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Running head: MINDFULNESS

Employee Wellness and Resiliency Program

Cindy Pontes

LEPS 500

Dr. Ygnacio Flores

March 3, 2019
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MINDFULNESS

March 3, 2019

To: Commissioner’s Office


Commissioner Warren Stanley

From: Santa Barbara CHP Area


Captain C. J. Pontes

File: 760.16097

SUBJECT: EMPLOYEE WELLNESS AND RESILIENCY PROJECT

This memorandum is regarding the importance of creating a proactive wellness and

resiliency program for our employees. The Department experienced fifteen suicides from

September 2003 to March 2007 (Triplicate News, 2007). During the same timeframe, we lost

thirteen officers in the line of duty (ODMP, 2019). Over the past year, the Department has

experienced one line of duty death and six officer suicides, to include one by an on-duty officer

in his patrol vehicle (ABC 10, 2018). We must take a preventative approach to stop employee

suicides and improve their resiliency.

According to the Officer Down Memorial Page and Blue H.E.L.P., more officers have

committed suicide in the last two years than officers who have died in the line of duty (Martinez,

2019). This is true for us as well. Our Employee Assistance Programs and Peer Support

Programs are great for post-critical incident care. However, we must do better for our employees
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before a critical incident. They are our most valuable resource, and we need to take a proactive

approach to saving their lives.

Suicide is not our only concern; we are also concerned with our employee’s overall health.

Stress is a serious problem for police officers in the US. Nearly one out of every twelve officers

took time off work with stress or anxiety over the past year (Booth, 2018). Stress and anxiety

manifest in different ways in our employees. One study of police officers in New York, found

their average life expectancy to be 22 years shorter than their civilian counterparts (Yoeman,

2017).

The deep physical, mental, and emotional demands of law enforcement careers are undisputed

(Goerling, 2018). Occupational stress and trauma are possibly the most significant variable of an

employee’s performance (Goerling, 2018). The Department’s Public Trust Initiative is

paramount for our continued success. One way to ensure we are building public trust is by

improving the wellness and resiliency of our employees. One viable, evidence-based approach

to promoting employee wellness and resiliency is mindfulness training (Goerling, 2018).

Resiliency helps us recover from the trauma we experience (USD, 2019).

The other training component of mindfulness for law enforcement is in the area of

compassion. Our default thoughts are negative and require some self-compassion (Goerling,

2018). Re-training our inner critic to serve as an emotional coach is vital. Working with

compassion is necessary to build new habits of thinking for our employees (Goerling, 2018).

The University of California San Diego (UCSD) Center for Mindfulness offers a

Mindfulness-Based Peer Coach Training (Mindful Badge, 2019). This is a 3-Part training

program that leads towards becoming a peer coach for performance and resilience. Graduates of
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all three phases of this training program will be capable of teaching mindfulness practices to our

employees. This preventative approach to wellness and resiliency will assist with performance

optimization; at work, at home, and in the communities, we serve (Mindful Badge, 2019).

Our Department can integrate this program into our existing training programs. Trainers

will be able to build mindfulness training models to meet the unique needs of our Department.

Their focus will be ensuring employees can continue mindfulness practices on their own

(Mindful Badge, 2019).

A recent article was written by the California Association of Highway Patrolmen (CAHP)

Chaplain, Janet Engler, addressing mental health issues due to exposure to trauma (2019). When

officers take on this job, they do so fully aware there is a strong possibility of giving their life in

the line of duty. However, it is highly unlikely that they began their careers with the realization

that they are putting their mind in harm’s way (Engler, 2019). Police officers are at high risk for

psychological distress and mental health issues (Engler, 2019). The CAHP is spotlighting this

issue and encouraging their members to seek help when they experience trauma. I believe the

timing is right for the Department to partner with the CAHP to work on a preventative employee

wellness and resiliency program.

In 2014, officer wellness and safety were identified as needing improvement in the

President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing (Tejada & Goerling, 2017). The nature of law

enforcement places officers in situations of unavoidable trauma. Other police agencies like the

Emeryville Police Department are already utilizing mindfulness training (Tejada, 2017). Our

Department is looked to as a leader in law enforcement, and I am confident we can lead the way

on this initiative.
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I recommend the following be implemented for an Employee Wellness and Resiliency

Program:

• Integrate Mindfulness training into our Academy Physical Training schedule.

