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Feds Spending $379,500 on Mindfulness for Cops to Prevent ‘Unjustified Shootings’

NIH study suggests cops shoot suspects because of 'unconscious racial stereotypes'

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• August 29, 2017 5:00 am

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The National Institutes of Health is spending nearly $400,000 on a mindfulness meditation program for police officers.

The New Age meditation technique could be used to prevent cops from shooting unarmed black men, according to the grant for the project.

"Successful policing requires rapid and unbiased decision-making, well-developed emotion regulation skills, and psychological resilience," the grant, awarded to Pacific University in Oregon, states. "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 [law enforcement officers]."

Researchers inserted the national debate over police tactics into their project, arguing that incidents of cops shooting unarmed suspects could be prevented by meditation. The grant suggests that "unconscious" racism may be the reason some cops pull the trigger.

"The excessive use of force by [law enforcement officers], 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," the grant states. "Previous research suggests that [law enforcement officers] 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."

The researchers said there is a "clear need" for a new intervention to try to prevent unjustified shootings, and suggest that mindfulness, which traces its origins to Buddhism and Eastern religions, is the answer.

"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," the grant states. "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 [law enforcement officers]."

"This has the potential to improve the lives of officers, their families, and the communities they serve by improving public safety through mindful policing," the grant states.

The project has received $379,500 from taxpayers since 2015. The budget for the study does not end until July 2018.

Published under: Guns, Police, Racism