County to Bolster ‘Implicit Bias’ Training for Sheriff’s Deputies

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 sheriff’s 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.

“Well-developed research indicates that implicit bias is an insidious force,” Simitian wrote in a memo going before the Board of Supervisors Tuesday. “It can cause us to unconsciously and unintentionally act more negatively towards people whom we view as unlike ourselves.”

California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced earlier this year that her office is developing the nation’s first certified implicit-bias course. 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.

“Implicit bias” refers to the ingrained prejudice that affects the way we act toward people of different genders, races and groups. It’s the idea—substantiated by social science—that virtually everyone’s a little bit racist, ageist, classist or sexist.

“At one end of the spectrum, it may manifest as a basic mistrust of those whose skin is a different color,” Simitian explained. “But 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.”

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.

“With 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,” he wrote.

Better training can save lives, he added.

“The 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,” Simitian said. “While 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.”

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 Department’s anti-bias curriculum came on the heels of federal lawsuits accusing officers of racial profiling.

More from the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors agenda for September 29, 2015:

  • 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 Elmwood’s 3,700 inmates, only 19 percent are enrolled in some type of class. A survey of 300 inmates in August found that 40 percent don’t 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 they’re released. “Depending 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,” according to the memo from County Executive Jeff Smith. “It 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.”

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

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. > 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.

    We need a program to deal with the EXPLICIT bias of the ruling establishment against non-African Americans. And specifically, the ruling establishment needs to undergo rigorous anti-bias training to change their attitudes so that they understand that diverse white Americans are a MINORITY in Santa Clara County and San Jose.

    It’s not enough that the ruling establishment lumps white Americans into the category of “other minorities”, Fairness demands that they recognize white Americans as a distinct minority that is regularly targeted by divisive activist groups and their kept politicians.

  2. It true is the Golden Era for,those in the race business, who are reaping a windfall of taxpayer money fanned by the flames of politics. Michael Brown was the victim of implicit bias? Makes sense to me. Brown attacked Officer Wilson, punched him, attempted to grab the officer’s gun and then, after initially beginning to retreat, turned and advance toward Wilson again. I’m sure if Brown had been White, Wilson wouldve settled things with a hug and a friendly pat on the back. All no doubt the result of implicit bias.

    The popular mythology of today is that the public doesn’t trust the police. I work in East San Jose, and people are happy to see me all day long. There is a small, but very vocal, segment of the population that will never like or trust the police, no matter what. That’s not ever going to change.

  3. Inspired by Moore’s law, which has to do with the biennial doubling of transistor density, I propose a new law be applied to progressive politicians, based on my observation that their production of stupid ideas doubles every two years. Modesty prevents me from even suggesting it be called finfan’s law, but…

    In a truly Orwellian twist of the panties, Joe Simitian proposes that law enforcement officers receive training that will allow them to inventory and keep at bay something (subconscious biases) that, by definition, exists in a part of the brain that lacks the properties (language and logic) required to have its contents either inventoried or controlled. The supervisor might as well order the deputies be trained on how to breath under water.

    Though there can be no doubt the trainers will “discover” in the deputies a host of subconscious biases (discoveries not disprovable and necessary for billing purposes), nothing can change the fact that communication between the conscious and subconscious is accomplished through feelings, and those feelings belong to the subconscious. In other words, in order for an implicit bias to become known it must manifest itself in such a way that it becomes recognizable (explicit) to the conscious brain (such as when I barf at the sight of Hillary). Of course, a trainer might be able to coax out of a cooperative trainee an admission of some sort, but it would be no more credible (or valuable) than the temporary euphoria reliably produced by the likes of Werner Erhard (EST) and other psychobabble con artists.

    If you find yourself inclined to believe in Comrade Simitian’s reeducation scheme, consider this: should the deputies make an implicit bias-free arrest, are you comfortable with the idea that the arrested party will be charged and tried by a prosecutor, judge, and jury who’ve not yet been cleansed of their implicit biases? Will you be able to believe a news story covering the case if the reporter has yet shed his or her original sin? And, should the arrested party be convicted, should he have to suffer under the implicit biases of the jailers, parole board, and parole officers?

    I realize there is a mad scramble about to find a way to avoid admitting that lowlife African-Americans are a disproportionately criminal and uncivilized lot, and that it’s politically safer to point the finger at problems implicit and unprovable than it is at problems explicit and provable, but this idea of hiring otherwise unemployable psychologists to perform Vulcan mind-melds on defenseless civil servants is nuts. Joe Simitian must be eager to join the ranks of former Clown Laureate John “Self-Esteem” Vasconcellos, whose dumb ideas (he wanted to give 14 year-olds the vote) cost California taxpayers billions and made him a Doonesbury favorite.

    • > but this idea of hiring otherwise unemployable psychologists to perform Vulcan mind-melds on defenseless civil servants is nuts.

      Mr. Finfan

      I would have said “seriously flawed”. But “nuts” also works.

      Just as a proof of concept, I would challenge Mr. Simitian to produce a list of ten human beings that he and his anti-bias trainers can certify to be “bias free”.

      No fair including people who have had lobotomies.

    • Mr. FinFan, you know how the politicians mind works… they look for the quick fix, rather than the long term solution. Mostly because the long term solution requires more money that they believe would be better spent on the welfare and entitlement crowd.

