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February 27, 2015

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Study finds Metro Police diversity training ineffective

Updated Friday, Jan. 4, 2013 | 6:40 p.m.

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Clark County Sheriff Douglas Gillespie speaks during an editorial board meeting with Las Vegas Sun staff inside his office in Las Vegas on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2012.

A three-year study into Metro Police presented Friday found poor morale among officers was driving “racial disparities in the treatment of residents.”

The Los Angeles-based Consortium for Police Leadership in Equity conducted the study at the urging of Sheriff Douglas Gillespie.

Phillip Atiba Goff, a social psychologist on the UCLA faculty and one of the study’s authors, said in a news conference Friday afternoon that Metro had low levels of racial bias compared with other police departments and poor morale. The morale combined with Metro’s “ineffective” diversity training program increased the likelihood of racial bias when an officer uses force on a person, he said.

The group focused its research on use of force, deadly force and internal equity, conducting interviews, taking multiple surveys, reviewing Internal Affairs complaints and pulling 20 years worth of data on use of force.

Part of the study involved a survey of officers and their perceptions of Metro. Of the 3,396 sworn personnel employed by Metro at the time of the survey, 2,198 responded — a 64.7 percent response rate, which the study called “exceptionally high for an online survey.”

The survey found officers from across Metro felt the department handled “diversity issues” moderately well. But demographics played a significant role in officer perceptions of diversity dealings. For instance, women and nonwhites expressed significantly more negative views of how the department handles diversity concerns than their white, male counterparts.

Yet what jumped out at Goff was the number of officers who ranked diversity training a 1 out of 7, or not at all valuable to them. Five-hundred officers ranked the training a 1 — the most common response — including 56 officers (49 white, seven nonwhite) who wrote that the training “tacitly accused whites of racism.”

“The instructor for the training was teaching under the assumption that all police officers were prejudiced against minorities, as he was a minority himself,” an unnamed officer wrote in the survey. “He spoke to the class like we were a room full of inmates being punished. It was very distasteful and a slap in the face to my integrity and professionalism as a police officer.”

In an executive summary, the report says Metro “officers have understood the message that racial bias is not to be tolerated, and those most identified with the department have aligned their behaviors with that value. This is the reason for optimism.

“However, for the segments of the organization that do not identify with LVMPD, in part because they feel their department suspects them of racism and/or corruption, there is a tendency to act inconsistently with the department values, engaging in behaviors that are likely to inflame negative sentiment against the department and, in turn, provoke further public safety concerns.”

The study authors offer seven recommendations:

• Integrate diversity training into operational responsibilities training.

• Prioritize use-of-force training in training updates.

• Provide a “science of contemporary bias” training for executives.

• Begin tracking pedestrian-stops data.

• Begin monitoring differences in officer-initiated vs. resident-initiated contacts.

• Create an officers’ advisory council.

• Reward excellence in diversity and inclusion.

Gillespie said the department would look into making these changes, but he wouldn’t put a timetable on when they would go into effect. While the recommendations would bring about large changes within the department, Gillespie didn’t foresee any of them having a significant impact on the budget.

“When meeting with the executive staff (I told them) I am fully committed to implementing the seven recommendations put forth,” Gillespie said.

Still, the authors advised against putting any of the recommendations in place without vigorous community dialogue and buy-in. Goff said if the community doesn’t understand the changes, it could create more resistance.

“In fact, it is the opinion of CPLE that without community buy-in, it is unlikely that these recommendations will have the desired effect of promoting equity and LVMPD officer behaviors consistent with the organization’s values,” the report said.

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  1. As with any organization, the behavior of it hinges on preception and communication.

    This is key,"Still, the authors advised against putting any of the recommendations in place without vigorous community dialogue and buy-in. Goff said if the community doesn't understand the changes, it could create more resistance."

    In our country, many are all too eager to place blame on lack of acceptance, which is code for "diversity". If we are looking for everyone to love one another and all agree on everything, then we lose diversity. The balance is found in meaningful exchanges, those dialogs and conversations, valuing each individual's input.

    American culture has changed over the years from "teamwork" to the look at "me"work, and that has had a profound effect on our lives. Older Americans remember working together, "together, we stand, divided, we fall," even "the family that prays together, stays together."

    The lesson is, when folks don't come together and work things out, we end up with imbalance and problems. For organizations, THAT is costly.

    Blessings and Peace,

  2. "The lesson is, when folks don't come together and work things out, we end up with imbalance and problems. For organizations, THAT is costly."

    star -- the problem in all of us working things out together is everyone not understanding the threshold issues. Meaning the self-evident premise we're all created equal with certain inalienable rights, particularly life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Government is subservient to us, not the other way around, and doesn't get to dictate anything to us just because it has granted itself a monopoly on violence.

    "Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual." -- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Isaac H Tiffany (1819)

  3. After reading this, I'm gonna have to side with Metro on this one. What I gleamed from all of this was that Metro from Gillespie down to the officers themselves took the training seriously. This is evidenced by both Gillespie's initiation of the study, as well as the high response numbers from officers who took the course.

    However the training was apparently presented in a very offensive manner, and was therefore ineffective as per the solicited feedback. Instead of taking this constructive feedback and working with it and the people who delivered it to try and refine the training curriculum, the officers themselves get blamed? What kind of logic is this. For a group that is supposed to specialize in diversity training, to refuse to adapt to diversity themselves is damn hypocritical of them.

    This absolutely sounds like the people who conducted the training are throwing a tantrum and blaming the Metro officers for the failure of their program.

    Here's an idea too. How about if we're going to include public results such as what types of people complain, what if we also conduct profiling of WHY they complain as well based upon their cultures? Culture is totally separate from skin color or ethnicity. Cultures based upon incomes and even neighborhoods and credit scores can define statistics about how likely a person is to commit a crime (we know and accept this since insurance companies profile us and base our rates this way), and lots of other things.

    If we're going to use statistics here, I'd like to request some of my own. What are the percentages of ethnic groups that actually file complaints, and of those that file and don't, what are their median incomes along with zip codes and congressional districts? I'm sure that we'll find that certain suspects are more likely to file a complaint versus others because of their cultures alone. And that is something that is absolutely out of an officer's control. Granted this could create a chilling effect with some suspects being left along for fear of a "paper retribution", as well as legitimate complaints being simply glossed over. But if the Consortium for Police Leadership in Equity would just own up to their own failures, we wouldn't even be talking about this.

  4. That law enforcement should be unbiased is a given. However, how about the other side shouldering some of the blame? When dealing with police officers your attitude is critical. We are all human beings and putting us on the defensive rarely results in positive outcomes. When a person is confrontational and sees everything through a racial prism, bad things are likely to occur. In my dealings with people of "color," most have been just like myself - respectful and cooperative with others and willing to see the glass as half full rather then as half empty. They, like I, simply want to live in peace and with security. But I have also seen plenty who cast everything in racial terms, detect "snubs" when there are none and are ready to fly off the handle for little or no reason. I've learned it pays to stay as far away from those people as is possible. Who needs to be on pins and needles in their presence?