Cedar Park Police Chief Sean Mannix is implementing what he calls the most comprehensive wellness program in the country. He is aiming to improve everything from an officer's mental health to how they manage their finances and he says all of this will make officers better to serve you.
Cedar Park officers are undergoing a fitness assessment but physical strength is not necessary. This exercise is for the mind.
An officer's mental health is something that is often neglected and it's a major component of a new wellness program for Cedar Park police officers.
"Historically, we've been really good at the mechanics of policing," said CPD Chief Sean Mannix. "This is how you use force and this is when it's appropriate and those kinds of things. But how much training have we given our folks in how to not have to use force? We're developing cognitive abilities, your ability to communicate with people using your mind and your mouth before using your hands and the things on your belt."
Cheif Mannix has partnered with Dr. Joe Serio to conduct that training. Serio will teach the 85 sworn personnel a class called "Fear and Emotional Intelligence".
"They see the worst of the worst out on the streets. Their working lives can be very intense plus they tend to be type A personalities, macho strict and stern, (looking at things as ) black and white and the fact of the matter is the world is very grey. I help them to see the greyness and help them to see the different choices they can make that give them better outcomes in their lives as well as the public," said Dr. Serio.
"We wear all that stuff on our belts, our badges and all that sort of stuff, but underneath that uniform is a human being. So often we see videos of officers on the street, that we immediately go 'wow that guy just overreacted,' but we don't know the back story. We don't know what that officer's going through and why they overreacted," Chief Mannix says.
"And that's not saying there's an excuse for their actions. But there may be some things going on in the background. If we can fix those things, you know, at the front end, give our officers the tools to where they're not the person who's overreacting, they're the person who does have a good demeanor because they're taking care of themselves. We owe it to them," adds Chief Mannix.
Physical health matters too. For the first time Chief Mannix will require officers to adhere to a fitness standard either by completing an obstacle course or a low impact rowing test once a year.
Cardiologist Dr. Jon Sheinberg, who is also a reserve officer, will stay on top of each officer's heart health. He says heart disease is one of the top causes of mortality among officers.
"57% of a-symptomatic cops have evidence of coronary disease," said Sheinberg.
Sheinberg will also help develop diet and nutrition plans for officers should they request it.
"What I want for all of them is to make it to a happy, healthy retirement," said Mannix.
Another component to this wellness program is that all officers have been given a first aid kit should one of them be injured on the job, or should they encounter a citizen who is hurt.