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Antiviolence Group Trains Baltimore Police On Brain Science

A three-minute video shows an irate Baltimore police officer berating a teen because he ignored orders to stop skateboarding and called the officer “dude.”

“Obviously your parents don’t put a foot in your butt quite enough because you don’t understand the meaning of respect,” he shouted at the skateboarder. The 2007 incident cost the officer his job. Others are learning from his mistakes.

The Baltimore Police Department has started requiring officers to complete a program on emotional regulation that uses video as a learning tool and teaches them the basics of brain science by examining the relationship between thoughts, feelings and action, the Associated Press reports..

In a city whose police force has struggled to earn public trust since Freddie Gray’s 2015 death from spinal injuries while in police custody, department leaders are demonstrating their willingness to think outside the box. The approach could spread as agencies nationwide dedicate more resources to addressing mental health challenges among officers and preventing negative public interactions.

Baltimore’s program is overseen by the anti-violence organization Roca, which works primarily with at-risk youth from the poorest and most violent neighborhoods.

The organization has provided a curriculum for the eight-hour Rewire4 course, which is now required of all Baltimore police officers. Other law enforcement agencies along the East Coast have adopted the program, including the Boston Police Department.

“In the streets, we look at some police officers like they’re crazy, and they look at us like we’re crazy,” said James “JT” Timpson, a Baltimore resident who helps lead the Roca Impact Institute. “But we’re both experiencing the same thing, which is trauma.”

Understanding that common ground helps officers relate to members of the public, said Maj. Derek Loeffler, who oversees training and education for the Baltimore Police Department.

The training, which was observed by an Associated Press reporter, presented a series of practices rooted in cognitive behavioral therapy, a type of psychotherapy aimed at strengthening healthy neurological pathways in the brain through awareness and repetition.


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