Public Safety vehicle outside building

A Public Safety vehicle is parked in front of the Public Safety office on Creighton’s campus. Implicit bias training for officers has been held since the summer of 2019.

Creighton’s Public Safety department has been partnering with the Creighton Intercultural Center to engage in implicit bias training to help its officers understand their own unknown biases.

Becky Nickerson, director of the Creighton Intercultural Center, explained that there are two types of biases – explicit (known) and implicit (unknown).

“Bias in general is just a preference for or a prejudice against someone,” Nickerson said. “Bias itself isn’t always a bad thing,” Nickerson added. “But it’s when we act on those biases or those biases sway us in our decision making, attitudes or behaviors that it becomes a problem.”

Assistant Vice President of Public Safety Mike Reiner and Associate Director of Public Safety Dave Dibelka helped establish the mandatory implicit bias training in the summer of 2019.

Dibelka said that the training helps public safety officers “make sure we’re treating everyone equally and fairly no matter the situation.”

Dibelka added that while the training was offered in some capacity prior to the summer of 2019, it is now a required aspect of public safety training.

Nickerson, who led the training sessions, emphasized why the training is important, not just for Public Safety, but for other groups on campus as well.

“We say we’re men and women for and with others, we say we’re caring for the whole person, but if I don’t give you a chance and I put you in a box as soon as I meet you, then I’m not caring for the whole person,” Nickerson said.

Tim Herron, a public safety officer, said he was very grateful for the training being implemented.

“Not everybody thinks they have a bias, but everybody does,” Herron said. “It really opened up my eyes and made me even more aware.”

This past year has particularly opened up the conversation for having implicit bias training across the U.S. in various law enforcement capacities. Nickerson said she was glad the training had already been implemented prior to this conversation.

“We were proactive in it, so I feel like it wasn’t a reactionary training which is really great.”

Nickerson added that although Public Safety is not officially a law enforcement organization, the implicit bias training is still important to have for campus safety.

“Our public safety is not campus police and there’s that difference, but there’s still the importance of your protection,” Nickerson said. “And so [for all of us], how do we be proactive and make sure that we’re trained appropriately and we’re keeping some of our biases in mind as we make decisions throughout our life?”

Herron added that even though Public Safety does not interact with the community in the same way as a law enforcement, it still interacts with a diverse group of individuals and he gave an example of how the training can be helpful.

“If you’re not a person of color, you don’t know how they feel,” Herron said. “So the training really just helps open up your eyes with that.”

Nickerson said she has had positive feedback from public safety officers who have gone through the implicit bias training and hopes that it has had a positive impact on campus as well.

“I feel like it’s hopefully strengthened some relationships.”

“We always strive to be better people, better employees and better public safety officers,” Dibelka said.

He said that while there is no set timeline for the implicit bias training, it will continue to be offered to public safety officers because it is something that “we need to continue to learn about and improve on.”

Dibelka added that Public Safety is always open to suggestions from students on things it can do to better serve campus safely and equally.

“We can’t do everything right away because it takes steps,” Herron said. “But we’re definitely taking the correct steps.”

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