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Teaching Mindful Integration in Law Enforcement Culture and Training

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als-september2013By Michelle Maldonado
Associate Vice President of Corporate and Strategic Relationships, American Public University System

Many law enforcement agencies and other organizations such as the U.S. Department of Defense and Marine Corps are more closely exploring mindfulness-based training methods to enhance officer resilience across military, first responder and other high-stress professions. There are many practical advantages to incorporating training methodologies that help police deal with the traumatic stressors of their work and to support resiliency, healthy community relations and mind fitness that enhances their ability to respond, versus react, during crisis situations.

In this issue, we have a frank discussion with Lt. Richard Goerling of the Hillsboro, Oregon Police Department about his groundbreaking work using mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques that teach officer resilience and tactical communications in his department and surrounding communities. Richard is featured in the cover story of the October 2013 Issue of Mindful magazine and has also appeared in several law enforcement publications as he helps police officers “pause and protect.”

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Q: What are some of the traumatic stressors related to police work and why is formal incorporation of resiliency training so important?

Richard: There are many challenges that police face on a daily basis. My hypothesis is that there’s a tremendous amount of suffering within police culture, which I believe is institutionalized suffering. It goes beyond the conventional stressors that police face walking the beat and managing the terrible side of humanity. What I’m talking about are the additional organizational stressors that impact the personal well-being and on-the-job effectiveness of first responders. There are volumes of research that show the severity of how these stressors, compounded with normal police work, severely impact the quality of health and the life expectancy of cops. They’re more often stressed by what goes on between their four walls than what’s happening on the streets. Officers are dying young. Statistically, more police officers are killed by their own hand than by assailants in the United States. Divorce and alcoholism rates are much higher in law enforcement than in most other careers. Sixty percent of cops are obese, which leads to sleep apnea, diabetes and heart disease. It’s a pretty consistent observation in our communities that they appear overweight, they don’t look well and they’re not nice. The cumulative stress that comes at officers from every direction exposes them to a toxicity that degrades the resiliency of our police force over time. Cops on the ground are bright and capable people and they deserve leadership and a culture capable of giving more to prepare and support them for success and well-being on the job. That’s where resiliency training comes in. It’s a starting point to help save lives and make better calls in crisis situations. This can create a dynamic shift that slowly over time will help transform police culture within the four walls of our departments.

Read on to learn more about Richard’s insights on mindfulness-based training methods for law enforcement culture as part of the APU Authentic Leadership Series, “Warrior Resilience: Teaching Mindful Integration in Law Enforcement Culture and Training.”

About Michelle:

Michelle Maldonado is a former corporate attorney with more than 17 years of leadership experience in strategic planning, operations and partnership development across the e-learning, technology and online media industries. She currently serves as Associate Vice President of Corporate and Strategic Relationships for American Public University (APU) and is the creator and editor of The Authentic Leadership Series. Michelle is passionate about talent development, coaching and the mentoring of professionals to support organizational success and sustainability. Utilizing an authentic and consultative approach, Michelle collaborates with industry organizations to form education alliances that support overall talent and institutional growth strategies. She also represents APU in conferences and other venues on the topic of leadership authenticity and its convergence with emotional intelligence, mindfulness and other “conscious leadership” practices that inspire culture transformation. Michelle’s work has been featured in Chief Learning Officer, Human Capital Insights, Leadership Excellence, and Training magazines.

To learn more about how American Public University’s programs and services may help you with your talent development and retention strategies, please visit: www.StudyAtAPU.com/Solutions or contact Michelle at mmaldonado@apus.edu.

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