IMPD to change bias policing policy

A presentation organized by Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department discusses bias policing on Oct. 11, 2017. (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department is preparing to change its bias policing policy as community members and the department’s command staffers participate in a special training Wednesday and Thursday.

Following the fatal shooting of Aaron Bailey by IMPD officers, Mayor Joe Hogsett has called for police reforms and enhancements, including more transparency and potential updates to the department’s bias policing policy. In accordance with that initiative IMPD Chief Bryan Roach and staff invited nationally recognized fair and impartial policing trainers to Indianapolis for a 1.5-day training session.

“Hats off the IMPD because I go to jurisdictions and they just bring in the command level people for the training,” said Dr. Lorie Fridell, CEO of FIP, “and Indianapolis police department, not only did they want to have community leaders in the room, they’ve scheduled another one so they can reach more in the community.”

Community members and leaders who received the special invite included Sibeko Jywanza, who works for Flanner House, a nonprofit that encourages self-sufficiency. When asked about his experience with police bias, he chuckled.

“Police bias, dangerous,” he said. “You have to understand all people do have biases but when you talk about the job of a police officer and the responsibility that they have, those biases can be very deadly.”

Jywanza said he believes his responsibility in attending the meetings is to share his experiences and hear different perspectives.

“I’ve definitely been stopped a few times because of just ‘fishing,’ is kind of what I call it. Automatically there’s talk of ‘do you have drugs or guns in the car,'” Jywanza said. “I’m going to the store but which area am I going to? Is there a suspect that hasn’t been caught yet? Do I want to go into this area, because you never know.”

He sat near the front, flanked by community pastors, police officers, media representatives and concerned citizens.

“One of the greatest comments I heard was from a lady in here who’s been around for a while and said this is the first opportunity in all her years that she’s had to hear the police perspective,” said IMPD Chief Bryan Roach.

Dr. Lorie Fridell provided the afternoon training, explaining the differences between implicit and explicit bias. She illustrated various psychology studies with the general public and with police officers on how quickly they react when the most obvious information is race, ethnicity, or religion.

“There’s science behind it which makes you feel a little better that its not this overt intentional bias and there’s not something wrong with you, but its how do you adjust what you do and say in order to have better relationships,” Roach said.

The group also discussed providing balanced security at community events without indicating or exhibiting bias, including the Indianapolis 500 or the Indiana Black Expo Summer Celebration. Community members discussed issues concerning racially identifiable neighborhoods and the self-image of their own children.

“Back in the 1950s, they did a doll study, and African-American children labeled the black dolls as bad and not as good as the white dolls,” Fridell said, “and what was jarring about the video we showed in the class was that it was done in the early 2000s and we find the same kind of results.”

Roach admitted conversations like the ones at the training this week are just a start but said he’s already planning changes in the department.

“This can’t just be a two-day school. We have to find a way to infuse it in policy, infuse it in our training, infuse it in the way we do traffic stops,” he said. “In 2018, all of our officers will receive this training.”

Change is something Jywanza said he’s waiting for.

“This is just us getting it out, this is kind of that opening thing where were laying it out on the table,” Jywanza said. “What happens after this is where things could change or if they do change that’s where the work will be done after this day and a half workshop.”