taken advantage of.”

It echoes much of the sentiment that prompted the implicit bias training.

“That song came from what comes from the heart hits the heart. So that song came from the heart concerning the condition of the world right now today and how people feel about each other,” David K said.

“You may have a bias somewhere that’s holding you down, that could make you a better person, that could get you better results, that maybe that one arrest goes into handcuffs with your words rather than with force,” GRPD Lt. Patrick Merrill said.

Officers participating in Tuesday’s training wrote down where they feel stereotypes come from and how to look at each situation with a clean slate.

“The same way we’re asking them to judge us individually is the same opportunity that we want to give them, which is to be judged by their behaviors not by any other criteria,” Rahinsky said.

Tuesday’s training was for command staff, which is roughly 40 managers. GRPD will train all of its nearly 300 officers in eight-hour sessions over the next seven weeks. There is also talk of opening the training up to all department employees and even members of the community.

The implicit bias training is one of three recommendations yet to be completed on a 12-point plan created last year aimed at improving the department’s relations with the community.

After the training is complete, the Grand Rapids Police Department will hire a consultant to conduct a race-based review of traffic stops. Consultants will also analyze the data and review any racial disparities in arrests. Both of those studies are also part of the 12-point plan.

>>Online: Update on plan from the city

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