LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) - At a time when policing continues to face strict scrutiny, law enforcement agencies in the area are participating in a two-day "implicit bias awareness training. The company, Fair & Impartial Policing LLC, trains officers on implicit bias to pass this curriculum to their agency and teach others.
Joann Johnson, a retired colonel from the Illinois State Police, served on the force for 29 years and now is a Master Instructor for the "Implicit Bias Training".
"What the science shows us that is that the common notion in the public eyes at times is that law enforcement officers have a bias against the various groups of people we interact with daily, and that bias is explicit," Johnson said. "Explicit bias stems from some hostility or animosity toward one particular group or another, and that can be based on race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, gender, sexual preference…. a litany of things."
Johnson said she and Fair & Impartial Policing LLC believe this training can only make law enforcement more aware of their status and help their community.
"What is more prevalent within law enforcement and out is implicit biased. Implicit bias can occur outside our conscious awareness, where we can group people based on stereotypes. We can pass judgment, if you will, on certain groups of people based on our personal experiences, but it's not necessarily based on hostility or animosity," Johnson said. "What's important for law enforcement officers is to be aware of the science because once they are aware of the science and the possibility they also have implicit bias, they can then work to manage them."
La Crosse County Sheriff Jeff Wolf said his deputies have undergone racial justice training and said this company could only continue to help better the men and women on the force.
"It's our hope that we can train numerous officers to train our entire staff to recognize biases, to understand that we do have them," Wolf said. "This training will help us overcome bias so that we can better serve our communities and treat people fairly and humanely, which is what our community deserves."
Each police officer paid a fee to participate. Those agencies include UW Eau Claire Police, Sheboygan Police, West Salem Police, Holmen Police, Wisconsin Dells Police, Portage Police, Columbia County Sheriff, Sparta Police, and the La Crosse County Sheriff's Department.
For training, officers will be split up in small group scenarios that are hypothetically themed, to give officers an idea of real-life experiences.
The training was held a the La Crosse County Sheriff's Department.