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The FBI Fails Cultural Sensitivity Training
April 18, 2012 - By: - In: Testing and QA - Comments Off on The FBI Fails Cultural Sensitivity Training

Muslims are violent and crazy, Asians don’t like to shake hands, and similar nuggets of cultural wisdom can be found in FBI PowerPoints, according to FBI training materials released in a six-month review of how G-men were trained, writes Spencer Ackerman of Danger Room.

“It’s stunning that these things could be said to members of our FBI in training,” says Sen. Richard Durbin, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee overseeing the FBI. Here’s his letter.

FBI spokesman Christopher Allen says, “Of the approximately 160,000 pages of training material reviewed, less than one percent contained factually inaccurate or imprecise information or used stereotypes,” Allen told Danger Room. “But mistakes were made, and we are correcting those mistakes. Through this review process, we recognized that we lacked a centralized process to ensure all training materials were reviewed and validated. We are addressing that gap so this does not happen again.”

Bad PR, and really bad QA. Officials have mandated that FBI training material “must be reviewed carefully by supervisory-level personnel possessing an appropriate level of understanding of relevant topics.”

So that means before they weren’t doing that. Which probably means that the content was being written ad hoc. Big QA fail.

This had all come about because of Ackerman’s earlier report concerning FBI training documents and the guidance they gave on working with different ethnic groups.

“A sample of that possibly harmful training comes from a document on “Establishing Relationships,” which instructed: “Never attempt to shake hands with an Asian. Never stare at an Asian. Never try to speak to an Arab female prior to approaching the Arab male first.”

Another document, titled “Control and Temper,” contrasted the “Western Mind” with that of the “Arab World.” The “Western” mind possessed an “even keel” and “outbursts” of emotion were “exceptional.” In the “Arab World,” by contrast, “Outburst and Loss of Control [is] Expected.” A bullet point below asked, “What’s wrong with frequent Jekyll & Hyde temper tantrums?”

I’m no Arab expert, but the Asian stuff is pretty far off the mark, political correctness aside, (as if that were possible). Apart from any ethnic aspersions, this kind of content reeks of “amateur’ as badly as last week’s research at the body farm. I don’t mean that the agent or expert who wrote that doesn’t know his job, but that the training task wasn’t taken seriously enough to do it correctly with professional training support, to help the author turn his knowledge into content that was an asset rather than a liability to the organization. Security makes for silos, so maybe that’s the reason why the FBI has resisted taking it through a more professional, centralized process.  That and the money. Which comes at the price of this kind of press.

To what degree do these content errors affect the way the FBI behaves in the field?

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