TAMPA, Fla. - Shooter bias simulation studies show time and again, people of all races are slower to spot the gun in the hand of a white person or a woman and slower to realize there's no gun when the target is black.
Research shows it's a reaction based on stereotypes we all carry around in our heads.
"That does not justify the police applying the stereotype to every member of the group," said USF criminology professor Lorie Fridell while giving a seminar on fair and impartial policing to Tampa police commanders in District 3 headquarters Thursday.
The police violence we see in the news from around the country and the world are all unique situations, but some are no doubt fueled by fear and suspicion borne of prejudice. The seminar explains that even the most enlightened officers carry some biases.
"You need to recognize that and ensure that biases don't affect the way that we police our community in a negative way," Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor said.
Castor believes mindless profiling is dangerous to the public and to her officers.
"In law enforcement, we're looking at an individual's hands. What is in that hand that can hurt you? It certainly isn't the color of a person's skin," Castor said.
Fridell said positive contact with people of other races, economic status and appearances reduces police bias, making engagement with the law abiding core of the community essential.
NAACP leader Caroline Collins hopes this kind of training is used beyond the police force.
"Policing should be fair and impartial. Housing, fair and impartial. Education, fair and impartial. Employment fair and impartial," she said.
Fridell said police officers exhibit less bias in shooting simulations than the general public. And officers tend to become less biased the longer they're on the job.