Trauma and police brutality

 

There has been many stories of police brutality in the US recently, and it’s clearly a serious problem.

I can’t help wondering if it’s partly related to trauma. Many police officers have experienced trauma, either from specific instances or accumulated over time. And trauma leads people to act in a reactive way, from fear, sometimes with violence, and out of proportion with what seems appropriate to the situation. And that’s what we are seeing from the many reports of police officers abusing their power, using excessive force, and even killing unarmed people.

One remedy is to offer trauma education and healing modalities in the police departments across the US. I know this is partly done, although it often happens in a police culture that doesn’t take trauma seriously, so this may not be the whole solution but it can’t hurt.

One possibility is to make Tension & Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) mandatory once or twice a week, for even just half an hour. That would make a tangible difference, independent of how seriously they otherwise take trauma. With the support of current research on TRE and trauma, it may be possible to start this in one or a few sympathetic police departments, and it may then spread.

Another aspect of this is the militarization of the police, although I assume that’s more connected political and financial interests (including profits for those selling the equipment).

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Second draft…..

There has been many stories of police brutality in the US recently, and it’s clearly a serious problem.

I can’t help wondering if what we are seeing is related to trauma. Many police officers have experienced trauma, either from specific instances or accumulated over time. And trauma leads people to act in a reactive way, from fear, sometimes with violence, and out of proportion with what seems appropriate to the situation. And that’s what we are seeing from the many reports of police officers abusing their power, using excessive force, and even killing unarmed people.

One remedy is to offer trauma education and healing modalities in the police departments across the US. I know this is partly done, although often in a police culture that doesn’t take trauma seriously, so this may not be the whole solution but it can’t hurt.

One possibility is to make TRE (Tension & Trauma Release Exercises) mandatory once or twice a week, for even just half an hour. That would make a tangible difference, independent of how seriously they otherwise take trauma. With the support of current research on TRE and trauma, it may be possible to start this in one or a few sympathetic police departments, and it may then spread.

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Initial draft…..

There has been many stories of police violence in the US recently, and it’s not because it’s happening more frequently than before, but because it’s a topic the media has – finally – chosen to focus more on.

It’s clearly a serious problem. It erodes people’s trust in the police. They are not acting as the public servants they are supposed to be. It builds up further resentment among black people and others frequently targeted by the police. And people die.

I can’t help wondering if what we are seeing is related to trauma. Many police officers have experienced trauma, either from specific instances, or accumulated over time. And trauma leads people to act in a reactive way, from fear, sometimes with violence, and out of proportion with what seems appropriate to the situation. And all of that fits the many reports of police officers abusing their power, using excessive force, and even killing unarmed people.

One remedy is to offer trauma education and healing modalities in the police departments across the US. I know this is partly done, and often offered in a police culture that doesn’t take trauma seriously, so this may not be the whole solution but it can’t hurt.

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– one problem, a police culture that doesn’t take trauma seriously – tells officers to “suck it up”

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One thought on “Trauma and police brutality

  1. Many years ago, I was walking in a city late at night. I turned a corner, and saw two policemen savagely beating a native Indian man. He was lying on the ground helplessly, as one of the officers kicked him brutally. I was terrified that if they saw me, I would be vulnerable so I quickly fled.
    Since my shift in consciousness, my mind keeps trying to reconcile the presence of evil in the world. I don’t have any answers to this problem.
    Over the holidays, I saw the film ‘The Standford Prison Experiment’. The film re-creates the famous experiment carried out at Standford back in the early 1970’s. The experiment seems to present a compelling case that we step into a role and our behavior changes to match that role; prisoners will act like prisoners and guards will act like guards. The experiment was planned to take place over 14 days, but it was astonishing how quickly the volunteers took on their respective roles. Things got so out of hand, the experiment was had to be shut down after only six days. As I watched this film, I wondered what capacity I had to behave badly if I were put in the role of a prison guard.
    I think every policeman/policewoman should be shown this film. Also, I think the level of training should be higher, with courses that promote understanding and empathy, particulary with disadvantaged members of society.
    I also agree TRE would be helpful in dealing with the tensions and traumas of police work, but it would never work to force this on departments. However, I think TRE would potentially create more empathy and sensitivity in police forces. I’ve seen statistics that one in four Canadian police officers has a serious addiction to alcohol. Also, police officers have higher rates of domestic violence than the rest of the population. These findings are consistent with the current understanding of trauma and it’s effects on the individual.

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