The Jackson Police Department and the Teton County Sheriff’s Office hosted a training Monday designed for law enforcement and other local government employees to better understand implicit bias.
The training, taught by former FBI agent Michael “Bret” Hood, was paid for by a Community Foundation of Jackson Hole grant and cost about $3,500, Sheriff Matt Carr said.
About 60 people attended, including Jackson police officers, county sheriff’s deputies, dispatchers, county prosecutors, detention officers, town facilities employees, town administrative employees, Community Foundation staffers and some employees from Grand Teton National Park.
The training covered topics like how experience can lead to implicit bias and how biases affect decision-making in law enforcement and prosecution.
“Case studies were presented that identified ways implicit bias can affect the law enforcement professional’s behavior and ways to evaluate how implicit biases facilitate false confessions and erroneous convictions,” Jackson Police Sgt. Russ Ruschill wrote in a press release.
Other topics included defining confirmation bias and how it relates to officer behavior.
“When officers learn how to interrupt their implicit biases it will help to ensure that they remain as objective as possible when engaging with others, conducting investigations and reporting findings,” Ruschill said.
In the training, Hood encouraged law enforcement officers to be willing to check their own actions and those of their peers while doing their jobs, Sheriff Carr said.
“It’s about being open to review and being OK with being critiqued,” Carr said. “And the willingness to check each other and confront your peers and employees.”
Hood, who works for 21st Century Learning and Consulting, is an adviser for the FBI’s executive leadership development programs and is an instructor at the FBI’s National Academy, which is where Acting Chief of Police Michelle Weber and former Chief Todd Smith became familiar with his trainings.
The training, held all day Monday at the conference center at the Lodge at Jackson Hole, was the first of its kind in Teton County. Carr said he and Weber have talked about hosting more.
“By doing these trainings, we’ll be able to keep this in the forefront of our minds and keep addressing these issues,” Carr said.
The training is part of a promise Weber made to the community in August after the police department’s culture came into question when Lt. Roger Schultz posted what many called an offensive joke on the agency’s Facebook page.
Schultz’s subsequent resignation was the same day as former Chief Smith’s retirement. Weber has been leading the department since.
In October, the Jackson Police Department and the Teton County Sheriff’s Office will team up for Crisis Intervention Training, a police mental health collaborative program designed to help sworn officers better interact with those experiencing mental illness.