• Integrate Mindfulness training into the dispatcher’s Module’s A & B training sessions.

• Office of Employee Safety and Assistance staff attends the Mindfulness-Based Peer Coach

Training put on by the UCSD Center for Mindfulness.

• Bring in mindfulness instructors to teach at the Peer Support Conference. This would allow

the peer support team to be introduced to mindfulness training and take it back to their peers.

• Bring in mindfulness instructors to teach at the All Commanders Conference. This would

allow the commanders an opportunity to be introduced to mindfulness training and take it back

to their subordinates.

• Partner with the CAHP to provide mindfulness training at their quarterly board meetings to

get the buy-in from all the area representatives and district directors.

• Provide the book Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement: A Guide for Officers and Their

Families by Kevin M. Gilmartin to all uniformed employees.

• Provide ongoing mindfulness training during Officer’s Forum, the First Line Supervisor’s

Academy, Middle Managers, and Commander’s Courses.

Our employees face many traumatic incidents throughout their careers. Our reactive

programs are excellent. However, getting ahead of the traumatic events and creating resilient

employees will make our Department stronger. We will have healthy, resilient, and

compassionate employees involved in less use of force incidents, and filing fewer workers
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compensation claims. If we can save one life, while building trust in our communities, it is well

worth the cost. I am willing to take the lead on building this program. I much appreciate your

time and consideration.

C. J. Pontes, Captain
Commander
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References:

ABC 10 (October 2018). Retrieved from: https://www.abc10.com/video/news/death-of-chp-

officer-brings-attention-to-sobering-statistics-on-suicide-and-first-responders/103-8293644

Robert Booth, (October 2018). Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-

news/2018/oct/13/and-breathe-police-try-mindfulness-to-beat-burnout

Sammy Caiola (September 2018). Retrieved from:

http://www.capradio.org/articles/2018/09/04/second-murder-suicide-in-six-months-casts-violent-

shadow-on-amador-county/

Janet Engler (February 2019). Retrieved from: https://www.thecahp.org/apb-article/cahp-

chaplains-corner-17

Richard Goerling (May 2018)Retrieved from: https://www.calibrepress.com/2018/05/the-case-

for-mindfulness-in-policing/

Marlei Martinez (February 2019). Retrieved from: https://www.kcra.com/article/widow-of-

fallen-chp-officer-launches-suicide-prevention-project/26298476
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Mindful Badge (2019). Retrieved from: https://www.mindfulbadge.com/specialized-training

Officer Down Memorial Page (ODMP) (March 2019). Retrieved from:

https://www.odmp.org/agency/504-california-highway-patrol-california

Jennifer Tejada and Richard Goerling (November 2017). Retrieved from: https://learn-us-east-

1-prod-fleet01-xythos.s3.us-east-1.amazonaws.com/5c2103143e6a3/1566769?response-content-

disposition=inline%3B%20filename%2A%3DUTF-

8%27%27M6_Mindful_Policing.pdf&response-content-type=application%2Fpdf&X-Amz-

Algorithm=AWS4-HMAC-SHA256&X-Amz-Date=20190303T040422Z&X-Amz-

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Credential=AKIAIBGJ7RCS23L3LEJQ%2F20190303%2Fus-east-

1%2Fs3%2Faws4_request&X-Amz-

Signature=09a58fabb8ceb5bb3617bbb173a37a303475c84d1821124e91648895a348ffd6

Jennifer Tejada, (2017). [National Police Foundation]. Retrieved from:

https://www.policefoundation.org/mindful-leadership/

Triplicate News (March 2007). Retrieved from:

https://www.triplicate.com/csp/mediapool/sites/Triplicate/News/story.csp?cid=4350022&sid=92

3&fid=151
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Barry Yoeman (June 2017). Retrieved from: https://www.mindful.org/mindful-policing-the-

future-of-force/

University of San Diego (USD) (2019). Law Enforcement and Public Safety 500: Critical

Issues in Law Enforcement and Public Safety Presentation 6.1: Mindfulness in Modern Policing