Can Meditation Reduce Police Stress, Use of Force?

Several thousand officers have been trained in “mindfulness” in cities like Dallas, Boston and Seattle, as well as towns across Oregon, California and Wisconsin. Proponents champion the practice as a way to treat the high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder among police and reduce excessive use of force.

Richard Goerling addresses a room of first responders, prison guards, and military members wearing gym clothes, sitting on yoga mats. “So you’re here for some hippie-bullshit mindfulness training,” he says, reports Pacific Standard magazine.

In a conference-room-turned-meditation center near Portland, Or., Goerling asks everyone to close their eyes and imagine their breath on the tip of their nose.

A police officer himself, Goerling is sensitive to the skepticism that cops might bring to mindfulness. In an eight-hour training, he introduces them to neuroscientific findings on the effects of mindful meditation—how it can lower cortisol, a hormone related to stress—while also teaching them meditation practices.

Goerling is one of a growing number of leaders in law enforcement who envision meditation as part of the future of policing.

Several thousand officers have been trained in cities like Dallas, Boston and Seattle, as well as towns across Oregon, California and Wisconsin. Proponents champion the practice as a way to limit stress, treat the high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder among police, and even reduce excessive use of force.

See Also: TCR’s Special Report: How to Find the Cops America Needs

“I absolutely believe that mindfulness training is the foundation for any successful police reform and transformation,” Goerling says. “It’s critical.”

Recent studies suggest that mindfulness can reduce stress and curb aggression among law enforcement officers. Many of these studies rely on self-reporting and wishy-washy measurement methods.

When it comes to some of the most violent behavior among police, including incidents associated with racial bias, there is little evidence that meditation makes any difference.

“There is a risk that these kinds of training programs, no matter how well intentioned, will only provide the illusion of police reform rather than getting at the structural forces that drive disrespectful and aggressive over-policing,” says sociologist Alex Vitale of Brooklyn College and author of the book The End of Policing.

Additional Reading;  TCR’s Q&A with Alex Vitale 

 

from https://thecrimereport.org

Civil Rights Commission: Revive DOJ Scrutiny of Local Police

In the wake of Jeff Sessions’ departure from the Justice Department, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is urging the Trump administration to resume federal oversight of troubled police departments and reinstate the Justice Department’s community policing office.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights urged the Trump administration Thursday to resume federal oversight of troubled police departments and reinstate the Justice Department’s community policing office — steps that would reverse an effort by Jeff Sessions, the recently departed attorney general, to limit federal oversight of local police departments, the Washington Post reports. The commission’s 200-page report, endorsed by a majority of the eight members, concludes that black Americans, among others, have valid concerns about police violence and lack of officer accountability. In response, the report concludes, federal officials should resume the practice — abandoned since Donald Trump became president — of investigating local police departments accused of systemic civil rights violations and resurrect the DOJ’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

Under President Barack Obama, the Justice Department opened more than two dozen inquiries into civil rights violations by local police departments and entered at least 14 “consent decrees” in which local officials agreed to enact reforms and submit to a federal monitor. During the Trump administration, the federal government has walked away from efforts to oversee local departments. During his nearly two years leading the Justice Department, Sessions did not open any investigations of local police departments, and he publicly disparaged the rigor and accuracy of previous federal inquiries that had documented civil rights violations by police. The report recommends that Congress pass legislation requiring local police departments to provide reliable data about police use of force and that federal funding be denied to those that refuse. The commission notes that the most comprehensive data about how often police officers use fatal force is in databases maintained by The Post and other media outlets.

 

from https://thecrimereport.org

NY, AL Police Chiefs Suspended for Drug, Sex Offenses

The police chief of Kenmore, N.Y., was placed on administrative leave after he was arrested and accused of stealing pain pills. He admitted an addiction. In a separate case, a police chief from Alabama was suspended last week after he was accused of masturbating several times in front of guests, including children and teenage girls, at a beachfront resort in Florida.

A police chief in metropolitan Buffalo admitted an addiction to painkillers after his arrest last Friday, reports the Buffalo News. Kenmore Police Chief Peter Breitnauer, 68, also admitted taking pills from a medication drop box at the Kenmore Police Station and saving them for his personal use, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. Prosecutors also said the chief showed FBI agents a closet in his office where he had more than 100 hydrocodone pills originally taken from the box. “It’s a sad day,” U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy Jr. said in a statement. He said the arrest and admissions “highlight the devastating and destructive power of opioids and underscore the fact that anyone can become ensnared in their allure.” Breitnauer was placed on administrative leave. Kenmore is a village of 15,000 people north of Buffalo.

