Mike Pence Doesn't Think Implicit Bias Is Real

The lone vice presidential debate of the 2016 election was all about major social issues. Republican Mike Pence and Democrat Tim Kaine answered questions from moderator Elaine Quijano regarding healthcare and police shootings. Kaine explicitly named victims of officer-involved shootings, highlighting their lives while also committing to police reform and stricter gun control regulations, such as increased background checks. Pence chose to counter Kaine's answers by bringing up a moment in the presidential debate the week prior in which Clinton laid the blame of police shootings, in part, on implicit bias. Mike Pence attacked implicit bias in shootings, making it clear that he has no interest in solving such a widespread problem that affects not only law enforcement but regular citizens around the country.

Pence had this to say about the issue, which he considered a distraction from police shooting investigations:

When she [Clinton] was asked in the debate a week ago if there was implicit bias in law enforcement, her only answer was that there's implicit bias in everyone in the United States. I just think what we out to do is we ought to stop seizing on these moments of tragedy. We ought to assure the public that we'll have a full and complete and transparent investigation whenever there's a loss of life because of police action but senator, please, enough of this seeking every opportunity to demean law enforcement broadly by making the accusation that implicit bias every time tragedy occurs.
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It's ironic that Pence would consider implicit bias to take away from the larger issue at hand, attacking the Democratic candidate for what he believes is an exploitation of tragedy. As with many of his Republican colleagues, Pence has been explicitly anti-gun control, ratcheting up such rhetoric in the wake of similar incidents like mass shootings. His longstanding advocacy of protecting Second Amendment rights has even earned him a sparkling A/A+ rating from the NRA.

This isn't the first time Pence has gone after bias, be it institutional or racial. During a town hall in Colorado Springs, Colorado in September, Pence accused those bringing up racial bias following a police shooting to be detracting from unity. During an appearance on MSNBC that same week, Pence attempted to discredit institutional bias by claiming that it was human error rather than prejudice that contributed to the death of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed African-American man who was fatally shot by Officer Betty Shelby in Tulsa on September 16.

Bias has been scientifically proven time and time again as a major contributing factor to police shootings. According to a University of California Davis study analyzing racial bias in police shootings, "the results provide evidence of a significant bias in the killing of unarmed black Americans relative to unarmed white Americans, in that the probability of being black, unarmed, and shot by police is about 3.49 times the probability of being white, unarmed, and shot by police on average."

For Pence to say that such discrimination is a distraction, much less a detriment to investigations shows he's incapable of tackling the full issue of police shootings. Perhaps he's yet to recognize his own implicit bias, which has clearly clouded his judgment. After all, it's a problem that affects all of us.