The 'Lizard Brain' and police officer safety
The amygdala is tasked with regulating emotions and activating the body's earliest warning system for danger so survival actions can follow
I’ve received this link from perhaps 20 people in just the one week I’d spent in New York City for the 10-year anniversary of 9/11. The video below, posted to YouTube by a user called ‘unleashing respect’ some four months ago, has received a more than 2,200 views but remained unknown to me until the hail of email I got about it while in Manhattan. So, upon my return from NYC, I watched it, and once I got past the fact that it’s presented in a cartoon format, I realized this to be a really valuable video.
At some point in your training you very likely have heard (or read) about something called the Lizard Brain — a.k.a. the amygdala — which the video describes as regulating emotions and activating the body's earliest warning system for danger so survival actions can follow. Dropping names like Kevin Gilmartin and phrases like hypervigilance, and alluding to the effects of tunnel vision and auditory exclusion (the video specifically mentions the instances in which a female subject fires on an officer focused on the male she’s with, a subject about which I have previously written), this video is at once entertaining and informative.
Check out the video now, and then scroll down for more on the men who created it.
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“The goal of this was to teach some pretty high-level brain science in sort of a 7th-grade, non-confrontational fashion,” Colwell told me. “There are people out there who have a negative perception of police because of what they see on YouTube, or maybe what they’ve seen on the street, and the last thing they want to have happen when they’re already upset is to have someone lecture them. They’re far more likely to respond to something like a cartoon that teaches them something than somebody lecturing them on the same subject. We wanted to use language and ideas that anybody would understand—everybody has been startled in their own home, so everybody can relate to that idea.”
In essence, this video — and others that will soon follow from the same team of people — brings to the Internet much of the materials discussed in a book co-authored by Huth and Colwell. Entitled Unleashing the Power of Unconditional Respect: Transforming Law Enforcement and Police Training, the book (available on Amazon, where I just ordered my copy) “examines ways to effect organizational change that helps police officers inspire community trust and support with every citizen contact.”
Colwell and Huth will soon be releasing additional videos, and also have a blog you can check out here. Now that we’ve connected, I’m confident that Jack and I will speak again in coming weeks.
One last item of note. Toward the end of our call, Colwell solved for me the mystery as to why so many people emailed me the same link in such a short span of time. Apparently, my good friend and PoliceOne colleague Chuck Remsberg had written in the Force Science Newsletter about this thing shortly before my departure for New York. In my email inbox I don’t have that particular edition (and don’t see it posted yet in the online archives) but that would definitely explain how I got flooded with email on it!
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