UCF offices come together to discuss policing bias

Photo by Alyssa McComb.

The science and psychology behind policing bias brought together over 60 UCF students, faculty and others Tuesday afternoon as Lorie Fridell, a USF criminology professor, spoke on biased policing.

The discussion was hosted in the Pegasus Ballroom and was a combined effort of UCF’s Student Development and Enrollment Services, Office of Diversity and Inclusion, UCF Police Department and the Social Justice and Advocacy department.

Implicit bias was the main topic of discussion. Implicit bias is defined as “the bias in judgment and/or behavior that results from subtle cognitive processes (e.g. implicit attitudes and implicit stereotypes) that often operate at a level below conscious awareness,” according to the National Center for State Courts.

Fridell used explicit bias, or outward and aggressive bias, to explain why implicit bias is a problem.

“I call this the destructive equation: that officers with explicit bias and only officers with explicit bias produce bias in policing,” Fridell said. “It produces distortions that harm the relationship between the police and diverse community … and it leads police to minimize the problem and become defensive about it.”

Fridell introduced a program to manage and reduce bias in policing, a plan of action called Fair and Impartial Policing, also known as FIP. The training programs focus on exposing law enforcement officials to the science behind bias, and how to mitigate and remove it from policing. Fridell said the program is being funded by the U.S. Department of Justice’s office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

Fridell mentioned various studies and theories to describe bias and prejudice in policing.

“We err when we treat the individual as if they match the stereotype,” Fridell said. “Policing based on stereotypes is ineffective, unsafe and unjust.”

A handful of UCF police officials were present at the discussion as Fridell spoke specifically on the UCF Police Department training and bias.

“UCFPD has been doing the whole package. [They’ve been] top to bottom training in fair and impartial policing,” Fridell said. “We’ve trained the officers, we’ve trained the supervisors, we’ve trained the mid-managers and we also had a commander and community training.”

Following the presentation, a Q&A was held, which featured Fridell, UCF Police Department Chief Richard Beary and Edwanna Andrews, director of UCF’s Social Justice and Advocacy office.

Each panelist spoke about their position in recent events, and family or professional ties with policing and bias.

“Having an uncle that was a police officer and to see what is happening in our society — I’ll be honest, it’s very hard not to be biased,” Andrews said.

UCF public administration graduate student Kourtney Dinkins took the mic to ask about current UCF training and education. Chief Beary was quick to answer.

“The state of Florida only mandates 40 hours of training every four years,” Beary said. “If I only gave our officers 40 hours of training every 4 years you would have a very bad police department. Unfortunately with the budget cuts over the years, the first thing they cut was training … the result of cutting training over the last decade is what is happening all over the world for the last couple years – that is a direct result. Here at UCF we spend a lot of time and money sending people to training.”

Dinkins said she was overall pleased with the discussion Fridell opened between the UCFPD, community leaders and UCF students.

“I think the conversation is critically important,” Dinkins said. “UCF is doing a good job in diversity, and yes the conversation can be uncomfortable at times, but when it’s set up like this, it is very welcoming.”