In a separate case, the police chief of Level Plains, Ala., has been suspended without pay after he was arrested last week and charged with four counts of disorderly conduct in Panana City Beach, Fla. Authorities allege that Chief Billy Maurice Driggers, 44, masturbated several times in front of guests, including children and teenage girls, at a beachfront resort, according to the Orlando Sentinel.  He was accused of masturbating in front of people on an elevator at least three times. Police said he also masturbated while walking behind teenage girls on the beach and filmed or took photos of the girls rinsing off at outdoor showers. Level Plains is a village of 2,000 in southeast Alabama, 90 miles north of Panama City Beach.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Cincy Cop Tasers 11-Year-Old; Chief ‘Extremely Concerned’

The unidentified officer was off duty, working security at a grocery store, when he used the device on a girl suspected of shoplifting. The cop was placed on restricted duty while officials investigate.

An off-duty Cincinnati police officer moonlighting as a Kroger grocery store security guard used a Taser on Monday to stun an 11-year-old girl who was suspecting of stealing, reports the city’s Enquirer. The officer, whose identity was not released, was placed on restricted duty, and Police Chief Eliot Isaac has opened an investigation. “We are extremely concerned when force is used by one of our officers on a child of this age,” Isaac said. “As a result, we will be taking a very thorough review of our policies as it relates to using force on juveniles as well as the propriety of the officer’s actions.”

Police department policy says Tasers are “for self-defense or to temporarily immobilize a subject who is actively resisting arrest.” The off-duty officer working at the Spring Grove Village Kroger was investigating several young girls allegedly stealing from the store, police said. The officer approached the 11-year-old, but she ignored the officer and continued to walk away, according to police. The officer then struck the girl in the back with the Taser. The girl was arrested on charges of theft and obstructing official business. She was taken to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center for evaluation and released to a parent’s custody. The girl will appear in juvenile court.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Cincy Cop Tasers 11-Year-Old; Chief ‘Extremely Concerned’

The unidentified officer was off duty, working security at a grocery store, when he used the device on a girl suspected of shoplifting. The cop was placed on restricted duty while officials investigate.

An off-duty Cincinnati police officer moonlighting as a Kroger grocery store security guard used a Taser on Monday to stun an 11-year-old girl who was suspecting of stealing, reports the city’s Enquirer. The officer, whose identity was not released, was placed on restricted duty, and Police Chief Eliot Isaac has opened an investigation. “We are extremely concerned when force is used by one of our officers on a child of this age,” Isaac said. “As a result, we will be taking a very thorough review of our policies as it relates to using force on juveniles as well as the propriety of the officer’s actions.”

Police department policy says Tasers are “for self-defense or to temporarily immobilize a subject who is actively resisting arrest.” The off-duty officer working at the Spring Grove Village Kroger was investigating several young girls allegedly stealing from the store, police said. The officer approached the 11-year-old, but she ignored the officer and continued to walk away, according to police. The officer then struck the girl in the back with the Taser. The girl was arrested on charges of theft and obstructing official business. She was taken to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center for evaluation and released to a parent’s custody. The girl will appear in juvenile court.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Audit: Defunct Austin PD Oversight Panel Was Thwarted

Efforts to create civilian oversight of policing in the Texas capital city were hindered by policies and police contract provisions, a city audit reports.

A city audit of the civilian bodies with oversight of the Austin Police Department paints a picture of an ineffective program incapable of creating substantive change, reports the city’s American-Statesman. The report, completed in June by the city auditor’s office, looked into the effectiveness of the Citizen Review Panel and the police monitor’s office. The Citizen Review Panel was a volunteer board of community members charged with examining cases of police misconduct and complaints. It was established in 2001 under a labor contract between the city and the police labor union. After an updated version of that contract was nixed in late 2017, the panel was suspended by the former interim city manager. Austin’s other civilian oversight body, the police monitor’s office, was able to continue operating because it is city-funded, but it also lost power when the labor agreement expired.

The panel had the authority to issue recommendations to police leaders after complaints or critical incidents, such as police shootings. Members could recommend discipline, further internal investigation, a review of or changes to department policies, or an independent probe. Even before the panel lost those powers, however, the audit found that civilian oversight in Austin was substantially hindered by city and police policies. From October 2013 to December 2017, the panel sent in at least 28 memos that included 54 recommendations to the police chief. The Police Department made some sort of policy change or acted to discipline officers in 15 percent of those cases, the audit found. Most of the actions were related to training. The audit found five major problems that rendered the panel largely ineffective, including poor record-keeping and no channels of communication directly with the chief.

from https://thecrimereport.org

WA Sheriff Fires Deputy with White Nationalist Affiliation

The female deputy, on the job just 14 months, wears and sells “Proud Boys” clothing. The Southern Poverty Law Center says Proud Boys is a white nationalist hate group.

