Over 88 percent of Menlo Park’s police employees have completed mindfulness training over the past two years. The training prepares first responders to take on the occupational stressors and trauma of their profession.
It began in 2016 when Menlo Park’s then-police chief, Robert Jonsen, was presented with the idea for mindfulness training geared for law enforcement. In recent years, several events throughout the country had put a spotlight on law enforcement interactions with the public. This training intended to provide officers with the skills needed to enhance their public interactions and overall relationship with the community. Jonsen discussed the idea with his fellow law enforcement professionals then enrolled himself in a three day mindfulness training class focused on focus on mindfulness skill building to enhance self-awareness, attunement to others, compassion, wisdom and peak performance. Jonsen found great value from the experience and received unanimous City Council approval
on January 24, 2017, for funding to expand the training department wide.
The $177,000 appropriation provided for sending employees to resilience immersion training
over an 18-24 month period. In the first year, 62 police employees each attended one of three training sessions offered through the Mindful Badge Initiative
facilitated by Richard Goerling, a police lieutenant from the Hillsboro, Oregon, and Brian Shiers, an instructor at the UCLA Mindfulness Awareness Research Center and a mindfulness coach for the UCLA Bruin Volleyball team. Those trained included all of the command staff (chief, commanders) at the time, as well as sergeants and corporals. In addition, four employees from various departments joined their police colleagues and learned the value mindfulness provides for situational awareness, physical health, cognitive performance (sense making and decision making), leadership and balancing operational demands with life. The final cost of the two-year program came to $161,192.
Menlo Park’s police department is part of the mainstream surge in mindfulness training and practices. Some Menlo Park officers were even featured in a PBS video presentation on mindfulness entitled, Mindfulness Goes Mainstream
. The practice of mindfulness through meditation or yoga practices is another tool that law enforcement can use to help enhance awareness, compassion and resilience. The use of these tools can have positive effects on the outcome of how they handle incidents and public interactions.