Police Accountability and What it Tells us About Unconscious Bias

29 Jan

I have been listening to and reading the news about the guilty verdict (attempted murder) of Constable Forcillo here in Toronto, in the shooting death of Sammy Yatim.

I’m probably the last person to have seen the video, and it struck me how many shots were fired as Sammy lay there on the streetcar floor. So awful…
For communities and people who have been shining a light on (and experiencing) police violence, this verdict might suggest that tides may be starting to change…we’ll see.

One thing is for sure – there is a lot of work to do to get at the root of the problem and create sustainable change.

On CBCs Ontario Today this week, a retired RCMP officer called in to say that in 35 years of service he only pulled his gun once – to shoot a deer. He was concerned about the information that Constable Forcillo had pulled his gun 12 times in 3 years of service. This, the caller said, is a red flag that didn’t seem to have been addressed – at great cost.

So here is my thought for today:
As we recognize more and more the impact of unconscious bias on our actions, we have to also recognize the resulting impact of unconscious bias on marginalized communities. By virtue of how bias works, these groups will be impacted the most, and in the most negative ways.
If we couple this recognition with the deadly force that police are capable of (given they have tasers and guns) it should be obvious that we need to do some very deep examination of the training, the culture and the accountability within the policing system.

But make no mistake, policing is not the only institution that needs examination and change. All service organizations are in a position where unconscious bias means they see certain groups differently and the results can be devastating.

It’s a tangled web.
Messages about who has value (and who doesn’t) are everywhere; we swim in the soup of unconscious bias every day. And, it’s unconscious.
But we can, and we must move beyond talking about it, to examining how it impacts service, and then putting systems in place that help us shine a light on it, keep it on our radar, mitigate it, and work towards making a positive difference in how we see and serve populations. Particularly marginalized populations.

See more.

Copyright 2015 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Author and Facilitator on issues of Diversity & Inclusion
Interested in how the power of inclusion can transform your organization? Send me an email!

Radio Show Host – Creating Families
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