Mindfulness Training with the Police
Updated: Jun 15, 2020
A couple of weeks ago I was asked to participate on a team Zoom meeting with members of the human resource team for the city of Germantown, Tennessee and a couple of the high ranking leaders of their police department. I had initially met them about a year and a half ago when I was invited to present on the benefits of mindfulness to the town's division and department directors. The objective of this particular Zoom meeting was to determine an approach and develop a plan to train the city's one-hundred police officers in mindfulness. I jumped at the opportunity. It could not have come at a better time.
As I write this, demonstrations and protests around the country are taking place. Most of these marches are centered around fatal transgressions that black people suffered at the hands of white police officers. The collective consciousness of our nation at this time in history is an emotional powder keg, ready to blow up. As a result, police officers are under a great amount of stress. We expect them to keep the peace. However, there is now talk about "defunding" their departments. I think to myself what a thankless job this must be right now.
Germantown, a city of just under 40,000 people, is a suburb of Memphis. It also happens to be my childhood hometown. In fact, my mother still lives in the same house there where I grew up. Being asked to work with their police department means very much to me, as I'm all about playing my part in increasing the peace. My goal is to help the officers cultivate strong mental and emotional skills that will help them deal effectively with high pressure situations. I also want to teach them how to decompress from mental stress, because as we all know, stress is a killer. Untreated stress affects the part of the brain responsible for judgement, reasoning, and problem solving. This is why this work is so crucial. A police officer who can learn to deal with stress and regulate his or her emotions in a mindful matter will be better equipped to deescalate a potentially volatile situation.
Over the past few years, I have come across several articles about various police departments utilizing mindfulness training and the benefits from doing so. This does not surprise me, as I have seen individuals in all walks of life benefit from this training. Simply put, mindfulness training teaches us how to stay in the present moment. From a policing perspective, the ability to stay in the present moment can be a matter of life or death. Matt Hunsinger, an associate professor at Pacific University who studies the effects of mindfulness practice on police officers, did a study in 2016 which tracked 43 police officers who went through eight weeks of mindfulness training. His results found that all of the officers showed improvement in resilience, stress, emotional intelligence, and sleep, and also reduced feelings of burnout, anger, and fatigue.
One of the mantas for the Germantown Police Department is "excellence everyday." I have great respect that they reached out to me for my instruction, as they want to grow and be a part of the solution. In my first training session with them, I found them all to be attentive and humble. They seem like really good people doing a difficult job, and they want to do well. I left the training session a little past midnight, feeling utterly exhausted, having trained all three shifts. As I got into my car and headed back to Midtown, my exhaustion subsided for a minute and gave way to a sudden bust of energy. I was filled with the excitement of knowing that we were on to something good here. I hope every police department in the nation follows Germantown's lead and implements mindfulness training.
I look forward to session two next week.
Greg Graber, the author of Slow Your Roll- Mindfulness for Fast Times, teaches mindfulness to schools, top sports teams, and various organizations around the world. Graber, a frequent keynote speaker, currently serves as the Director of SEL & Mindfulness at Lausanne Collegiate School. He may be contacted through his website: www.greggraber.com