Do “unconscious racial biases” play into friendly fire incidents?

PoliceOne.com has released the first of a two-part article on a comprehensive nationwide survey of mistaken-identity, “friendly fire” law enforcement fatalities recently completed by governor’s task force in New York. The group documented 26 cases over the last 30 years in which out-of-uniform officers in the U.S. have been mistaken for criminals and shot dead by fellow officers. Ten of the 14 killed in the last 15 years in these mistaken-identity events have been “people of color,” according to the task force’s final report.

“As far as we can determine,” the report says, “1982 was the last year in which an off-duty, white police officer was killed in a mistaken-identity, police-on-police shooting anywhere in the United States. Since then, nine off-duty officers of color have been killed in such shootings.”

While acknowledging that the behavior of victim officers is often critical in these “fast-moving, dangerous” encounters, the report cites, among other academic findings, computer-based shoot/don’t-shoot simulations in which “both police officers and members of the general public” displayed “unconscious biases” that led them to be “quicker to ‘shoot’ images of armed black people than of armed white people.”

You can read the full article here.

Do you believe race, even subconsciously, plays into these tragic events? Has your department enacted any training programs to help prevent friendly fire incidents?