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Here we offer a preview of the some of the themes about leadership emanating from the conversation between Dr Jess Miller and world-renowned clinical psychologist and author of the forthcoming book, Neuro Dharma, Dr Rick Hanson...

"Wouldn't it be great to one day get a neuroscientist and a Buddhist in a room together to help just sort out the policing brain?" CC Andy Rhodes, National Police Wellbeing Lead could not have said it better at the #UpBeat conference in 2019. 

Understanding how the policing brain works using neuroscience and learning from disciplines which use mental practice has significant benefits for policing as an institution and for the individual. This is not news but sometimes it takes a crisis to wake up..

Dr Rick Hanson talks about how being able to "steer your own ship" is critical for individual performance and also for wider policing resilience when learning from large scale, catastrophic incidents, such as a pandemic. He asserts that being able to watch your own thinking and to see clearly in times of crisis is certainly not "fluffy".  Jess points out that being able to assert 'discretionary power' over the policing brain, by understanding better how we think on the job can only make us more resilient.

Key factors of resilience which leaders can help become traits of the policing brain comprise:

  • Recognising the reality of a situation, being honest about what's true -without bias, social conditioning or "job-talk"
  • Resourcing others -equipping officers and their managers with the cognitive skills to protect themselves mentally 
  • Regulating- enabling officers and managers to regulate their response to incidents in a structured way
  • Relating- sharing personal experience, empowering peer support and collective commitment to the policing brain

Resilence starts with your awareness. To use your 'discretionary powers' of thinking, you need to be able to spot what you are actually thinking or feeling at any one time. After years of policing, it's easy to get distant from how you are as you're used to just 'cracking on'.  A quick way to get going is put up post-it notes on the back of your door of different mindstates that exist. Examples can be: enthusiastic, anxious, empowered, bored, content, drained, amused, isolated, invigorated, connected, blue...Then keep adding to the list. Whenever you go through the door, make a mental note of which you feel right now.

Leading officers through new territory. Policing has long been becoming more about supporting people than it has fighting crime, in lots of ways. The pandemic may be no different in that sense. But it will leave its mark on society and culture, including policing. Policing brains need leadership in times of uncertainty and the best way to foster resilience is to demonstrate it in practice. Even if you don't 'feel' resilient, your sharing of the collective endeavour and the challenges it brings you as a person can motivate and inspire others. "Our engagement always influences outcomes, even if it doesn't determine them" (unknown).

More from Rick and Jess on leadership and the policing brain during Covid19 will be coming soon. Visit for more from Police Care UK.

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