The objective of this case study was to test the impact in law enforcement personnel of an innovative self-regulation and resilience building program delivered via an iPad (Apple Inc, Cupertino, California) app and personal mentoring. The Stress Resilience Training System (SRTS) app includes training on stress and its effects, HRV coherence biofeedback, a series of HeartMath self-regulation techniques (The Institute of HeartMath, Boulder Creek, California), and HRV-controlled games. The stressful nature of law enforcement work is well established, and the need for meaningful and effective stress resilience training programs is becoming better understood, as it has been in the military. Law enforcement and military service share many stress-related features including psychological stressors connected with the mission, extended duty cycles, and exposure to horrific scenes of death and injury. San Diego (California) Police Department personnel who participated in the study were 12 sworn officers and 2 dispatchers, 10 men and 4 women. The SRTS intervention comprised an introductory 2-hour training session, 6 weeks of individualized learning and practice with the SRTS app, and four 1-hour telephone mentoring sessions by experienced HeartMath mentors spread over a four week period. Outcome measures were the Personal and Organizational Quality Assessment (POQA) survey, the mentors' reports of their observations, and records of participants' comments from the mentoring sessions. The POQA results were overwhelmingly positive: All four main scales showed improvement; Emotional Vitality improved by 25% (P=.05) and Physical Stress improved by 24% (P=.01). Eight of the nine subscales showed improvement, with the Stress subscale, perhaps the key measure of the study, improving by approximately 40% (P=.06). Participant responses were also uniformly positive and enthusiastic. Individual participants praised the program and related improvements in both on-the-job performance and personal and familial situations. The results support the efficacy of the program to achieve its goal of building stress resilience and improving officer wellness by providing practical self-regulation skills for better management of emotional energy. We conclude that the SRTS program for building resilience and improving psychological wellness can be as effective for law enforcement as it is for military personnel.
Keywords: HRV; HeartMath; Stress; apps; coherence advantage; heart rate variability; law enforcement; mentoring; resilience.