Combating Stress in Police Work and Preventing Crime, Terrorism, and War

Combating Stress in Police Work

By: John Theobald, M.S.
Former N.Y.P.D. Officer and Former Professor of Criminal Justice at the New York Institute of Technology

With: David Leffler, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Center for Advanced Military Science (CAMS)

Introduction

In 1965 I was a member of the New York City Police Department, assigned to a specialized anti-crime unit. In this capacity, I saw firsthand the types of stressors police officers were subject to, and the maladaptive ways in which many dealt with them. I subsequently left the department and returned to college and then graduate school. I eventually started a criminal justice program through the continuing education department of the New York Institute of Technology. The program grew, and in the 1970s reached an enrollment of 12,000 police officers from various police agencies across the New York metropolitan area.

At that time it was becoming increasingly clear that the stress factor in police work was manifesting in high rates of divorce, alcohol abuse, suicides, and other acting-out behaviors. Having experienced it firsthand, I was determined to seek some method that could help ameliorate this situation.

I began to research the various stress-reduction methods available. The Transcendental Meditation® program appeared to be the best approach because it was widely available, could be practiced anywhere at any time, and had unparalleled success at addressing these personal problems faced by police. Research indicated that Transcendental Meditation (TM®) practice could help alleviate the negative effects of stress. It was clear that the TM technique would also increase awareness of potentially dangerous situations, preparing anyone for any possible outcome.

Shortly after learning the TM technique, I noticed the marked reduction in my own stress levels, and decided to make this opportunity available to the students in the college program. It was only later, when many police officers were practicing the TM technique, that I fully realized how beneficial it truly was.

I arranged through centers in the ten metropolitan counties to teach any police officers who wanted to learn. At this time, college courses were offered in various police precincts and other locations throughout the New York Metropolitan area. Introductory TM lectures were offered at some of these locations, with interested officers going to their individual TM centers to learn the practice. Word spread to their associates and about 6,000 police officers learned to meditate.

Feedback from students was received for many years, both in the college program and, in some cases, years later, by individual police officers who said they were “still TM-ing.” Comments from students consistently indicated overwhelmingly positive results. One of the most common reports was an increase in their shooting scores. Others reported feeling more aware, especially in life-threatening situations. This is important because in an effort to protect and save lives, law enforcement officers may sometimes resort to using deadly force.

For example, there was a story of an officer and his partner who were called to a situation in a very dangerous part of New York City. While walking in an alley, they were ambushed. A shot rang out, and his partner fell wounded to the ground. This officer drew his revolver and quickly shot five assassins, killing four and disabling the fifth. He later reported if it were not for his regular TM practice, he would have been killed. Despite the overwhelming odds against him, the policeman said he was able to maintain his composure under fire. He skillfully and accurately shot his weapon during this dangerous and highly stressful situation. (The revolvers used by New York area police at that time could only fire six rounds, so the situation was much more critical than it would be in modern times where weapons can fire fifteen or more rounds.)

Read the entire article at: http://www.police-writers.com/articles/combating_stress_in_police_work.html

This article was published in India, USA, Somalia, Ethiopia, South Korea and Australia in The World News: The International News Magazine, The Mangalorean, Mareeg, The Seoul Times, Ethiomedia.

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One Response to “Combating Stress in Police Work and Preventing Crime, Terrorism, and War”

  1. Simranjeet Singh Says:

    Hi. There are several types of meditation techniques to reduce daily stress. TM is just one of them. People need to be made aware of these techniques. No need to get spiritual about them. They are just methods to relax and keep relaxed under stress. Like the policeman who was relaxed – in a way – while he shot 5. Criminal lawyers also learn this technique with time and experience. We can become better at what we do with TM. Another meditation is Hatha Yoga or Akriya Dhyan (you wont get latter on internet).
    Simranjeet, criminal lawyer, Chandigarh

    Like

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