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Decorah Police announce steps aimed at preventing bias

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DECORAH, Iowa (KWWL) --- A local police department is rolling out a new online tool the force says will help document and reduce instances of biased treatment in policing.

The system was developed after officers began classes on 'implicit bias' - the idea that one's beliefs unknowingly influence their treatment of others.

Chief David Smutzler says he sees the training as a 'win-win' for the Department and the community.

The Decorah Police Department worked with Lisa M. Scott, vice president for equity, inclusion and student success at Luther College, to develop the curriculum.

"We wanted to improve the relationship between international students and police, because they have had different law enforcement experiences than we have here,"

Chief Smutzler says that language and cultural barriers between the force and international students, as well as some residents, sometimes gets in the way of the police department's mission.

"We gave them a chance to talk to us about what their experience and sort of, why they don't trust law enforcement period," Chief Smutzler said.

Smutlzer says the current social climate gave him pause. He is a Minnesota native who said he was 'horrified' when George Floyd was killed by police.

"There might be somebody who is out there, afraid to come to you that needs help. That breaks your heart. That's the reason we're in this profession---is to help people," Smutzler said.

Through a web portal launching Tuesday, Decorah residents who feel like they were treated with prejudice by police may create a record of their encounter.

Chief Smutzler says the training recently attended has made him and the other officers more mindful.

"We're involved with making decisions every day and there's factors coming into this that you might not even be aware of," Smutzler said.

AJ Capuano

Dubuque bureau reporter, KWWL

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