Law enforcement is inherently a high-pressure profession. Police officers must routinely make tough decisions, often under extreme stress and/or facing threat of harm. The Center for BrainHealth, part of The University of Texas at Dallas, and its Brain Performance Institute are collaborating to provide programs to help officers who serve on the front lines of the city of Dallas.
By equipping them with brain health-enhancing tools, the Center for BrainHealth and its Brain Performance Institute will aid officers in tactical decision-making, creative, real-time problem-solving and down-regulating emotional response to stress.
“I have learned, thanks in part to the work of the Center, that brain health is like physical health: You have to work to pursue it,” said Lyda Hill, whose donation is funding the training. “Following the devastating day of July 7, 2016, in Dallas, where five law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty, I knew I had to do something to help those who take care of us daily. I hope this effort gives the Dallas Police Department the foundation it needs to consistently make the brain health of its officers a top priority.”
“Lyda is always at the forefront of transformational beginnings,” said Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman, founder and chief director of the Center for BrainHealth and Dee Wyly Distinguished University Professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. “Thanks to her innovative, generous spirit and commitment to advancing scientific discovery, we will be able to provide those who serve and protect Dallas, day in and day out, with strategies to improve their brain health and unlock their brain potential.”
Over an 18-month period, the Brain Performance Institute will offer 500 police officers Strategic Memory Advanced Reasoning Training (SMART) and a mindfulness program specific to law enforcement.
SMART strengthens the brain’s frontal networks — regions that support planning, reasoning, decision-making, judgment and emotional management. The mindfulness program is being created in partnership with Hillsboro, Oregon, police Lt. Richard Goerling, a pioneer in the field of mindfulness, preventive mental health care and physical fitness in law enforcement. The program integrates positive psychology with accelerated training and short-form application of mindfulness strategies. The goal is to help officers manage high-stress, high-pace situations at work and in their day-to-day lives. Pre- and post-assessments will be administered to demonstrate the program’s efficacy.
“The Dallas Police Department continues to be progressive in the ever-changing law enforcement climate,” interim Dallas Police Chief David Pughes said. “Members of the Dallas Police Department command staff recently completed the SMART program, and participants found it extremely valuable. The department is embracing the strategies taught to improve day-to-day decision-making, reasoning and critical-thinking skills when interacting with the citizens of Dallas. We are eager to share both of these innovative training opportunities with the entire department thanks to the generosity of Ms. Lyda Hill.”
“How a life in law enforcement affects the brain is unknown and woefully understudied among the scientific community,” said Dr. Leanne Young, executive director of the Brain Performance Institute. “With this work, we hope to not only improve and positively affect the lives of the men and women in blue but also contribute to the body of neuroscience research, advancing the study of brain health among police officers and other first responders.”