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Police Agencies Line Up to Learn About Unconscious Bias

Posted by Steve Karimi | Apr 03, 2015 | 0 Comments

Last month brought the much anticipated ‘bias' training for police forces all over the country, in the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles (at the Museum of Tolerance).  While the nation was crumbling under the wake of protests, U.S. Justice Department's (“DOJ”) Community Oriented Policing Services Program helped develop and fund training to address the implicit bias that exists within police culture.  The training is gaining more traction amongst police departments, with over 5,000 ‘police chiefs set to take the course.  

The Seattle Police Department, like most police departments has a long, contentious history of racial bias, undue force, and controversy.  Just towards the end of January, an officer named Cynthia Whitlatch came under investigation for arresting a senior citizen who was using a golf club as a cane.  The army veteran, William Wingate, was convicted of unlawfully using a weapon under a plea deal, which was dismissed by prosecutors after the city attorney's office took a look at the police dash cam footage.  Additionally, troubling Facebook comments about race were discovered from the arresting officer's Facebook page.  Wingate has filed a $750,000 lawsuit against the department.  The Seattle police chief subsequently made a public statement about “reforming the Seattle Police Department” to address bias, and the arresting office has been put on desk duty.  To their credit, the Seattle PD has made several changes since the DOJ's investigation found signs of biased-based policing and signs of undue force back in 2012, and the start of the New Year brought a new department anti-bias policy.

As a former prosecutor, Steve Karimi realizes the stark implications of bias-based policing in the criminal law context.  A study showed that minority members are 33 times more likely to be arrested by Seattle PD for a drug crime.  In traffic stops alone, minority drivers are 20 % more likely to be searched or charged with a more serious crime during the stop.  Lawyer Steve Karimi also realizes that bias-based policing extends beyond the criminal law context.  For example, minorities are more likely to receive traffic tickets in speed traps (civil infractions) and higher fines from officers, and in Seattle, it was shown that they are also more likely to have their license suspended for not paying their traffic fines.  This issue is beyond ‘black and white,' as Hispanics, Native Americans, and Asian Americans are also more likely to receive traffic infractions.

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About the Author

Steve Karimi

Steve Karimi attended Pepperdine University School of Law. After graduation he worked as a prosecutor in Seattle where he gained valuable insight to the criminal justice system. Attorney Karimi uses his experiences as a prosecutor everyday only now he fights for the justice of those accused.

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