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Mindful : August 2017
By the time Jennifer Tejada took charge of the Emery ville Police Department in September 2015, she had weathered her share of personal and professional challenges. They began during her initial police training, which she says was deliberately high-pressure. “ You learn that this is part of the job: the state of being stressed, whether it’s because your uniform is not quite pressed correctly, or you weren’t able to com- plete your mile in six minutes,” explains the 53-year-old Ireland native. “ What was missing was the coping with the stress.” Added to that was the way officers were eval- uated in the 1990s: on a “male model,” she says, that valued brawn over compassion. During her first year on the job, “I recall my sergeant calling me into the office and berating me because I would not be able to succeed in a fight with a 200-pound man in an alley,” says Tejada, who is compact and slender. With a 300-pound suspect, he told her, “you’re definitely a liability.” Plus, there were the daily ordeals all cops face. “ We see the most horrible images of people in real time,” Tejada says. She would come home from work, still reeling from her day, struggling to be a fully present mother. She felt depressed and fatigued, unable to sleep through the night. Her body was in a constant state of agitation. Three years ago, Tejada endured a personal trauma, the details of which she doesn’t discuss publicly. She continued to function at work but would fall apart at the end of her shift. She lost weight and suffered panic attacks. Therapy didn’t help. Looking for a way to calm her mind, Tejada combed the internet and stumbled on mindfulness meditation. She tried some random online resources, then found the Headspace and 10% Happier meditation apps. The results were profound. “ It gave me back my sense of self, my sense of worth,” she says. “ It allowed me to breathe.” The weight returned. She started to sleep. She felt whole, and hopeful, again. When Tejada became Emery ville’s police chief, the department was still coping with the fallout from a recent fatal police shooting. The killing of Yuvette Henderson, a 38-year-old → Research has linked policing careers to higher rates of depres- sion, PTSD, substance abuse, sleeplessness, diabetes, cardiac death, and attempted suicide. August 2017 mindful 67 community