John T. Williams, a Native American woodcarver, was shot for failing to drop his knife while walking down the street in Seattle 2010. The U.S. Department of Justice investigated the Seattle Police Department and concluded there were "serious concerns about biased policing." Seattle entered into a consent decree and recently released data showing that police use of force dropped by 60% from 2014-2016 partly as a result of improved training. Despite additional hours of trainings on crisis management, on June 18, 2017, two Seattle police officers shot and killed Charleena Lyles for brandishing two kitchen knives while she was in her apartment. Three of her four kids were in the next room. A tragic event that will forever overshadow the fact that far fewer people were killed than in previous years.
Having devoted the last several years to developing trainings to help bring unconscious bias into the spotlight at police departments, we cannot help wonder, is adding more hours of training enough? Is it doing anything? We know we are in need of a dramatic paradigm shift, not only for police but for society, to acknowledge and atone for our history of oppression. And yet, each day we will continue to try to bring this topic of bias into police departments, government agencies, and criminal justice systems with hopes that fewer people will suffer a fate like Charleena.