Plattsburgh State University Police took the time to address possible natural biases.
UP Inspector Patrick Rascoe attended a national course, titled “Train the Trainers,” Jan. 12 to 14, in the Tiffany Ballroom of the Genesee Hotel in Syracuse, New York. After the event, Rascoe returned to the PSUC campus to teach the entire UP department.
The training program was held and overseen by Fair and Impartial Policing, a national organization that seeks to make officers aware of the impact biases have in police work. UP Chief Jerry Lottie said SUNY hired FIP to train 25 of SUNY UP’s police officers.
“In police work, quite often, what we do is develop our own trainers on the topic,” Lottie said.
He said once those trainers are established, each attends a joint session, and then they come back later to train everyone else in his or her department.
Lottie said the training is based scientifically on the idea of bias. He also cited research that said the most well-intentioned people have biases.
“This training is an opportunity to recognize that and then delve into those biases and some of the reasons behind them, so that we can better recognize when these biases may impact our decision-making,” Lottie said. “Part of being a true professional is recognizing what’s going on in the world and getting ahead of it.”
He said it took a year for SUNY to be set up and scheduled for the training.
After having taken the course from Rascoe, Lottie said it was interesting.
“It did explain a lot of things that could certainly make policing challenging, but I think the other part of it was the enlightenment that even well-intentioned people have biases,” Lottie said. “When we’re introduced to this training, it helps us to reflect on those biases, so we make better-informed decisions and make us better police for our community.”
Lottie said there are some instances in which the reporting individual can make calls to police based on what is called “bias by proxy.” This occurs when someone calls to report something that might not be the case, and that distortion of reality exists because of a preconceived bias. When the police officer arrives at the scene of the call, the officer would know not to take that person seriously.
He said this makes it all the more important for members of the community and police to engage in conversation, police to be involved in community policing and for police officers who attend this type of training to “open their eyes to these kinds of issues.”
PSUC sophomore computer science and criminal justice double major Jonathan Disla said it is “incredibly important” to recognize biases in policing.
“You’re doing a job which can impact a person’s life,” Disla said. “It (can stay) on the record forever.”
He said police officers can sometimes be painted with a broad brush.
Disla said that, in a hypothetical situation in which police officers make criminal charges or decisions based on an inherent bias, the person allegedly charged with the crime would begin to think all police officers work with a biased mindset.
The Bronx native said his hometown police department does not connect with its community, and he said officers in that police department tend to be biased toward minority youth.
“You still have to serve whoever comes up to you, no matter how different they are,” Disla said.
PSUC junior social work major Zachary Desjardins said UP made a good effort to address potential biases in its policing and a failure to do so would result in a failure to evolve as a department.
“In a police-department atmosphere, you don’t want to be stagnant,” Desjardins said. “This is a very great, proactive approach that University Police is taking.”
Desjardins said this training session offers UP to be a “catalyst of change” for the campus community. Lottie said he and his department will continue to seek knowledge on the matter in order to perform the best policing they can.
“We will continue to talk about these topics, doing our best to make sure we are representing the entire campus with our efforts,” Lottie said.
Email Tim Lyman at firstname.lastname@example.org