HOUSTON - The murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police was one of several incidents that prompted nationwide calls for police reform. In Houston, a pilot program is making those changes in an unexpected way.
The 'Police Enlightenment and Collective Education', or PEACE program, looks to put officers in the best frame of mind to protect and serve.
In a quiet room at the Houston Police Officers Union, yoga practitioner Jazmin Porter asks officers to share the challenges they've faced.
"Combing through your week, experiences you may have had in the field, experiences you may have had at home," she encourages.
This session of mindfulness, meditation, and yoga is a different form of training than the kind that puts men and women in uniform. As social unrest and police criticism gripped the nation though, Porter had an idea that any change in attitude had to come from within.
"If your perspective is different, you have different tools," she says, "You have less stress and less effects of what police officers are experiencing on a day-to-day basis. Your behavior changes, and when your behavior changes, society changes."
To the uninitiated, yoga may seem little more than a series of challenging stretches and poses. At its core, however, it's about moral and personal discipline. This class to help strengthen that discipline has been popular.
"The more you see yourself, the more you can take that out in the world and help other people see themselves," says HPOU participant Heidi Hlavinka.
The PEACE program is a collaboration between Jazmin Porter and Houston City Council Member Edward Pollard. His Southeast Houston constituents 'want' the police in the community, but demand compassion, as well. Pollard thought the idea of self-help was worth the effort.
"It's a high-pressure job; it's tense moments and every second matters," says Pollard. "Why don't we build our officers to make sure they're in the best state of mind possible and we believe this program does that."
The PEACE program is at the end of its two-month pilot and will be evaluated to see if it stays. Classes have been filled, and Councilmember Pollard is confident support from the police officers union will continue. He thinks part of the argument comes from other cities and police departments that have inquired about extending the program to their officers. Proof, perhaps, that the approach has merit worth considering.