Dexter Cohen Bohn shares how NYPD Detective Jeff Thompson incorporates Buddhist teachings of mindfulness and compassion into the battle decision and mediation coaching he conducts nationwide at police academies, and the way his observe influences function as a police officer. This text is offered as a part of Lion’s Roar’s collaboration with Buddhist Justice Reporter.
It was a cold October night time in 2007 when His Holiness the Dalai Lama took the stage at Radio Metropolis Music Corridor within the coronary heart of Manhattan. Political tensions have been excessive within the run as much as the 2008 Beijing Olympics and slim backstage hallways have been filled with safety, attendants, and movie star Buddhists.
Beaming inside, as he at all times did when lucky sufficient to be on His Holiness’s non-public element, Detective Jeff Thompson, PhD, let Richard Gere squeeze previous adopted by Nicholas Vreeland, Director of The Tibet Middle in NYC. Recognizing Jeff, Vreeland stopped Gere for a second.
“Hey, that is that Buddhist cop I used to be telling you about,” he stated.
With one eyebrow raised Gere requested: “How will you be a Buddhist and in addition be a cop?”
To which a smiling Jeff responded: “Nicely, training one makes one be higher on the different,” receiving Gere’s understanding nod earlier than the group moved on.
Being a Buddhist and a Cop
Recalling this memorable encounter to Buddhist Justice Reporter, Thompson expanded on his built-in view:
“If I listing the next traits: curiosity, resilience, empathy, self-efficacy, humility and self-compassion, am I describing Buddhism or policing? The reply is sure!”
Simply as Buddhists apply these skillful means to working with tough psychological, emotional and bodily states, within the context of regulation enforcement, Thompson highlights that the identical traits supply efficient instruments for training nonviolent communication. Finally, says Thompson, being a police officer implies that one is usually within the place of needing to alter a person’s habits in an effort to adjust to the regulation. Whether or not that’s to stop hurt to oneself or others, he says that deliberately returning to those qualities when engaged in police work provides probably the most strategic method to reaching peaceable and constructive outcomes.
The Aristocracy of Policing
This synthesis of observe and professionalism represents what Thompson has come to name the “The Aristocracy of Policing,” a heartfelt dedication to treating each individual he meets with “dignity, respect, and most significantly compassion.” Grounded in a deep sense of gratitude for the service that his work provides to the neighborhood, Thompson has performed an essential function in nurturing the expansion of this attitude on the institutional stage throughout the NYPD and amongst worldwide regulation enforcement businesses.
In July 2022, Thompson retired from a twenty-year profession within the NYPD having served because the division’s first Psychological Well being and Wellness Coordinator. There, he performed analysis and outreach on the division’s suicide prevention and postvention efforts, developed the NYPD’s first peer assist coaching and travelled extensively implementing evidence-based practices for constructing resilience. Recalling these achievements Thompson was fast to notice that his path in policing “began off like a typical cop.”
Contemporary out of the academy he was assigned to Operation Impression, a difficult program designed to flood excessive crime areas with rookie officers. From there, he labored on patrol and in specialised items earlier than holding positions in the neighborhood affairs bureau, coaching as a hostage negotiator and becoming a member of the division’s public relations workplace.
Over the course of his years working in several roles throughout the division, Thompson perceived a troubling imbalance within the welfare of his colleagues:
“Within the majority of conditions, the cops do a extremely good job of defending the general public, however a poor job of defending themselves and one another. If our job is to guard and preserve different individuals protected, that’s obtained to incorporate us as properly as a result of let’s not neglect, the police are made up of human beings. We’re human beings first serving within the function of police,” says Thompson.
This perception sheds mild on the invisible struggling which many officers face each day stemming from the fact that police work might be bodily harmful, emotionally draining, and extremely unpredictable.
In search of technique of addressing these elements, the main focus of Thompson’s work shifted extra internally towards designing applications and sources that might assist the wellbeing of his friends. On this course Thompson drew important inspiration and steerage from his Buddhist observe initiated by way of the dharma door of Barnes and Noble the place he first found the books of His Holiness, Thich Nhat Hanh and Venerable Yifa of Taiwan.
An intense curiosity motivated him by way of practically each providing on the cabinets, leaving Thompson with a profound appreciation of interconnectedness and the values of engaged Buddhism. This translated into an abiding sense of humility in his function as a police officer, realizing that to hold a gun one is expressly answerable for training deep reverence of all life.
Towards the center of his profession, Thompson had the chance to check the ideas of Humanistic Buddhism immediately with Venerable Yifa, an ordained nun within the Fo Guang Shan order. This expertise helped him determine the crux of his work as merely the reminder “to at all times humanize the individuals we’re interacting with, each on the one-to-one scale and all the way in which as much as the macro stage.”
Black Lives Matter
Practising this affirmation, Thompson grappled with many layers of problem through the intense summer time 2020 interval of the Black Lives Matter protests. Like many people, he was “disgusted” by what he noticed on TV and took delight in his responsibility to guard the general public’s proper to protest as huge crowds marched by way of New York.
Whereas newscasts reported on these peaceable demonstrations, Thompson says he witnessed a raging sea of violent language and hate that appeared to be directed towards each human being with a badge on their chest. These interactions with the general public have been disheartening for Thompson, particularly when members of the Buddhist neighborhood determined to chime in providing unsolicited recommendation on learn how to do his job, he says.
Thompson mirrored that treating the police on this method reinforces an “us vs them” mentality, retracing a view of the skinny blue line that additional divides us from social concord. Making the police a part of the dialog about reform is an important step in direction of actualizing institutional change and assures that the method of transformation is grounded within the widespread curiosity of constructing a totally respectful and participatory society, Thompson believes.
M.E.T.T.A. in Motion
Whatever the uniform he’s sporting, Thompson is devoted to embodying the dharmic ideas of justice and supporting their improvement in others, particularly these in positions of authority. Whereas learning for this PhD in Mediation and Nonverbal Communication, Thompson developed the M.E.T.T.A. acronym as a mnemonic system to assist the reminiscence of officers in coaching. Motion; Surroundings; Contact; Tone; and Look comprise elementary reminders for proper communication which have now been efficiently built-in into core police academy curriculums. Although many are unaware of the acronym’s invitation to loving kindness, Thompson was happy to report that, in distinction to the beginning of his profession, such language is now more and more used with heat and understanding contained in the policing establishment.
As the trail to cultivating a harmonious relationship between the police and normal public continues to unfold, it’s the work of individuals like Jeff Thompson that give trigger for hope. In no unsure phrases Thompson reminds us; “I didn’t infiltrate policing, I’m policing, and I do know there are numerous extra similar to me on the market serving in your native communities.” Certainly, as Buddhist practitioners it’s incumbent upon us to see by way of our judgments, nonetheless deeply they could be conditioned, in order that the much-needed seeds of liberation might sprout by way of the muddy waters of our time.
This text was created in collaboration with Buddhist Justice Reporter (BJR), based by BIPOC Buddhist practitioners in response to the police torture and homicide of George Floyd. BJR publishes articles on points associated to environmental, racial, and social justice and its intersections, from an anti-racist Buddhist lens.