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By Judi Villa
Rocky Mountain News

DENVER - The Denver Police Department is partnering with a social psychologist to evaluate the level of racial and gender bias on the force and find ways to end both.
The idea is to ensure the agency is as inclusive as possible and that it's doing everything possible to recruit, train and support non-biased officers.
The study stemmed from community concerns about racial profiling and bias and is a "holistic" examination of the department, said Tracie Keesee, division chief of Research, Training and Technology. It is focusing on recruitment, training, retention and officer interaction with the community.
"What we're looking for is really some solid solutions," Keesee said.
The department has been working for more than a year with Phillip Atiba Goff, a social psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. Goff is doing the study for free.
His research doesn't focus on racist individuals but rather on how contextual factors can influence discrimination, even causing bias unconsciously.
"There are situations that can lead to racial discrimination that have nothing to do with the officer's level of prejudice," Goff said. "Sometimes it's bias. Sometimes it's the time of day, the time of night, what's going on in the officer's life, the behavior of the suspect."
"It's just as much about different situations as it is about different people."
Understanding the dynamics ultimately can help police reduce discrimination in those situations, Goff said.
Goff's research could involve taking brain scans or blood and saliva samples to measure officers' physiological responses, not just attitudes.
The study already has led to the creation of a mentoring program for female officers that has drastically reduced the number of women leaving the force, from about 25 percent to "next to nothing," Goff said.

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