July 11, 2016 – Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform, Inc. (PfCJR) which advocates to eliminate the damaging health consequences that can result from negative interactions with the criminal justice system, is calling for the federal government to make funds available to local police departments across the country to provide implicit racial bias testing to their officers, and measure the training’s effect on violent interactions with the public.
In response to the tragic deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith and Alva Braziel which occurred over the last week, Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform hosted a heavily-attended open conference call to action during which Drs. Edjah Nduom and Nzinga A. Harrison, M.D., Founder and Co-Founder of Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform, unveiled a fourth core issue for the organization:  Reduction of violent encounters between law enforcement professionals and the general public.  
Officer Damion Polite of City of Houston Police Department spoke to the group.  He praised the advocacy efforts of the group and emphasized the similarities between physician work and police work — seeing people during a crisis, wanting to be of service.  He emphasized that police officers also want to see an end to fatal encounters.  He noted that one big difference existed between the two groups — in general, people trust their physicians, while in general, people fear police officers.  He emphasized the community-based programs that City of Houston Police Department have enacted in attempts to integrate with the communities they serve such as the Teen and Police Service Academy (TAPS) and others which can be found on their website.  Officer Polite told the group, he believes that it is those programs that account for a low incident of fatal encounters despite the fact that his department patrols the most violent neighborhoods in the city.  He closed by asking the group to continue to be supportive to police officers for training needs especially related to managing individuals with mental illness and understanding the fear and lack of trust that many have in the police.
Data shows that blacks and native americans are at higher risk of being killed during interactions with police officers than other racial/ethnic groups.  Perceived criminality and implicit racial bias are significant drivers of this problem.
A comprehensive article published in Police Chief Magazine in 2011 notes:
  • Implicit bias is measurable
  • Implicit biases are pervasive
  • People are often unaware of their implicit biases
  • Implicit biases predict behavior
  • Individuals who are made aware of their implicit biases are motivated and able to implement unbiased behaviors

The first initiative of PfCJR’s new taskforce will be the creation of a petition to be delivered to the white house calling for the federal government to make funds available to local police departments for the provision of implicit racial bias testing to police officers and research to study the results of the training.  Members and Fellows of PfCJR will be notified when the petition is available and are encouraged to sign and circulate.  Click here to join PfCJR.

The full recorded video of the Open Conference Call to Action can be watched by clicking here.

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