Chief Ryan Johansen & Ret. Lt. Chris Orrey (Part 1) – Buddhas in Blue: Enlightened Ways to Make Policing Work For Everyone 

San Bruno Police Chief Ryan Johansen & Lt. Chris Orrey Integral Policing Buddhas in Blue

In this moving, illuminating, and impassioned discussion, retired Police Lt. Chris Orrey and San Bruno Police Chief Ryan Johansen open our eyes as to the realities of policing in today’s world and offer solutions as to how the entire institution of police work could be transformed to become more effective and sustainable, both for police officers and for the communities they serve. Ryan and Chris explain that applying an Integral approach to police work—which BTW encompasses a lot more than simply law enforcement, to include the roles of social worker, mental health counselor, EMT, and more, in crisis situations—is exactly what is needed to turn around an institution that is controversial and flailing at this point. They point out that it is essential to prioritize officer wellness—not just physical wellness but interior wellness as well—and give officers the coping mechanisms and support they need to integrate the inevitable trauma of the job and role model resilience for the victims and survivors they interact with. An Integral understanding also paves the way for police leadership to become servant-based; where leadership puts the welfare of the officers first and foremost, and in turn, officers are in peak condition, mentally, physically, emotionally, to serve and protect their communities with compassion and skill.

Nationwide, it is a time of catastrophic crisis in police recruitment and retention. Most departments are severely understaffed and morale is at a dangerous low. Chief Ryan’s San Bruno police department, however, is fully staffed and the officers have high morale. By applying the principles of the Integral Model and practicing a heartfelt, servant-based leadership style, Ryan has turned this national trend around. Whether policing impacts you directly or not, there is much to be gained by listening to this stirring conversation, which reveals so much about the realities of our society and the incredible courage, compassion, and outright nobility it takes to be a police officer—putting your life on the line to protect and serve others every single day. Recorded July 6, 2023.

“The only way to meet the community demands of modern day policing Is to deploy officers who are healthy, happy, and well adjusted human beings, with a deep commitment to a well articulated purpose.”

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Topics & Time Stamps – Part 1

  • Introducing San Bruno Police Chief Ryan Johansen and retired police Lt. Chris Orrey (01:00)
  • What does it mean to be integrally informed? (04:46)
  • Law enforcement is possibly the smallest component of what police do: the larger picture includes the roles of social worker, mental health counselor, big sister/big brother, emergency medical personnel, and more (05:49)
  • Good cops embrace the role of societal “backstop” and excel at working with other agencies who carry on after the initial emergency (09:59)
  • Is the training for cops enough? It’s gone from 3 months to 6 months (in CA), but it could really benefit from an Integral perspective (13:53)
  • Training is often used as a scapegoat: every time there is a problem in policing people say this is a training issue, but whose fault is it really? (17:20)
  • Integral leadership is essential in modern day policing (19:59)
  • The four quadrants explained and how they apply to police reform (22:32)
  • Healthy & toxic cultures in a police department are just like any other organization; they stem from how cops are taught to cope with the job and how they identify as a group (24:31)
  • The goal is resilience: cops need to embrace the trauma of the job and integrate it; trauma + integration = resilience (25:59)
  • A good integration requires a deep rooted peer support program, confidential counseling, a full paid hour of physically working out the stress of the job, wellness time, mindfulness training (27:53)
  • Reframing trauma as not just a horror to be repressed but as an inevitable part of the profession that needs to be honored (31:04)
  • Reframing trauma can also help cops better identify with victims and survivors and model that we can emerge stronger for going through the trauma (31:49)
  • The top sources of stress for a police officer are 1) watching what humans are capable of doing to others, especially children, and 2) their own police administration (34:30)
  • The double standard of expecting officers to practice procedural justice on the street when leadership is not practicing organizational justice to the cops (38:24)
  • The critical importance of servant-based leadership (39:15)

Resources & References – Part 1

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Chief of San Bruno Police Ryan Johansen

Ryan Johansen currently serves as the Chief of Police for the City of San Bruno, California, a diverse community of approximately 50,000 residents located amid the urban sprawl of the San Francisco Bay Area. Ryan has been a policing professional for approximately 20 years, beginning his career as a patrol officer with the Southeastern Division of the San Diego Police Department. Ryan transferred to the San Bruno Police Department in 2006, and in the years that followed, he has served in a variety of positions and assignments, including: Police Chief, Incident Commander, Tactical Commander, Field Services Division Lieutenant, Administrative Division Lieutenant, Watch Commander, Public Information Officer, Traffic Sergeant, Patrol Sergeant, Detective Corporal, Gang Unit Supervisor, Patrol Corporal, and Patrol Officer. Ryan served as the Investigations Commander for the San Bruno Gas Pipeline Explosion in 2008, the Incident Commander for the YouTube Active Shooter Incident in 2018, and the Tactical Commander for the Tanforan Mall Active Shooter Incident in 2019. 

Ryan has a longstanding meditation and contemplative practice and is a certified mindfulness meditation instructor. He serves as Vice President of the San Mateo County Police Chiefs and Sheriffs Association and is on the Board of the CA Police Chiefs Association. He has provided training in officer wellness, police culture, active assailant prevention and response, and public/private partnership in critical incident response all over the United States. Ryan possesses a Bachelor of Applied Sciences Degree in Law Enforcement Management, and he is currently enrolled in the Masters of Homeland Defense and Security Program at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security.

Retired police Lt. Chris Orrey, Integral Policing

Chris Orrey is a retired police lieutenant with over 30 years of service with the Hayward, California Police Department. She is a graduate of California’s Command College, an 18-month program designed to prepare law enforcement leaders for the challenges of the future, and the LAPD Leadership Training Program, which is based on the West Point Leadership Program. In true Integral fashion, she will soon have a Master’s Degree in Comparative Religion and Philosophy and will be continuing her education at the California Institute for Human Science, pursuing a doctorate degree in Integral Noetic Sciences with an emphasis on Wisdom Design. Her Master’s thesis is on the application of Wilberian Integral Theory to U.S. policing and is titled “Integral Policing: Transforming U.S. Policing via the AQAL Map.”

Chris is also a blackbelt in kajukenbo-style karate and an ordained minister of A Course in Miracles. She lives in San Francisco, California.

Podcast produced by Vanessa Santos and Show Notes by Heidi Mitchell

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