When Jennifer Tejada took the helm as Chief of the Emeryville Police Department in 2015, the EPD was in the wake of an officer-involved shooting that rocked the agency. Ken James retired as chief shortly after and interim Chief Dave Hall held down the fort while the city conducted its recruitment process. When Jennifer Tejada came on board, it fell on her shoulders to see the force through this trying time. As part of her efforts to reduce stress and rebuild morale, she turned to ‘mindful policing’.
Few people talk about the impact an incident like this has on the officers themselves and the morale of the force. “No one talked about it,” Officer Eric White recalls in the story. “No one said, ‘Hey, how are you doing?’”
Cops are often looked at as somehow superhuman, that they are impervious to scrutiny and the traumas they witness as first responders. The truth is that cops internalize these traumas compounding an already stressful profession that is linked to shorter lifespans and higher incident of alcoholism. The sobering statistic is that officers are more likely to kill themselves than get killed in the line of duty.
Tejada is already a bit of a trailblazer as Marin County and now Emeryville’s first female chief. Now she’s looking to blaze a new path forward by breaking through the “macho” culture that has plagued neighboring departments. Tejada reveals some personal challenges from the profession that had her battling fatigue, weight-loss, insomnia and depression. These obstacles led her on a personal journey that helped her discover the benefits of meditation. “It gave me back my sense of self, my sense of worth,” she says in the article.
Tejada is part of a new breed of police chiefs that are hoping to counter these officer lifestyle trends by providing her squad with the mental tools to combat them. Through breathing, meditation and yoga, she hopes to reduce their stress, build resilience and preemptively tackle the challenges that will ultimately lead to longer, more fruitful careers and lives.
— Chief Tejada (@ChiefTejada) April 7, 2017
The ultimate goals of the program are not only to improve officer wellness, but to elevate their empathy toward the communities they serve. Tejada is hopeful that practicing mindful policing techniques can help her squad confront unconscious bias and ultimately reduce incidents of use of force. Wake Forest School of Law Director Kami Chavis was optimistic that mindfulness could ultimately reduce unnecessary confrontations, but cautioned studies and time would be needed to support this.
mindful.org describes itself as a is a resource for insight, information, and inspiration to help us all live more mindfully. In addition to its site, they offer videos, conferences, activities and insight from leaders in the field about effective techniques for mindful living, and the science that points to their benefits.
Mindful Policing: The Future of Force
With police violence—and public scrutiny— on the rise, cities turn to mindfulness to help officers deal with the stress of the job.
By Barry Yeoman
You guys ready for a technique?” the trainer asks. “Everybody, sit up straight. Uncross your legs. Just look straight ahead.”
Eric White gathers his 6-foot-8 frame and straightens his back in the conference-room chair. Instead of his usual police uniform, he wears a blue polo shirt and jeans. The trainer, Don Chartrand, is visiting Emeryville, California, to talk with officers here about how to reduce their stress and build resilience with exercises like intentional breathing. “This is not anything weird,” he promises. “This is absolutely science-based.” Cops appreciate evidence, he knows, and so Chartrand has come equipped with PowerPoint graphs and lessons about heart-rate variability, the stress hormone cortisol, and how to keep the autonomous nervous system in balance.
Chartrand reassures the 18 officers that his goal is practical: boosting their performance on the beat. “It’s not about going to your happy place. This is not la-la lightweight nonsense,” he says. “I’m serious: This is blood and guts, sometimes life and death.”
Read More on mindful.org →
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