      Here the quick fix is to “reeducate” the police who in pop-psycho-babble they would classify as “the gate keepers” of the criminal justice system. Their logic would say “police only arrest based on their biases and those biases are not in synch with the the “communities” they police.

      It then follows that an unbiased police would allow “communities” to simply “be or exist” as the community wishes to “be or exist.” Arrests would drop dramatically.

      Further by not arresting people based on a bias the person allowed to exist in his or her state will never have face the possibility of dealing with biased laws, jailers, jurors, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, prison guards the biases possessed by rival factions in jails and prisons…

      By simply reeducating the “gatekeeper” you save lots of money by not having to spend it on all the other “stakeholders” in the Criminal Justice system.

      Now the critical thinkers among us might be outraged as might people or sheep from “communities” that are negatively affected by the fallout from allowing certain communities to “exist” in their natural state but that really force the critical thinkers and other outraged parties to stand in front of the mirror and take account of their bias?

      • “It then follows that an unbiased police would allow “communities” to simply “be or exist” as the community wishes to “be or exist.” Arrests would drop dramatically.” Those communities already exist all over Western Europe, particularly France, where Muslim ghettos are allowed to exist where only Sharia Law is observed and the local cops just keep out. With folks like Simitian in government all over the country at every level, the US is next.

    • I can see you know absolutely nothing about Werner Erhard or his programs. I took the EST training in 1973. My “temporary euphoria” has lasted 42 years. It was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life and I’ve done a lot of things.

  4. Good luck on the “anti-bias training”.

    Obama says discrimination is in out DNA:

    “What is also true is that the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination in almost every institution of our lives — you know, that casts a long shadow. And that’s still part of our DNA that’s passed on. We’re not cured of it.”

    “Racism. We are not cured of it.”

  5. I don’t know about Supervisor Simitian, but I have a very explicit bias against a 290 pound “unarmed black man” beating the cr*p out of me. How about we enroll PC Joe in the class, have a 290 pound “unarmed black man” start beating on him and trying to take his firearm? I wonder how Implicit Joe would react to that scenario? At least Jenn stopped calling him an unarmed black teenager.

    • Joe would see a 290# unarmed black man and feel compelled to run up and empty his pockets then drop to his knees and promise to do more for persons of color while preemptively begging the guy to NOT pummel him. But then so would just about every white guilt afflicted donkey party member… others include Rosen, Sanders Reed Liccardo PIERRE LUIGI FOR SURE… and Josh and Dan P…to name a few

  6. Anyone who doubts the existence of a “race industry” in the U.S. need only examine the amount of tax dollars that will be spent on these “white guilt” inducing, “implicit bias” lessons in thought policing. I have little doubt that the instructors, who will be predominantly if not exclusively non-Caucasian, will receive thousands of dollars to direct their venomous racial spew, most pointedly, toward non-minority (“oppressor class”) Caucasian cops. This latter group will be told how terrible they are, not only for their actions, (and this ever since the founding of this country), but now for their subconscious thoughts. It will be heavily implied, if not outright stated, that all non-minority cops are presumptive racists and that the comments and “training” apply almost exclusively and conspicuously to them.

    In addition to the thousands of tax dollars that will be pumped into the “racial economy’, these “enlightened ones”, for the duration of the instruction, will also likely receive free living accommodations at expensive hotels, as well as meals, at expensive restaurants, again paid for by the taxpayer. If you don’t believe this, ask the county and/or the activists for an itemized list of their expenses. I seriously doubt such will be forthcoming.

    I would love to see the lesson plan or syllabus for this course. Likely topics might include:

    Topic: “O.J. was innocent. And the (non-minority) people he killed had it coming anyway”. Textbook: “If I Did It” Where O.J. (who received a $600,000 payment for his help) and his co-author describe how “The Framed One” might have killed his ex-wife and her friend, if he had done it (and all the DNA and other forensic evidence had also been true). Question: What happened to the rioting following the verdict? And if O.J. helped write the book, wasn’t he thinking about killing two (non-minority) people while doing so? Should he not then also be lectured and “trained” about his insensitive, biased thoughts?

    Topic: “I only killed those cops because I knew what they were thinking”

    Topics that WON’T be included in the class:

    Textbook: “Soul on Ice” by Eldridge Cleaver wherein he details how the killing of cops and the raping of (non-minority) women are valid forms of social protest.

    Louis Lomax’s interviews with Malcolm-X wherein Malcolm-X describes (that, guess which one, non-minority oppressor class) as the “devil” and calls Dr. Martin Luther King an “Uncle Tom” due to King’s advocacy of non-violence in the cause of civil rights.

    Absolutely NO books by Shelby Steele, Thomas Sowell or Duneen Borelli.

    It will also not be mentioned that while slavery has existed since the beginning of time and all over the world, the U.S. is the only country that has ever fought a war to end it.

    However, the Number One topic that won’t be covered is the fact that all the ranting of race-extremists and race-baiters DOES NOT represent the views of main stream black America. If word of that ever became widely known, it would cause a hate-market crash and “Great Depression” in the “racial economy” and people like Al Sharpton and Ladoris Cordell would have to get real jobs.

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