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Unconscious bias training ineffective and has 'negative consequences'

Government scraps training for civil servants following research and forces may have to follow suit.

Julia Lopez

Julia Lopez

Date - 15th December 2020
By - Gary Mason
9 Comments 9 Comments}

Police forces could end unconscious bias training for officers after the Government announced it would be scrapping the courses for civil servants and urged other public sector employers to do the same.

Cabinet Office minister Julia Lopez said that the training was being scrapped because it is ineffective and can have “unintended negative consequences”.

Several forces including the Met have used unconscious bias training for its senior officers and staff to help improve diversity.

Earlier this year the London Assembly called for the training to be extended to all officers to combat concerns about stop and search and other issues which has led to accusations of racism. 

Unmesh Desai, Chair of the Police and Crime Committee said: “It has been encouraging to see the Met make significant progress in requiring its officers to undergo regular unconscious bias training. Going forward, it is important that the Mayor plays his part to ensure that this good work continues, and that this training is extended to cover all of the Met’s ranks.”

But today Julia Lopez said a report by the Behavioural Insights Team found that “there is currently no evidence that this training changes behaviour in the long term or improves workplace equality in terms of representation of women, ethnic minorities or other minority groups”.

“It also states that there is emerging evidence of unintended negative consequences,” she told MPs.

“In light of its findings, ministers have concluded that unconscious bias training does not achieve its intended aims.

“It will therefore be phased out in the civil service. We encourage other public sector employers to do likewise.”

She said evidence also suggests that even the broader category of ‘diversity training’ as a standalone exercise can undermine such efforts if it appears to be a ‘tick box exercise’.

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Guest - Thu, 17 December 2020

My first session on bias was in the gym at Brentford section house in 1968. The poor presenter could not answer practical questions from operational officers, for example how should we deal with the throat slitting of a goat in the back garden of a terraced house in Feltham.