Alexandria, VA – Police reform might be a controversial topic. Mindfulness, however, is not. Everyone can agree that being mindful, having control of your brain—your thoughts, reactions, and emotions—is conducive to a healthy lifestyle for both you and those around you.
So what happens when you pair the police force and mindfulness? That is precisely what Gina Rollo White and The Initiative aim to find out.
The Initiative, or The Initiative: Advancing The Blue & Black Partnership, was founded by a Howard University alumni group in 2020. Its mission is to heal the community-police relationship and create safer communities where respect and support are mutual. One way to facilitate safer communities is through the practice of mindfulness.
Gina has a master’s degree in Mindfulness Education. Through Mindful Junkie she conducts on-site and virtual training in mindfulness and tactical brain training for first responders in agencies across the country.
Growing up with two parents who were first responders, Gina experienced first-hand the repercussions of improper (or non-existent) outlets for trauma.
“I was raised in a household that had a lot of compassion for our community but was not properly trained in how to process the on-the-job trauma that occurred every day,” she says. “I realized through my own life occurrences that tools are required to regulate reactions and emotions during and after traumatic situations. That it’s not common sense. So I went back to school.”
With a resume that includes working with leadership from police departments (CA: Manhattan Beach, Pasadena, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, VA; Alexandria PD, Alexandria Sheriff’s Alexandria), fire departments (CA: El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, Pasadena, San Gabriel, Torrance), and special task force detectives (VA), delivering curriculum specifically tailored to those working in high trauma environments Gina’s training caught The Initiative’s eye.
The Initiative developed a program to assess and train police officers in many facets: wellness training, bias training, de-escalation training, and developmental and organizational training. The program is designed as an online self-assessment and report card. Individuals within agencies download the program and take the assessment, which might look like an interview, a conversation, or an online, tool-based assessment. The assessment then recommends areas of focus for each individual.
As part of the wellness segment, The Initiative partnered with LRN, an ethics and compliance solutions company, and Gina Rollo White to create a course for police departments on tactical brain strategies.
Each agency will have an online dashboard with 30-minute interactive modules and tools to track progress and reevaluation. Any individual within that agency can download and listen to any module on their computer or phone.
Gina explains, “The tactical brain strategies segment is a 30-minute interactive module including psychoeducation of stress and trauma: explaining how to train the brain through neural biology and mindfulness tools, teaching how to think and de-escalate in action, to respond versus react, and how to regulate emotional states.”
“We think officers could have some benefit in wellness course training. This course introduces strategies to regulate emotional states in a trauma-sensitive way, planting the seed of mindfulness, with the hope that they will continue to learn about it more in-depth later,” she adds.
With its inception in New Jersey, The Initiative is ready to pilot here on the east coast. But agencies, officers, and first responders across the country are already eager to begin.
“We wanted to create something for first responders,” Gina says. “Their lives are very different than the average person. Agencies are excited. First responders are excited. I am excited. This is just the beginning.”