Does “implicit bias” affect law enforcement? The justice system at large?
On Thursday evening at Edward Waters College, a five-person panel of local experts (Chief Judge Mark H. Mahon, State Attorney Melissa Nelson, Public Defender Charlie Cofer, Sheriff Mike Williams, Senior District Judge Henry Lee Adams, Jr. and A. Wellington Barlow, Esq.) will explore the concept, under the aegis of the D.W. Perkins Bar Association.
The most interesting parties in the discussion, at least in terms of the general audience, likely will be Nelson and Cofer (both elected in 2016) and Williams (elected the year before).
Each of the three has had to embrace reform in both rhetoric and policy, especially Nelson, who replaced hardliner Angela Corey as State Attorney.
The Florida Times-Union noted earlier this week that Nelson’s office is one of four nationwide whose metrics are being tracked with an eye toward how this bias manifests in outcomes.
“They’ll take a look at questions of bias in our work,” Nelson said about the study, “and depending on what they find, we’ll take it and it’ll inform how we train our lawyers and what we do.”
Meanwhile, Sheriff Williams’ office has come under fire for inconsistent applications of pedestrian ticketing laws, with a disproportionate amount of citations for jaywalking and the like written in African-American neighborhoods.
Williams has insisted that there are no ticket quotas, and has pushed back against primary reporting from the Times-Union and ProPublica on the topic.
Expect a lively turnout for Thursday’s event, which kicks off at 6 p.m. at EWC’s Milne Auditorium.