At a time when there is an uneasy, sometimes even volatile, divide between some communities and the police officers who are sworn to protect them, one police chief is encouraging her department to practice meditation as a way to help ease the stress of policing.
Chief Sylvia Moir, who has been the head of the Tempe Police Department in Tempe, Arizona, for the past year and has nearly 30 years of policing experience, believes teaching and practicing meditation should be a key piece of police officer development.
“In policing, it’s essential that we respond. We don’t react,” Moir told ABC News’ Dan Harris in an interview for his “10% Happier” podcast. “Without a doubt I think the [meditation] practice shows promise, getting us to be present, not take triggers, not take the bait that makes us react and if the practice can get us to see the perspective of another to enhance our compassion, then I think it does lend itself to broader application in policing.”
It’s important for officers to “be tactically sound and physically fit,” Moir said. She practices mindfulness, a series of meditation techniques that are designed to slow the mind, focus on the breath and bring attention back from distraction, as well as gratitude — focusing on positive emotions.
“I really practice gratitude a lot,” she said. “I say thank you for the people that come at me with anger, I say thank you for things I used to fight against, and it’s given me a really interesting kind of path.”
Moir said she usually practices meditation in the early morning for about 10 minutes while sitting in a chair.
“The great thing about meditation is that it takes no equipment,” she said. “I’m a runner and I’ve run, in the past, full marathons and I need my shoes and nowadays I need my GPS and I need my fuel and I need all my stuff and meditation really offers you … this equipment-free practice that enriches your life.”