Prince George’s Co. Police to participate in new implicit bias training program at UMD

PRINCE GEORGE’S CO., Md. – Police Chief Hank Stawinski announced on Friday that all 1700 sworn members of the department will undergo a new implicit bias training program.

The program is in partnership with the University of Maryland’s Department of Sociology and the Behavioral and Social Sciences (BSOS) at the University of Maryland, UMD’s Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, the MLAW program, and the UMD School of Medicine.

Implicit bias encompasses the attitudes, stereotypes, and lenses human beings develop through various experiences in life that can unconsciously affect how they interact with one another.

It impacts the decisions people make and the actions they take without realizing what they are doing or why they are doing it.

“It’s getting at something that you’re not aware of but is impacting how you police and how the community views the institution,” said Chief Stawinski. “The goal of implicit bias training isn’t to condemn anyone, it is to make a person aware and if you are aware of your lenses then you can have a thoughtful response instead of a conditioned response.”

The program is supposed to launch in March, a culmination of two years of partnership with University of Maryland Sociology professors Dr. Kris Marsh and Dr. Rashawn Ray .

With the help of their staff, they reviewed police data, researched, and interviewed officers and the community.

Officers will go to the College Park campus in groups of 50 on Tuesday’s from 8:00 a.m. to 5 p.m.

There will be a classroom and discussion period, but the big piece of the training is the use of virtual reality technology that will evaluate officers reactions to scenarios they encounter every day.

“It allows us to tell the officer when their heart rate might go up, when there pulse might be elevated,” says University of Maryland Sociology professor Dr. Kris Marsh. “Everybody has biases but when they go unchecked for an officer, it could be a matter of life or death, so we want to make sure that they check the biases.”