With his recent visit to Madison, the 14th Dalai Lama spoke again to a packed theater at the Overture Center. His message was at once simple and profound: World peace is developed from inner peace, and the foundation for both is love. To best serve as guardians of democracy, police must be more than peacekeepers, we must also be peacemakers. One calls for police to respond to and preserve peace while the other requires us to create and perpetuate peace. Both are necessary dimensions to the compassionate guardianship members of the Madison Police Department strive to effectuate every day. As the Dalai Lama reminds us, to do this work we must start by creating opportunities to foster inner peace. To this end MPD is poised to embark on a groundbreaking collaboration with Dr. Richie Davidson and his team of researchers from the Center for Healthy Minds here at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.
Our officers may encounter dangerous and unpredictable critical incidents on any given day, and must also deal with the additional stressors of shift work, lost sleep, public criticism and increasing scrutiny. While many officers regularly incorporate a variety of individual wellness practices, and the Department has several support systems in place to promote officer wellness including our City Employee Assistance Program, Critical Incident Stress Management Program, Officer Involved Critical Incident Aftercare protocol and Peer Support Program, we continuously seek out opportunities to help improve officer well-being through proactive and preventative practices. This is a critical issue not just for our officers and their families, but for the Madison community as a whole. As reflected both in the Presidential Task Force on 21st Century Policing report as well as a recently released set of recommendations from a use of force task force stemming from the Dane County Law Enforcement and Leaders of Color Collaboration, the health and well-being of police officers is inextricably linked to the health and well-being of the communities they serve. Officers who are resilient in the face of stress and trauma will be happier, healthier, and more productive. They will have greater capacity to respond in an adaptive manner to critical incidents as well as non-traumatic daily interactions, and they will have the strength and resources to serve as effective guardians of this community.
Officers train. We train a lot. And what Dr. Richie Davidson's world-renowned research in the field of contemplative neuroscience tells us – much of which has included studying the Dalai Lama and other veteran practitioners of meditation – is that we can also train for well-being. In working with Dr. Davidson and his research team at the Center for Health Minds, we are exploring a pilot study designed to investigate the effects of Mindfulness-Based Resilience Training (MBRT) on police officer physical and mental well-being. Planning for this project is underway, and we are working hard to secure a source of funding. We are excited about this collaboration with the Center for Health Minds and anticipate that this pilot study will be but the first step in an ongoing partnership. It is our hope that this project may come to serve as a model for how police departments across the country can promote officer well-being, with potential cascading benefits throughout the department and for the communities we serve.
We are thankful to Dr. Davidson and the Center for Healthy Minds for the invitation and privilege to have heard the Dalai Lama speak here in Madison last week, and we look forward to the opportunity to partner around our shared commitment to cultivating peace.
This blog was authored by Captain Kristen Roman