The Clark County, Wash., Sheriff’s Office has fired a deputy who wears and sells clothing affiliated with the Proud Boys, a far-right group known for its white nationalist rhetoric and frequent appearances in the middle of political violence, reports The Columbian of Vancouver. Deputy Erin Willey was terminated last week after the newspaper received a photo showing her wearing a hoodie emblazoned with a Proud Boys logo–a switchblade, lipstick and an abbreviation for Proud Boys’ Girls. Willey can found listed online as a seller of Proud Boys merchandise. Clark County Undersheriff Mike Cooke declined to give details of Willey’s termination, saying it’s a personnel matter. She did not return requests for comment.

In a statement, Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins said, “Law enforcement officers are peacekeepers whose core mission is to protect and safeguard the community. My expectation is that my employees do not engage in activities or associations that undermine or diminish our role as peacekeepers.” Willey was hired in May 2017, and completed her law enforcement academy training in December. The Proud Boys call themselves a “pro-Western fraternal organization” for men who “refuse to apologize for creating the modern world,” according to their founder, Gavin McInnes. The group advocates for a return to a 1950s sense of traditional gender roles and includes “venerate the housewife” among its tenets. The group rejects a white nationalist label, but the Southern Poverty Law Center has categorized it as a hate group. 

from https://thecrimereport.org

San Diego PD Prepares for New Anti-Profiling Protocols

The department, which has been criticized for racial bias in its traffic stops, is preparing to comply with a new state law that takes effect on July 1. It mandates collection of detailed data on all officer interactions with the public in an effort to study and curb racial profiling.

San Diego police are preparing for a new statewide initiative to reduce racial profiling by conducting officer training sessions, adding new data-collection software and amending Police Department policies, reports the city’s Union-Tribune. The efforts come more than two years after a university study of traffic stops found racial disparities in how San Diego police handle traffic stops, particularly vehicle searches. State law requires large police departments on July 1 to start collecting more rigorous data about officer interactions with the public in an effort to study racial profiling trends and find ways to curb the practice. The law requires San Diego police to sharply expand which kinds of interactions they document and what elements of each interaction they need to record and submit to their superiors and state officials.

Officers have been attending mandatory training sessions this spring, and the department recently decided to use a data collection system created by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. Two groups of officers, the gang unit and the neighborhood policing unit, have begun collecting the required data as pilot projects to help the department work out any kinks before July 1. Officers will start collecting the required data, including as many as 60 pieces of information from each interaction, on June 27.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Lawsuit Accuses Top NM Cop of Bias, Misconduct

The suit by several subordinates accuse State Police Chief Pete Kassetas of “blatant, ongoing and systematic discrimination” against officers based on gender and sexual orientation. The governor’s office called the allegations “ridiculous.”

A lawsuit accuses New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas of “blatant, ongoing and systematic discrimination” against officers based on gender and sexual orientation, reports the Albuquerque Journal. He is accused of “mooning” employees, describing two staff members as “dumb (expletive) bitches” and sending an image of a man’s testicles blocking out the sun to a female executive in the state Department of Public Safety. The suit was filed late Tuesday in 1st Judicial District Court in Santa Fe by Sgt. Monica Martinez-Jones, retired Lt. Julia Armendariz and retired Deputy Chief Michael Ryan Suggs. It seeks damages based on gender and sexual orientation discrimination and retaliation.

The plaintiffs allege that “Kassetas’s behavior has gone unchecked” because he is being protected by Gov. Susana Martinez. A spokesman for the governor said the lawsuit contains “many ridiculous allegations that are completely removed from the truth.” The 36-page suit accuses Kassetas of tolerating homophobic treatment of gay officers and promoting a male officer who had slept with female recruits and once chained an African-American officer to a telephone pole. Kassetas said Thursday that he couldn’t comment on pending litigation “no matter how much I’d like to.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Court Says Suit Over NYPD Sound Cannons Can Proceed

The federal lawsuit alleges that the use of sound cannons by the NYPD against protesters constitutes excessive force. Police claimed immunity, but the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the case can proceed to trial.

A federal appeals court in New York says a lawsuit alleging the use of sound cannons by police constitutes excessive force can proceed toward trial, reports the Associated Press. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Wednesday that it agreed with a lower court judge who concluded that the New York Police Department and its officials were not entitled to immunity.

The lawsuit stems from the NYPD’s use of sound cannons known as Long Range Acoustic Devices during 2014 protests over the police chokehold death of Eric Garner. The device manufacturer says they emit a series of sharp beeps to disperse crowds. An attorney for six plaintiffs says the sound left his clients with migraines and hearing damage. A spokesman says the city’s Law Department is reviewing the decision.

from https://thecrimereport.org