This law sounds good in principle, but seems impossible to use as a way of detecting racism in potential hires. The law and its problems are described in a long and poorly-written article in the Washington Post; I’ll have more to say about the writing later.
Click on the screenshot to read:
Here’s the skinny, and I’ve condensed an article whose published version is at least three times longer than it need be:
Experts, police unions and lawmakers agree on the value of identifying whether those who aspire to become officers carry considerable degrees of biases, yet it is the lack of clarity on what tools and measures will be used to look for implicit biases that is raising concerns and prompting questions.
“If police departments start to reject applicants because they have implicit biases there will be no one left to hire,” said Lorie Fridell, professor of criminology at the University of South Florida and founder of the Fair and Impartial Policing program, one of the most popular implicit-bias awareness trainings in the country.
That’s one problem with the implicit bias test: it shows that nearly everyone has implicit bias (the article mentions that 88% of whites and 48% of blacks have an implicit bias for white people (when I took the test, it showed I was “race neutral”: the optimal outcome). Not only that, but the IAT (Implicit Association Test) has been widely criticized on many grounds, not the least that it doesn’t seem to translate into measurable behavior, which is the reason you measure it. You can see The Replicability Index‘s useful summary of all the analyses by clicking on the screenshot below:
From the article’s conclusions:
An unbiased assessment of the evidence shows no compelling evidence that the race IAT is a valid measure of implicit racial bias; and without a valid measure of implicit racial bias it is impossible to make scientific statements about implicit racial bias. I think the general public deserves to know this. Unfortunately, there is no need for scientific evidence that prejudice and discrimination still exists. Ideally, psychologists will spend more effort in developing valid measures of racism that can provide trustworthy information about variation across individuals, geographic regions, groups, and time. Many people believe that psychologists are already doing it, but this review of the literature shows that this is not the case. It is high time to actually do what the general public expects from us.
(See also this article from the British Psychological Society’s “Research Digest.”) Based on the widespread criticism of these tests, it’s simply not valid to claim that everyone has implicit bias.
The law comes amid a moment of social upheaval where police departments across the country are facing scrutiny. . . .
WRONG. A moment is a period of time, and so it should be “when police departments” rather than “where police departments”. This is a common mistake, but an editor should have caught it.
None of the experts interviewed by The Washington Post claimed to know of law enforcement agencies that screen for unconscious biases — those that people are unwilling or unable to identify — as a hiring standard.
This is awkward. Although the antecedent to “those that people are unwilling or unable to identify” should be “unconscious biases”, it could also be “law enforcement agencies that screen for unconscious biases.” The awkward sentence could easily be fixed to “None of the experts interviewed claimed to know of law enforcement agencies that hire using screenings for unconscious biases—those biases that people are unwilling or unable to identify.”
. . . . he is skeptical of taking implicit bias evaluations like IATs, as benchmarks of deep-seeded beliefs that would lead to discrimination.
IT IS NOT “DEEP-SEEDED” but “DEEP-SEATED”. Everybody should know this, but the mistake is common. But that doesn’t excuse it from appearing in a major newspaper.
These screenings vary agency to agency and often include review of social media postings for sexist or racist comments, interviews with acquaintances, past employers, family members and thorough mental evaluations.
A shared concern among scholars is on the use of tools such as implicit association tests (IATs) — sometimes used in bias training — as a hiring tool or screening device due to the unreliability of its findings.
Yes, these errors may seem minor, but don’t newspapers like the Washington Post employ line editors any more? What’s just as bad, or worse, is the painfully awkward prose, with long sentences, that pervades the entire article. Like this:
Kang said implicit bias tests provide useful, yet inexact information, which he compared to weather forecasts, about a person’s beliefs and stereotypes at a certain moment, but they ought to be used as road maps to help law enforcement agencies develop better methods and procedures, rather than as individual hiring tools.
UG-LEE! But examples are easy to find. One more and I’ll leave you:
Catafi said POST will be working with psychologists and law enforcement experts to incorporate these new required items to the current psychological screening manual, and they have until January 2022 to complete the process.
That one has a bad error as well: it’s incorporate INTO, not “incorporate to”.
But where are the editors? There ought to be editors. Well, maybe next year.