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Over the past two years, the State University of New York system has been working with individual university police departments to correct the issue of biased policing and encourage officers to make better decisions to ensure safety for both others and the public.

In efforts to combat the effects of implicit bias on the University at Albany campus, the University Police Department has been collaborating with the SUNY system to improve the way their force handles arrests.  This past January, UPD Inspector Jennifer Baldwin and other officers underwent the Florida-based training titled Fair and Impartial Policing. The training was created by Lorie Fridell to mitigate racial bias in the field and ensure the safety of others.

“All officers are ensured to have now undergone this training, and I would say that after undergoing the training, we recognize consciously our own implicit bias,” said Baldwin.

According to UPD Deputy Chief Aran Mull, implicit bias is the automatic associations and judgments we make about everything and everyone around us.

“It’s an important part of our conscious calculus; it’s integrated into whatever culture you grow up in and it informs every decision you make on a daily basis,” he said.

For example, an individual will naturally look both ways when crossing a street even if there are no cars around. However, when an armed individual responsible for the protection of others has unconscious impulses, they can become dangerous.

“It’s not a secret that a giant portion of ethnicity-based bias in the United States is against young, black males,” said Mull. “When this bias is enacted by somebody with a badge and a gun, dire consequences are going to come out of it.”

The deputy chief noted that the ethnic-bias is two-fold. Officers are responsible for protecting themselves and the public, and must be aware of the implicit biases they have both in favor and against individuals of other races.

Roughly five years ago, a national course was started up in an attempt to teach university police to recognize their own implicit bias and make conscious decisions, according to Mull. These same courses are taught at the local police academy as well.

Although the training has only been enforced for two years, Mull said there has been a decline in the number of violent confrontations and the use of force has decreased significantly. He is confident that the program against biased policing was a necessary teaching for new officers, and that calm and rational decision-making is the most important factor in an occupation such as his.

Another necessity as a police officer is the ability to vent when not directly on call. Mull believes this helps officers make rational decisions later on.

“Sometimes, [officers] have bad days. We’re only human,” he said. “The truth is, an officer is more likely to use violence when they’re already agitated.”

While knowing that UPD is working (Do you mean “While knowing that what our UPD is doing is working….?”) to prevent the unneeded use of force against others, especially minorities, is a comforting thought; many more years of education, practice, and record keeping are necessary before it can be determined how much this curriculum affects rates of police violence, specifically at UAlbany.

“We have a great relationship with the majority of the UAlbany community and it’s in our best interest to keep it up,” Mull said.

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