The New York Police Department recently agreed to a two-year, $4.5 million contract with a private company to provide training.
The racial justice movement has police departments nationwide desperately seeking training programs to help their officers navigate interactions with minorities, and it has spawned a cottage industry of companies offering training to overcome implicit bias.
The courses can cost as much as $1,000 per officer, which is drawing players into the field that police chiefs say they have never heard of before.
Worries also abound that these fly-by-night startups could do more damage than good. Adopting the wrong techniques could leave departments even more vulnerable to scrutiny and lawsuits.
“Every time a national police story pops up, some group tries to take advantage of it,” said Chief Joseph Lukaszek of Hillsdale, Illinois. “For every 10 emails I get every single day, two are for this kind of crap.”
He said some of the solicitations “are absolute pyramid schemes.”
“It looks good on a piece of paper, but is it effective? And do you want to be the test case?” he said.
Companies flagged by chiefs didn’t respond to inquiries from The Washington Times about their courses and their credentials.
The person who answered the phone at one company said he was only marketing the training and couldn’t vouch for the training. He declined to provide contact information for those who operated the course.
Protesters and politicians are putting pressure on law enforcement to provide training on implicit bias in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death. At the same time, they are calling to slash police budgets, leaving departments with less funds for training.
Texas last month ordered all police officers to attend a course on implicit bias. A similar edict was imposed in Milwaukee, and the City Council in Nashville, Tennessee, is weighing mandatory training for officers.
Proper training can be of great value, police chiefs say, but they warn that increased demand for training and reduced budgets could lead departments to choose training based on cost, not quality. That’s dangerous, they say, because cheap training is likely worthless.