There has been a lot of talk of late about police misconduct and police officers’ treatment of minorities in performing their duties. Obviously this is not anything new. But various incidents over the past couple of years have focused extra attention on police conduct.
One solution that I believe would help is if hiring agencies would engage employees (or even better, prospective employees) in a series of exercises to expose them to their own biases. Citizens who have biases become police officers who have biases or they become lawyers who have biases or they become judges who have biases, or ____ (fill in the blank) with biases. We can’t escape our biases, as everyone has them. But most sensible people choose to see beyond the superficiality of others.
It’s sort of like a habit. If you’re accustomed judging someone that doesn’t look like you do, then you don’t even think twice about continuing that behavior. It’s so deeply ingrained in your psyche. Organizations need to address it in a formal way. Doing so would benefit the organization greatly. If nothing else, by helping employees confront their own biases, it might help reduce the incidence of employees that make race-based decisions in their daily work. Whether it’s a police officer who gives more tickets to black citizens than citizens of other races, or a party planner who won’t work with gay couples, overt biases goes against the virtues and principles upon which the United States was founded.
Organizations need to spend time, frequently, helping employees to reach a greater awareness of their own biases. I think that doing so might help reduce the number of lawsuits an organization faces. Of course, it’s a problem that isn’t limited to police officers, and it’s not just a problem about race. This also can impact any profession and it can impact a person’s religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, and all of those other traits that receive legal protections. Unfortunately, most organizations are reactionary. They won’t take any steps to change the culture until something major happens. Seldom do we see proactive measures. Why do we always have time to fix something after the fact but we don’t’ have time to take preventive measures beforehand?