LDF Statement on Department of Justice Announcement to Address Implicit Bias in Law Enforcement Training

Today, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it will train all its law enforcement agents and prosecutors to recognize and address implicit or unconscious bias as they carry out their duties in communities throughout the nation. “This news is certainly a step in the right direction and we look forward to learning more about the nature of the forthcoming training,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF). “Bias among decision makers in the criminal justice system is well documented and the Justice Department is to be applauded for requiring its law enforcement personnel to recognize and eliminate biases that may result in racial discrimination during arrests and criminal prosecutions. In addition to providing the training through persons with expertise in implicit bias, the Department of Justice should also carry out post-training evaluations to measure their effectiveness.”

For years, LDF has urged the DOJ to require federal, state and local law enforcement, including prosecutors, to conduct and monitor implicit and explicit bias training. LDF has also presented testimony to the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing recommending that it require federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to carry out this training as a condition for the receipt of federal funding. Implicit bias training for state and local law enforcement is crucial given the high number of unarmed African Americans who were shot by police in 2015. According to data collected by the Washington Post, of the 990 persons killed by police, 93 were unarmed. Thirty-eight of these unarmed persons (41%) were African American. 

“Acknowledging and addressing the problem of racial bias in our justice system is essential to strengthening public confidence in the rule of law,” said Monique Dixon, Deputy Director of Policy and lead attorney of LDF’s Policing Reform Campaign. “As the Department of Justice carries out this new initiative nationwide, we advocate for community residents to be invited to inform the curriculum and training provided to local law enforcement and prosecutors. And, we continue to advise the DOJ to extend this training to state and local law enforcement by requiring this type of instruction as a condition for receiving federal funding.”

Through its Policing Reform Campaign, LDF partners with national and local advocates to support demands for unbiased and responsible policing practices, including:

  • Annual collection, disaggregation, and public reporting of arrests; use-of-force; and pedestrian and traffic stop data;
  • Training on implicit bias, de-escalation, use of force, adolescent development, and proper interactions with persons with mental illness and other disabilities;
  • Enforcement of these trainings through close monitoring of police conduct and the imposition of disciplinary actions or retraining; and
  • Timely investigation and resolution of civilian complaints against police.

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Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.