Officer Safety Corner: Paws for a Pause: Therapy Dogs, Mindfulness Meditation, and Healthy Mind Check-ins for Officer Safety and Wellness

In May 2015, the report by the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing analyzed the state of law enforcement in the United States.1 It included a quote from Will Bowen, a world-renowned facilitator of personal transformation, that highlights the climate in many U.S. law enforcement agencies today: “hurt people hurt people.”2 Police officers experience more violence and trauma during their careers than the average civilian might encounter in an entire lifetime. The nature of the work changes officers forever as they are continually exposed to trauma and human suffering.

Dr. John Violanti, a research professor at the University of Buffalo, New York, said, “Based on research, we believe that the adverse health and psychological consequences of this occupation law enforcement far outweigh the dangers of the street.”3 If law enforcement officers continually suffer an erosion of self-awareness, develop trauma-related injuries and illnesses, and experience compassion fatigue, communities will suffer. Departmental wellness programs that focus on a law enforcement officer’s overall physical and mental well-being are the building blocks for cultivating more mindful, resilient, and compassionate personnel.