Citizens Meet With Police On Countering Implicit Bias

Jun 14, 2016

The last of a series of neighborhood meetings about implicit bias was held last night at Albany’s Jewish Community Center.

"And it doesn't matter who you are, how old you are, what race you are, what religion you are, everyone has implicit bias."  That's Albany Police Chief Brendan Cox, speaking to WAMC in May as the department launched the series of implicit bias trainings, "community conversations" aimed at improving relations between police officers and citizens.

Gregory Owens of Macedonia Institute led the discussions, using visual aids to explain to attendees that implicit bias is the bias in judgment and/or behavior that results from attitudes and stereotypes that Chief Cox says often operate at a level below conscious awareness and without intentional control. "So not only is it the police department is getting trained, but that we also work with our community so they understand their biases."

Materials Owens used in his presentations include:

During the JCC session, audience members became increasingly, sometimes uncomfortably, aware that the implicit biases we all carry inside us can impact our interactions with the criminal justice and health care systems, government, and education.  Officers in the APD have been undergoing the training; Owens noted they need to take a refresher course periodically because the effect of the training wears off in time.  Fourth ward city councilman Kelly Kimbrough is a former Albany police officer: "This is valuable. It raises awareness. For me, this work is important because I am a member of this community as well as being a police officer in the past. I think the training for everyday people, I think the value in that is that we have this thing where we pre-judge. We pre-judge the police, but we don't want the police to pre-judge us. So I think this kind of turns it on its head and gives you a different perspective.”

Dorcey Applyrs was born in Washington, D.C. and moved to Albany, NY after graduating from Delaware State University with her Bachelor of Science in Psychology. She is a graduate of the University at Albany, State University of New York (SUNY Albany) School of Public Health with a Master's of Public Health.
Credit Lesley Adewunmi

First Ward Common Council Member Dorcey Applyrs hailed the localized, small-group discussions, conducted in a workshop atmosphere,  as "successes" because neighbors determined to make changes happen have come out in support. 

"These community conversations, from what I have observed, have provided residents with a platform to talk honestly and candidly about the issues that we tend to shy away from, like race and racism, classism, and I'm finding that as we have moved forward with offering community conversations our crowd has grown, because people have gone back via word of mouth and really promoted the community conversations, so there's something authentic about what's happening here in the city of Albany as it relates to addressing those issues that as a society we tend to shy away from."

Going forward, there likely will be more "community conversations," augmenting the community policing model adopted by the Albany Police Department.