Baltimore Police Department, violence, mental health,

Baltimore’s New Training Program Forces Police To Focus On Mental Health

The Baltimore Police Department is trying to redeem itself from its past reputation of corruption and violence.

The Baltimore Police Department is forcing its officers to prioritize their mental health with a new training course.

Through a partnership with the anti-violence organization Roca, officers must complete a program on emotional regulation using a video learning tool teaching the basics of brain science while examining the relationship between thoughts, actions, and feelings. Along the East Coast, the department is one of several to adopt the eight-hour Rewire course, including Boston PD.

Viewed as taking a different approach, the training focuses on officer health and wellness using activities such as yoga, meditation, and confidential counseling, according to Fox 45 News. The goal strives for early intervention of potentially problematic behaviors like the one reviewed in training. Officers are shown a three-minute video from 2007 where a Baltimore officer was seen scolding a teenager for ignoring orders to stop skateboarding and calling the officer “dude.”

“Your parents don’t put a foot in your butt quite enough because you don’t understand the meaning of respect,” the officer shouted while the teenager remained seemingly calm. The interaction ultimately cost the officer his job.

Program director Vernon Herron said the mandatory training prepares veteran and rookie cops to patrol the Baltimore streets by prepping their minds before it is too late. “They might go home and can’t get to sleep. They might get home and think they should turn to alcohol to manage the trauma. These are the things you don’t want them to do,” Herron said.

“In 2016, we averaged 216 interventions a year, and now we’re down to 35. It is having an impact on our employees.” 

Officers in the course were asked to describe some of their most memorable calls for service. During one session, an officer reminisced about a case where three children were found decapitated, saying the images would haunt her for a lifetime. Instructor Lt. Lakishia Tucker says it takes a toll. “This stuff ain’t normal that we see, that we deal with, that we handle on a daily basis.”

Roca works with at-risk youth from the city’s poorest and most violent neighborhoods. The group says the population has more in common with officers than some may think. Since opening up in 2018, the organization has helped young men with life coaching, job opportunities, and behavioral health tools that help de-escalate conflicts before turning deadly. Founders feel if police are exposed to similar outlets, there will be a reduction in police violence, leading to brutal headlines and a lack of community trust.

The city of Baltimore is still trying to recover from the 2015 police-involved death of Freddie Gray. An investigation by the Department of Justice found a pattern of illegal police practices primarily geared toward Black people.

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