Taking a cue from similar national and statewide initiatives, Santa Clara County may soon implement in-depth anti-bias training for all law enforcement officers.
The proposal by Supervisor Joe Simitian would require sheriffâs deputies to undergo a 40-hour course on how to prevent subconscious bias from compromising their ability to enforce the law fairly. He called the training a necessary step to avoid the kind of police violence that led to the deaths of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Staten Island and Baltimore.
âWell-developed research indicates that implicit bias is an insidious force,â Simitian wrote in a memo going before the Board of Supervisors Tuesday. âIt can cause us to unconsciously and unintentionally act more negatively towards people whom we view as unlike ourselves.â
California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced earlier this year that her office is developing the nationâs first certified implicit-bias course.Â This past spring, then-U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder rolled out a similar program in response to public outcry over police brutality against African Americans and other minorities.
âImplicit biasâ refers to the ingrained prejudice that affects the way we act toward people of different genders, races and groups. Itâs the ideaâsubstantiated by social scienceâthat virtually everyoneâs a little bit racist, ageist, classist or sexist.
âAt one end of the spectrum, it may manifest as a basic mistrust of those whose skin is a different color,â Simitian explained. âBut research has also shown that it can escalate interpersonal conflicts, and it can even make police officers more likely to draw and fire their service weapons.â
The effects of subconscious bias have been widely recognized and drawn increased scrutiny as public officials discuss ways to build trust between the public and police.
While it takes more than a weeklong course to erase biases built on generations of institutional racism, Simitian noted that the latest research shows that training is the only way to lessen its influence on police behavior.
âWith this training, our officers will be better equipped to recognize instances in which implicit bias may play a role and help them to perform their duties in a more fair and neutral way,â he wrote.
Better training can save lives, he added.
âThe sad truth is that studies have shown how implicit bias can lead to more contentious and more violence interactions between civilians and law enforcement officials,â SimitianÂ said. âWhile it is impossible to say that such bias was a singular cause in any of the tragic high-profile deaths that have spent the last year dominating the media, it seems probable that it played a role.â
While the content of the training has yet to be determined, Simitian recommended 30 to 40 hours of live training instead of passive, self-directed learning in front of a computer screen.
San Jose recently ramped up the cultural diversity and discrimination training for its sworn officers. The order to bolster the San Jose Police Departmentâs anti-bias curriculum came on the heels of federal lawsuits accusing officers of racial profiling.
- For the first time in 15 years, the county will update its massage parlor regulations to increase oversight and curb human trafficking. The rules would require massage parlors to install video surveillance, ban sleeping quarters and require photo IDs for all employees.
- Under a new state law, local governments can create urban agriculture zones to give property owners a tax break if they use their land for farming. This county has identified 37 eligible parcels, which would collectively reduce tax revenue by more than $91,000. The county will hold a public hearing on the matter. If approved, the program would go into effect in late November.
- Inmates at Elmwood jail will soon have access to more educational opportunities. The county plans to add classes on behavioral therapy, drug and alcohol coping skills, job readiness, family violence prevention and parenting. Of Elmwoodâs 3,700 inmates, only 19 percent are enrolled in some type of class. A survey of 300 inmates in August found that 40 percent donât have a GED or high school diploma, 48 percent used illicit drugs daily or almost daily before their arrest and 38 percent said they were unable to stop drinking prior to incarceration. The jail plans to expand its class offerings to reduce recidivism and improve their chances of success once theyâre released. âDepending on the length of time in custody, some formerly incarcerated individuals will be faced with the challenge of starting over with no income or place to stay, which can be very overwhelming if they are facing these challenges alone,â according to the memo from County Executive Jeff Smith. âIt takes hard work and determination to complete community supervision requirements and without proper planning and support, many formerly incarcerated individuals will inevitably return to custody.â
WHAT: Board of Supervisors meets
WHEN: 9am Tuesday
WHERE: County Government Center, 70 W. Hedding St., San Jose
INFO: Clerk of the Board, 408.299.5001