Metro Transit Police will undergo bias training

The department will join the University Police for bias training later this year.

by Kristina Busch

After a 2015 analysis found that some minorities were being disproportionately ticketed, the Metro Transit Police Department has decided to train officers to ensure that they’re using fair tactics.
The report, along with recent incidents nationwide between police and protesters, prompted MTPD — in conjunction with the University of Minnesota Police Department — to work to eliminate biased policing through training programs, said MTPD Chief John Harrington.
“You need to be cognizant of the fact that you’ve got people moving here from different countries, people from many different cultural, ethnic backgrounds,” said Metropolitan Council senior communications adviser John Schadl. “You can’t meet that ‘gold standard’ if you don’t understand the people that you serve.”
Last year, a Metro Transit study found that Native American and black adults had higher amounts of arrests and citations per 100,000 rides when compared to white adults. 
Specifically, black adults were 38 percent more likely to be arrested, while Native American adults were 55 percent more likely to receive a citation rather than a warning.
Two years ago, Harrington said, he heard about the “Train-the-Trainer” program, supported by the federal Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, which is now federally recommended for law enforcement agencies.
The concept of fair and impartial policing is a perspective in which officers recognize that because they are human, they are capable of unconscious biases. 
To combat this tendency, it is suggested all police departments put in place some sort of bias program.
“In law enforcement, there are concerns that there will be an association made, in terms of a characteristic like ‘danger’ or ‘threat,’ that will fall in the intersection of race, gender and age,” said University professor of sociology and law Chris Uggen. “The concern is that young men of color will be unfairly targeted.”
The program is a two-and-a-half-day program where recruits, patrol officers and first-line supervisors are taught about fair and impartial policing. Afterward, those officers teach department colleagues about what they learned. 
“Fair and impartial police training … was really highlighted after Ferguson,” Harrington said. “As a department that serves a very diverse population, it made absolute sense to me that we have every one of our officers trained in this concept.”
UMPD Chief Matt Clark said he wanted to do the program jointly with Metro Transit to split the cost and to advertise to outside agencies that these departments were going to undergo this training. 
With both departments combined, 25 officers will be trained in at the University in June at a cost of about $1,000 per person.
“It’s about being progressive within the agency and bringing these practices to [UMPD] and the [Twin Cities],” Clark said. 
MTPD also offers Spanish and Somali language classes and cultural sensitivity training for the department’s recruits, Harrington said. 
Schadl said MTPD has also increased the number of officers of color in the department. In 2011, only 5 percent of the agency consisted of people of color, he said. Now, the department is 30 percent people of color, including five Somali officers.