“We are so impacted by the toxicity of our profession,” says Lieutenant Richard Goerling of the Hillsboro Police Department in Oregon, “so consumed by our jobs, we don’t know what to do.” Photographs by Mark Mahaney

When did you first start practicing mindfulness and why were you motivated to do so?

I began practicing several years ago as a means to cope with the acute and chronic stressors of police work, and life’s journey for that matter.  I had been reading a lot about yoga and its efficacy for preventing and healing lower back injuries (many police officers have lower back problems).  I then began researching mindfulness as a tool for stress management and situational awareness (officer safety) for police officers.  In short, the suffering of many police officers led me to research and then begin practicing mindfulness.

Did you take a class? If so, what sort of a class did you take?

I first, with some level of hypocrisy, referred several officers to take a formal class and then eventually, just last year, took an MBSR course from Brant Rogers at Yoga Hillsboro.

How has mindfulness made a difference in your life?

Mindfulness is a journey that helps me cope with the unique stressors of police work, and being in the military reserves.

What do you do for your livelihood (e.g., homemaker, teacher, firefighter) and does your practice of mindfulness affect that?

Police Lieutenant; Reserve Officer in Coast Guard; Adjunct Faculty at Junior College.

Is there anything else you would want people to know about mindfulness and you?

Mindfulness has great application for first responders who suffer from compassion fatigue, vicarious traumatization, acute and chronic stressors. Training mindfulness to first responders offers age-old coping mechanisms that we just recently are beginning to understand scientifically.  I’m working hard to integrate mindfulness training into our police agency training for all officers and support staff.  Reducing stress in the individual officer enhances their ability to build community.