For more than a year, Black Lives Matter protesters have demanded change within the American justice system. It would seem as though the Justice Department has heard their plea and announced a new mandate forcing 33,000 federal agents, as well as prosecutors, to undergo training to stop their personal biases from influencing law enforcement decision.
Prior to the DOJ’s announcement, the department was scrutinized for telling local police officers to create policies against biases, while not implementing a plan of their own to combat the exact same issue within their ranks.
In a memo to Department of Justice employees, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said the program is supposed to identify implicit biases. Yates defined those biases as subtle unconscious stereotypes.
An excerpt of Yates’ memo states:
“… but implicit bias also presents unique challenges to effective law enforcement because it can alter where investigators and prosecutors look for evidence and how they analyze it without their awareness or ability to compensate the Justice Department will use a guide created by the former director of the police executive Research Forum the organization is a nonprofit that provides expertise on policing issues.”
During Wednesday’s edition of NewsOne Now, guest host Laura Coates spoke with Kristin Clarke, CEO of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and Nicole Austin-Hillery, Director and Council of the Brennan Center for Justice, about the DOJ’s move to combat “implicit bias” amongst its staff and if the move by the Justice Department is “too little, too late.”
Austin-Hillery said, “I don’t think it is never too late to have training that is going to ensure that agents and lawyers working in the Department of Justice are more sensitive to and more aware of racial bias.”
She continued, “We know that Harvard Law School has been working on the implicit assessment test for quite some time — corporations have been using it, employment discrimination lawyers have been using it, so we know that it makes a difference.”
Clarke, an expert on civil rights, explained the importance of differentiating between “implicit bias from outright racial animus implicit bias.” She told Coates implicit bias “refers to this unconscious bias, meaning that there are groups that draw stereotypes about racial groups — groups that draw stereotypes about African-Americans.”
Clarke added that this form of bias “is to be kept distinct from outright racial animus that some police officers harbor” towards certain racial groups.
The CEO of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law also stated the DOJ’s move to address bias is an “important first step in helping to raise the standards of policing.”
Clarke also believes the Justice Department’s move will “raise the standards that are used by federal law enforcement agencies across our country.”
Watch guest host Laura Coates, Nicole Austin-Hillery, Kristin Clarke and the NewsOne Now panel discuss the DOJ’s mandated training on implicit biases in the video clip above.
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PHOTO CREDIT: Getty