Get the Police to Meditate

A University of Wisconsin professor suggests that mindfulness might be one way to reduce police violence.

Jessica Rinaldi / Reuters

Apparently, police officers in Madison, Wisconsin are learning to meditate.

“We got a call from the police department in the city of Madison asking us to help them implement a program,” said Richard Davidson, a University of Wisconsin professor, at a session at the Aspen Ideas Festival. His research focuses on the benefits of meditation and “mindfulness exercises,” which might include periods of focusing on physical sensations and the feelings of others. He says the potential benefits of these activities include better emotional control, improved health outcomes, and, importantly, reductions in implicit biases, or unconscious beliefs or stereotypes that affect people’s behavior.

Davidson and his team have focused on developing meditation curricula for elementary schoolers, because they believe it can help young kids learn how to control their emotions. But especially in light of recent police violence in the United States, Davidson said, there might be applications for their research.

“We as a society have a moral obligation to try these things because the potential benefit is high and the downside is very low,” Davidson said. “I think law enforcement is a domain in which we can have a great impact.”