Pittsburgh Police Take On Implicit Bias With Peer-To-Peer Training

Jul 20, 2016

Fourteen Pittsburgh Police officers trained to detect implicit bias and procedural justice interventions as part of the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice will now be tasked with passing along that information to fellow officers.

The training urges officers to enter situations from a place of neutrality instead of making assumptions based on characteristics like race and clothing of the person they’re dealing with or the neighborhood where officer are responding to a call.

Commander Cristyn Zett and her husband Sgt. Richard Zett of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police hold their children, Emma, 5, and Gavin, 7, after their joint promotion ceremony held at the City-County Building on Monday, July 11, 2016.
Credit Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

  Office of Professional Standards Commander Cristyn Zett, who was promoted last week, is one of the officers tapped to educate others on how to decrease those unconscious biases and improve interactions with the public.

“We’re hoping that … we are able to have a real impact on the officers’ daily lives and their interactions with the community,” she said. “So that we’re able to build our legitimacy as a department and as guardians of the community.”

The National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice, a project created in 2014 and funded through the U.S. Department of Justice, works to increase trust between citizens and those working for the criminal justice system. Focused on reconciliation, procedural justice and implicit bias, the project aims to create dialog about historic tensions and misconceptions between communities and their law enforcement agencies, understanding the formation of public opinion and the unconscious psychological biases authorities may have.

Zett said those goals are attainable. She said she hopes that the training will change how officers approach various situations.

“To be able to look at a situation for what a situation is and not coming into it prejudging just based on a radio call or a neighborhood or what something looks like as you pull up outside the house," Zett said. 

Mayor Bill Peduto said the changes in training will help mend relations with minority communities.

“What do I offer to those who are a part of Black Lives Matter? One of the most progressive law enforcement agencies in the country,” he said. “One that was down in Washington, not just learning about how to create community-oriented policing, but teaching other departments from around the country.”

Zett said officers are expected to complete training in the next few months.