Successful policing requires rapid and unbiased decision-making, well-developed emotion regulation skills, and psychological resilience. However, law enforcement officers (LEOs) are frequently exposed to intensive work-related stress and trauma, and consequently, are at elevated risk of adverse mental health outcomes. These mental health issues in turn are some of the primary mechanisms underlying other- and self-directed violence among LEOs. The excessive use of force by LEOs, including unjustified shootings, frequently captures national headlines and is considered by many to be one of the most serious and divisive human rights issues in the United States. Previous research suggests that LEOs can be impacted by various factors when making rapid decisions while using firearms, including a lack of careful consideration of contextual factors and unconscious racial stereotypes. This is especially true when their cognitive and emotional resources are compromised due to factors such as stress. Similarly, key precursors to suicide among LEOs include chronic stress, exposure to trauma, alcohol misuse, and depression. The substantial personal, social, and economic costs of LEO stress, including unjustified shootings and suicide, suggest a clear need for innovative and novel prevention programs to promote well-being and reduce violence. Given its demonstrated impact on many of the precursors to self- and other-directed violence among LEOs, one possible approach is an adapted Mindfulness-Based Stress-Reduction (MBSR) program, developed specifically for LEOs. Therefore, the primary objectives of this proposal are to: (1) assess the feasibility of recruitment, adherence to program intervention, and compliance with assessment instruments, and (2) determine the impact of an adapted MBSR program (Mindfulness-Based Resilience Training) on precursors to other- and self-directed violence, and in promoting psychological resilience and emotion regulation among LEOs. There is promising preliminary evidence suggesting that mindfulness is an effective strategy for LEOs to decrease stress and its negative outcomes, enhance resilience and emotion regulation, and ultimately reduce other- and self-directed violence. The proposed project will test the impact of MBRT using a pilot feasibility RCT. This research will generate important information on the feasibility of recruitment, adherence to program intervention, and compliance with assessment instruments. This is the first research that we are aware of that will systematically evaluate the impact of a mindfulness-based intervention on LEOs, and data obtained through the proposed study will build on our existing work to provide support for a larger RCT examining the efficacy of MBRT in reducing violence.

Public Health Relevance

Our objective is to examine the feasibility and impact of a mindfulness-based intervention in reducing violence and associated outcomes related to the specific stressors experienced by law enforcement officers (LEOs). If found to be efficacious, mindfulness-based interventions could be widely replicated and help to reduce rates of other- and self-directed violence and associated health problems among LEOs. This has the potential to improve the lives of officers, their families, and the communities they serve by improving public safety through mindful policing.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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Biobehavioral Mechanisms of Emotion, Stress and Health Study Section (MESH)
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Reider, Eve
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Pacific University
Schools of Allied Health Profes
Forest Grove
United States
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