Gandhi & the Police: An Opportunity for Learning
Police are the guardians of society, says Mandar Apte, with a unique opportunity to lead the way forwardBy Crawford Coates | Aug 1, 2018
Stress is the occupational hazard of first response. It’s not just the sudden acute onset stress of critical incidents. There is moreover the chronic stress of shift work and a lack of support from some communities, politicians, and police brass. “Death by a thousand cuts,” is how psychologist Ellen Kirschman describes it.
Stress—acute and chronic—kills. It kills performance, morale, and innovation, and, quite literally, it kills you dead. It’s associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer, among other ills. And it’s particularly hard on cops.
“It’s evident that coordinating law and order in a democratic society is tough. Cops are always stuck in the middle,” John M. Violanti, an epidemiologist and professor of environmental health at the University of Buffalo says. “We’re between the public and the politicians. It’s an unenviable position to be in, and there’s a lot of stress and a lack of appreciation of what they go through. The sacrifice to family life, the stuff they have to see and deal with—the public doesn’t sufficiently appreciate this. All these things add together and affect the psyche of officers.”
What’s a cop to do?
You might have noticed that Calibre Press has been publishing quite a lot on wellness, mindfulness, and meditation lately. That’s because there have been multiple scientific studies and a plethora of anecdotal reports suggest this stuff helps reduce the stress, builds mental toughness, drives innovation, and improves peak performance.
It’s what my friend Mandar Apte calls “mental hygiene.”
Mandar spent 17 years with Shell Oil. For approximately his first half of his career he worked as a petroleum engineer. “Working at Shell, particularly in the beginning, was not the healthiest for me. I was traveling constantly, eating poorly, not getting enough sleep or exercise. I wanted to find a way to improve my health and wellbeing that did not have any negative side effects. I just didn’t want to take pills. So I learned how to meditate and do yoga. In a few years, I also became a meditation teacher myself.”
For his final 10 years with Shell, Mandar managed its incubator and social investment arm, GameChanger, where he invested in companies that create shared value—both social impact as well as make financial returns for Shell.During his time in GameChanger, he also created a unique leadership program to improve the culture of innovation at Shell using meditation practice where he taught over 2,000 Shell colleagues to meditate. He became increasingly inspired to spread the “technology” of meditation practice. So inspired by its transformative power, Mandar has recently moved to Los Angeles to make a documentary film about working with those under undue stress—foremost among them members of the Los Angeles Police Department as well as former gang members.
“For me, police officers are the guardians of our society,” he says. “and this is why I have concentrated my efforts on police executives. Given the senseless violence in our country, including suicides, drug overdose and school shootings, we need to promote compassion and nonviolence. Police are always called in to help following any such terrible situation, and also become affected by the violence. It is my belief that every police officer in the country has the opportunity to lead the way with compassion and help to heal our nation.”
Thus far, Mandar has led meditation based mindful policing workshops for police officers in Washington, D.C.; Chicago, and Los Angeles. Now he wants to make a broader impact.
Pigrimage To India
Central to his mission is the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose 1959 pilgrimage to India further impressed upon him the importance of nonviolence in the Civil Rights movement. Dr. King spoke during his visit to India, “In a real sense, Mahatma Gandhi embodied in his life certain universal principles that are inherent in the moral structure of the universe, and these principles are as inescapable as the law of gravitation.”
Mandar believes that America is currently in a place now where Gandhian principles of compassion and nonviolence are once again imperative. “Our country is in pain. When schools begin again next month, parents and educators may wonder, ‘Could it happen in my child’s school?’ This is every parent’s worst nightmare. So instead of waiting for an act of violence, to show our compassion, we need to proactively bring tools and wisdom that can improve mental health, wellness and happiness in our society.”
To this end, Mandar and his team have been hosting delegations of victims of violence (such as parents from Sandy Hook), former gang members, and, in particular, Mayors and police executives to India to learn the nonviolence teachings of Gandhi. His team is now offering US law enforcement personnel a discounted price of $2,000 (including international airfare and all associated expenses food, accommodation, etc.) to participate in the upcoming World Summit on Countering Violence and Extremism, which runs from Sept. 28 – Oct. 3. The summit convenes mayors, policy makers, victims of violence, and police executives from across the world. It will also include a visit with the Mumbai police.
Cops are skeptical people. “You would be too,” my friend Chuck Humes says, “if you got lied to for a living.” But that’s not to say they are without compassion. Revitalizing that compassion, sharing ideas to heal and transform and create a collaboration network of the guardians of the galaxy — these are Mandar’s aims from the Summit.
“Nobody asked Steve Jobs to develop the iPhone,” says Mandar. “But this is what true leaders do. They give the world what it doesn’t know it needs. Who would ever think that police could be leaders in promoting compassion and nonviolence? Yet I believe this is precisely what they are poised to do.” says Mandar Apte.
For more information on Mandar and his summit, please visit links below.
About the Nonviolence Summit in India: www.nonviolencesummit.org
About From India With Love: www.fromindiawithlove.org
About Mandar: www.mandar-apte.com