Rockwall Police Take Unique, ‘SMART' Approach to Critical Decision-Making

The Rockwall Police Department is putting 30 of its staff through multiple training sessions with the Center for Brain Health at UT Dallas' SMART Brain Training program

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The Rockwall Police Department is taking a unique approach to public safety by training its staff to make better decisions during critical moments.

“It’s unlike any police training that we’ve been through. And it isn’t focused on policing. It is focused on the brain,” said Rockwall Chief of Police Max Geron.

Geron will ultimately have 30 sworn officers and civilian supervisors from his department take part in SMART Brain Training, conducted by clinicians with The Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas.

SMART stands for Strategic Memory Advanced Reasoning Tactics. The researchers with UT Dallas help participants improve how their brain receives, categorizes, and prioritizes information with the goal of making better decisions.

“I truly feel like what I have done is meaningful and successful if everyone walks out thinking, ‘I have control over how my brain is functioning,’” said Katie Hinds, a clinician who helps lead SMART Brain Training programs.

katie hinds
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Katie Hinds, a clinician with UT Dallas' SMART program.

Hinds said the SMART program is designed to help someone like a police officer learn specific strategies to sort through the noise of a stressful situation.

“Especially for when we are working with law enforcement, they are in a high-stress, demanding environment with a lot of information coming at them,” Hinds said. “However, we try to encourage them to even just limit their multitasking by 10%. If you have all this information coming in, what is one thing you can take away, what is one thing you can take out of the equation so you can prioritize and focus on the task and information that is the most important?”

Geron previously underwent similar training with the Center for BrainHealth in his former role with the Dallas Police Department, so he knew the benefit his officers would receive.

“It is my goal that this team of supervisors, who are the next generation of law enforcement leaders, are equipped and trained how to better focus, how to use their brains to innovate the strategies and the answers to the complex problems that law enforcement is transitioning through,” Geron said. “It’s the future of where we have to go in policing. We are presented with complex problems. If we don’t do the training, we will go along and get along until something bad happens, and we are unprepared for developing or creating a solution.”

The Center for BrainHealth has previously put other police officers through the SMART program. What sets the Rockwall Police Department apart, according to Hinds, is that most officer training is ‘one and done,’ and is completed through a maximum of two sessions in two days. By contrast, Rockwall has made an organizational commitment to training multiple officers over multiple sessions over a four-month period.

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