I made a comment the other day (on social media or my blog or somewhere) that I wish every one who wanted to be a police officer would come train with me first. That wasn’t sarcasm. I really do wish they could all come train with me. Not only do I think they would be in better physical shape for the job, but I also think they’d develop a better sense of how to do the job well without causing harm.
Now I’ll talk about what I can do to help reform the institution of the police.
Use Physical Fitness as an Entry Point
When I train a police officer or aspirant, I use physical testing as an entry point, but in order to develop these abilities, they usually have to start with some mental training. To pass their test, all they need to do is be able to run faster, run for longer, do more push-ups (better), and do more sit-ups (better). Why haven’t they been able to do this on their own? Like, why do they even need my help in the first place? What they are really asking for is help developing the discipline and willpower needed to change their exercise habits and start moving the ball forward.
The process of training is actually pretty clear for these guys (and gals). They’ve already done the test, which is a form of assessment. That identifies their weaknesses and informs what they’re training needs to look like. The problem is in the doing. They may not have dug deep enough into their own motivations for becoming a police officer. If they don’t understand the purpose of this and how it ties to their purpose as a person, then they will lack the willpower to do it. Where there’s a will, there’s a way; but without the will, they won’t have much luck with the way.
Once we’ve identified the real, true, deep reasons why they want to do this, then it becomes much easier to create and reinforce discipline around this very specific set of goals. I mean, you either pass or you don’t. Can’t pass the test, can’t do the job. The test is not the job, it’s just a minimum standard. So, the level of discipline needed to pass the test is only a fraction of the level of discipline needed to do the job well. I teach them to start now and build a strong self-discipline that will serve them throughout their career and their life.
I think we’d all agree that the police as an institution need a higher standard of entry testing and training, as well as a higher degree of self-discipline on the job. This is my proposal.
Work on the Underlying Patterns
In the course of creating this discipline, the officers (or candidates) will also need to change their lifestyle and nutrition habits. In order to support the physical adaptations they are attempting to create, they have to recruit their own body’s adaptive processes to their side. They need all those Basic Lifestyle Guidelines that I just wrote about a couple weeks ago: Balance, Purpose, Hydration, Sleep, Energy, Rhythm, Recovery, and Digestion. These will allow them to build the exercise habits, grow new muscle and neurons and mitochondria, and actually advance their abilities so they are able to pass the test.
But, there’s more to it than that. Sorting out these basic routines and habits of life will also help to regulate their emotions and improve their mental health. This means that you get a police officer that has less negative crap to carry around, an officer possessing of all his mental faculties, a happier and more self-actualized person who is safer and of greater service to others. This is huge. A better cop is a better cop. I will say that again: a better cop (happy, healthier, nicer, more understanding and empathetic) is a better cop (more effective at the job they are tasked to do).
Impart Some Ethical Lessons
Ultimately, this work requires a lot of critical self-examination, a deeper personal relationship between the two of us, and plenty of time spent face to face working on stuff. In all those conversations, I also attempt to impart some ethical lessons.
I don’t want this cop to be the cop who beats up a 14-year-old kid the way it happened to me. I don’t want him to put a gun to an unarmed teenager’s head because he’s mad about having to chase him a few blocks, as also happened to me. I don’t want this cop to knock people’s wallets into the mud, kick people in the head from horseback, or otherwise disrespect the people he’s meant to serve (which I have also experienced). I absolutely don’t want him to kill someone over race and become one of these viral video villains.
I want this cop to be one of the good guys, like the cop who worked in my school teaching us D.A.R.E., who knew me by name when he encountered me on the street. I want them to be like the Sherriff who helped us out when we had some real bad guys living across the street. I want them to be a policeman that people respect because they earned it, because they deserve it. I want them to serve their community, to protect the people who live there, indiscriminately. Maybe by sharing some stories from real life, they will go into the job with a more holistic perspective.
So that’s my proposal. I want to save the world one healthy lifestyle at a time. I believe in the individual as the unit of social change. I think the most moral and effective way to change the world is one person at a time and from the inside out. Let me train every cop and we’ll see some things change for the better.
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