Posted on 01/21/2021

ABLE program fulfills key promise from Mayor’s directive on racial equity

LOS ANGELES — Mayor Eric Garcetti today announced the creation of the Anti-Bias Learning for Employees (ABLE) initiative — a mandatory implicit bias training program for all City employees. This step upholds a key commitment in Executive Directive 27, the Mayor’s order to advance racial equity across City government.

“Racial equity starts with us — with the public servants entrusted by Angelenos to advance justice and fairness in our City’s policies and programs,” said Mayor Garcetti. “ABLE will equip members of our City family with the tools, knowledge, and resources to honestly confront systemic racism and more effectively address the deep inequalities laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic and the reckoning with racial injustice.”

ABLE is the product of close collaboration between the Mayor’s Office and the Personnel Department’s Office of Workplace Equity to identify and secure a proven training framework that could be tailored to serve the unique needs of the City workforce. An agreement was made with The Ohio State University’s Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity to adopt its highly-regarded implicit bias training and adapt it for City staff.

"Addressing implicit bias at the level of the individual is important and necessary to a meaningful and productive conversation about race," said Deputy Mayor Brenda Shockley, who is also the City’s first-ever Chief Equity Officer. “We’re working hard to create a more equitable future, and I’m confident that this training will help keep our City workforce on the leading edge of that movement.”

The Kirwan training centers on three broad concepts: first, understanding implicit bias; second, recognizing our own biases; and third, mitigating the impact of negative bias, with a focus on identifying, understanding, and counteracting implicit bias on the individual level.

The program uses a combination of video, reading content, and interactive quizzes to help participants explore the historical, psychological, and institutional causes of implicit biases, along with how these long-standing structures directly affect the way people think and interact. Built into the training is the opportunity for each trainee to take the Harvard University Implicit Associations tests to learn of their own implicit biases.

“We are grateful to the Kirwan Institute for developing the key content of this training program and making it available to us. This allowed the City to efficiently provide a very large workforce with an implicit bias training grounded in research and expertise from one of the nation’s leaders on race, equity, and inclusion,” said Malaika Billups, Chief Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Officer in the Personnel Department’s Office of Workplace Equity. “We hope that this training will contribute to our City employees’ foundational understanding of how they can incorporate equity and inclusion into every aspect of their work.”

In partnership with the Mayor’s Office, the Personnel Department is adapting the Kirwan modules — traditionally focused on students and academic settings — to deliver City of Los Angeles-specific content, including:

Three original video lessons — with themes of hiring, workplace conduct, and customer service — developed and presented by City employees, to help the workforce apply the lessons to relevant workplace situations.

Newly-created quizzes to supplement the learning program, crafted in clear, concise, and easy-to-understand language.

“Racism is woven into the systems that define our daily lives and we must be relentless in rooting it out," said Capri Maddox, Executive Director of the Civil + Human Rights and Equity Department. "Hate and discrimination have been laid bare in America over this past year, and while our Department fights for justice in the private sector, we are pleased to see the Mayor take this proactive step for City government. Together, we will outflank, outwork, and outlast discrimination in all its forms and in every corner of Los Angeles.” 

The City of Los Angeles-specific training is expected to roll out in late February. Employees will be required to complete it by the end of 2021, and undergo the training on an annual basis.

Background on Mayor Garcetti’s Racial Equity Executive Directive

Mayor Garcetti signed Executive Directive 27 in the summer of 2020 to study and promote racial equity in City departments. The measure created a City of Los Angeles Racial Equity Task Force, including representatives from every department, to provide feedback on these efforts, identify additional goals, and form working groups to help advance diversity in public service. 

Through ED 27, the City will undertake a study of racial disparities in City hiring, promotion, and contracting to gain a deeper understanding of the impacts of these inequities and inform the City’s ability to set policy priorities. To help lead, coordinate, and drive these efforts, the Mayor named Deputy Mayor Brenda Shockley as L.A.’s first-ever Chief Equity Officer.

ED 27 comes after Mayor Garcetti named Capri Maddox to be the first Executive Director of the newly-established Los Angeles Civil + Human Rights and Equity Department. The department will be tasked with protecting Angelenos — and anyone who works in or visits the City of Los Angeles — from discrimination that denies equal treatment in private employment, housing, education, or commerce by initiating and investigating complaints of discrimination, as well as enforcing the L.A. Civil and Human Rights Ordinance.