Brain health as a Dallas Police line of defense

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Dallas Police officers are receiving additional defensive training, not in the use of firearms or bullet proof vests, but how to better use what is perhaps their best defensive weapon – their brains.

The Center for BrainHealth, part of the University of Texas at Dallas, and its Brain Performance Institute, are now collaborating to provide potentially critical training in tactical decision-making, real-time problem solving, and better managing their emotional response to stress.

The program, initially offered to a select group of command staff and up to 500 officers over an 18-month period is not presented as a solution to PTSD but as a weapon against its potential arrival and a management tool for daily life at work and at home.

Pointing to his forehead Dallas Police Deputy Chief Jeff Cotner said “this muscle up here needs to be exercised and exercising that muscle is legit.”

“Everybody takes their brain for granted, until something happens,” said Jennifer Zientz, head of Clinical Services at the Center for BrainHealth.

“I have learned, thanks in part to the work of the center, that brain health is like physical health: You have to work to pursue it,” said Lyda Hill, whose donation is funding the training. “Following the devastating day of July 7, 2016, in Dallas, where five law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty, I knew I had to do something to help those who take care of us daily. I hope this effort gives the Dallas Police Department the foundation it needs to consistently make the brain health of its officers a top priority,” Hill said in a written statement.

The Brain Performance Institute will offer officers Strategic Memory Advanced Reasoning Training (SMART) and a mindfulness program specific to law enforcement. SMART strengthens the brain’s frontal networks — regions that support planning, reasoning, decision-making, judgment, and emotional management.

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