Simulator that trains police on bias to be featured in documentary

Filmmaker Robin Hauser points a laser pistol at a simulator while being filmed by a member of her crew. Hauser is filming on the WSU Spokane campus for an upcoming documentary.
Filmmaker Robin Hauser participated in Counter Bias Training Simulation on the WSU Spokane campus while filming a segment for an upcoming documentary. Photo by Cori Kogan.

A simulator developed by a WSU College of Nursing researcher that helps police officers recognize their biases in making deadly-force decisions will be featured in an upcoming documentary called “Bias.”

Award-winning filmmaker Robin Hauser was on the WSU Spokane campus this week working on the segment with Assistant Professor Dr. Lois James, who developed the Counter Bias Training Simulation program, or CBTSim. James’ co-investigator (and husband) Dr. Stephen James, assistant research professor in the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, also was interviewed by the filmmaker.

Hauser said she’d read about the simulator-based training while researching various aspects of bias. CBTSim, which debuted late last year, has been featured on national media and in numerous law enforcement publications.

“The important thing for us is to find the brain science behind bias,” Hauser said. “This is one of the labs that’s clearly researching brain science behind bias and training.”

Dr. Lois James, assistant professor at the WSU College of Nursing, is sitting in a chair surrounded by a movie crew filming a documentary called "Bias."
Dr. Lois James, assistant professor at the WSU College of Nursing, is interviewed for a documentary film called “Bias.”

CBTSim repeatedly exposes officers to evidence-based, realistic scenarios where the suspect’s age, gender or race aren’t predictably related to the outcome and officers make decisions to use deadly force. Hauser went through some CBTSim scenarios as part of the segment.

James is one of about 30 subjects Hauser is interviewing for her documentary, which will be released in early 2018. Her previous films have won numerous awards, including her most recent work, “Code: Debugging the Gender Gap,” about the lack of women and minority software engineers.

It was during that project she got the idea to explore bias, Hauser said.

“It was this buzzword being said over and over – ‘unconscious bias, implicit bias.’ It’s fascinating to me that we all have it and yet we can’t see it in ourselves, but we can see it in others,” she said.

Two law enforcement departments in Oregon have used CBTSim training. Next, Lois James has submitted a proposal for a three-year, randomized experiment with Cleveland, Ohio’s Division of Police to compare CBTSim with traditional classroom bias training. Said Dr. James, “There is evidence from other fields that indicates implicit bias is quite malleable and that training can reduce its strength. I’m keen for the next steps to be some kind of evaluation of the effectiveness of CBTsim.”

For more information CBTSim, visit

View more of Cori Kogan’s photos of the movie crew’s visit to the WSU Spokane campus at