Police work is dangerous, stressful, full of adrenalin rushes, anxiety and negativity. Officers talk about becoming increasingly more pessimistic because they constantly deal with people at their worst. And honestly, most people do not like police and the police know it. This creates an “us vs. them” mentality that coupled with bad training policies (think “shoot first” in Albuquerque) is a perfect recipe for police violence.
With so many horrific articles of police violently beating or killing people, I am glad to have found this article about the Mindfulness-Based Resilience Training being offered to the Hillsboro police department. Since last year about a third of the officers in the Hillsboro police department have taken the 9-week course.
The course was created and by Hillsboro Lt. Richard Goerling, Brant Rogers, a certified MBSR instructor and Michael Christopher, a psychology professor. Brand teaches the 2-hour class, which involves stretching and meditation at his Yoga Studio, once a week for the 9 weeks.
Christopher said, “preliminary research shows the training has had positive effects on officers”.
Some old school officers like Hillsboro Sgt. Bruce Kelley says that at first the classes were strange for him, but once he got used to the classes he says his restless leg calmed down, he sleeps calmly without nervous twitching, and enjoys silence during car rides, which he could never do before.
SWAT Sniper Officer Stephen Slade who had to fire his duty weapon twice in less than a year, has found relief through the mindfulness training. At first he was so angry and tense that he could not properly relax in class because he felt unsafe lying down unarmed. He says that police have to deal with negativity on a daily basis but the class has taught him to pause and breath as he scans his feelings.
Hillsboro Police Sgt. Deborah Case who works in crisis intervention and negotiations says that anger and stress on the job can sometimes make cops defensive and they can even take an “us vs. them” mentality with the community they serve. To help her stay in the now she often closes her door for 20 minutes during lunch to meditate.
City Manager Michael Brown, who has taken the class, is supportive of the class even though he realizes it’s not for everyone. The budget for the classes next year is $30,000, which will cover 4 courses. Both Rogers and Christopher are applying for grants to increase the amounts of courses they can provide. In the future courses will extend beyond Hillsboro police, to all regional police officers, firefighters, medics and dispatchers.
The Seattle Seahawks and the military have also carried out similar courses, but the Hillsboro Police’s Mindfulness-Based Resilience Training is “believed to be the nation’s first on-the-job mindfulness training program specifically tailored to law enforcement”.
I hope this innovative course, helping police officers become more resilient through mindfulness, encourages other police departments to follow suit. More research needs to be done, but I am confident that mindfulness training can contribute to lessening police violence as more officers do their jobs grounded in the present, with more focus and clarity. It can also lead to healthier, happier and more effective police.
Please forward to any officers you may know, or to your local police department.
If you know of any other on-the-job mindfulness training please share in the comments.