Georgia Southern researchers are working with the Georgia Public Safety Training Center to revise training standards for state public safety officers

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Bridget Melton, Ed.D., works with leaders at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center.

Researchers from Georgia Southern University’s Tactical Athlete Readiness and Preparedness Program (TARP) have partnered with the Georgia Public Safety Training Center (GPSTC) to ensure the readiness and resilience of Georgia’s public safety officers.

Members of TARP at the Waters College of Health Professions have worked to revise fitness training standards for Georgia police cadets with an emphasis on functional fitness, mental resilience and injury prevention.

In addition, the program has partnered with the GPSTC, Georgia’s premier training facility for all state and local public safety units, including police, fire and communications.

Bridget Melton, Ed.D., professor of human movement sciences and senior faculty member of TARP, said high levels of stress and health concerns put some police and public safety officers at high risk of cardiovascular disease or other deadly diseases.

“Our program provides state academies with fitness exercises that improve cadets’ overall fitness and focuses on injury prevention,” Melton said. “Our program focuses on work-related fitness, hopefully encouraging a more positive view of exercise that will stay with cadets after they complete their academy training.”

Richard Cleveland, Ed.D., associate professor of leadership, technology and human development, leads resilience and mental health for the TARP team and has created a mindfulness-based tactical lesson plan for the state of Georgia.

“Tactical athletes need resilience and mental health training and support, but too often it’s only offered as a one-off workshop or seminar,” Cleveland said. “Our program taps into the state’s resilience curriculum for public officials, but provides “bite-sized” mindfulness practices within the fitness program. This gives cadets repeated practice in using mindfulness and embedding it in context using police language, actions and behaviors.”

The partnership was made possible because GPSTC received a subgrant from the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council to fund TARP at their facilities due to the program’s comprehensive view of officer well-being, which aims to enhance recruits’ de-escalation skills through mental and physical training to enhance .

“We are excited to partner with the GPSTC and the Tactical Athlete Readiness and Preparedness Program,” said Chris Wigginton, Director of the GPSTC. “This partnership will enable public safety professionals to be better prepared for their personal and professional lives. Some of the many benefits include a reduction in injuries, better preparation to use needed skills in rapidly evolving situations, and the resilience and mental health component. As word got around that the GPSTC could implement this program, we have already been contacted by several states regarding the initiative.”

In addition, graduate students from the Department of Health Sciences and Kinesiology participate in the program and gain hands-on, first-hand experience by conducting training and assessments for government instructors.

TARP is part of Georgia Southern’s Tactical Athlete Initiative, which aims to reduce injuries and increase the readiness and preparedness of tactical athletes. The interdisciplinary team consists of the following Georgia Southern faculty members:

• Bridget Melton, Ed.D., Professor

• Richard Cleveland, Ed.D., Associate Professor

• Greg Grosicki, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

Haresh Rochani, DrPH, Associate Professor

• Mary Beth Yarbrough, Lecturer

• Sarah Davis, Lecturer

TARP is just one example of the work of Georgia Southern University’s Tactical Athlete Initiative. The Tactical Athlete Initiative is a multidisciplinary collaboration that provides research, training, and support to military, law enforcement, fire, and emergency responders. The Tactical Athlete Initiative works with multiple agencies including the Statesboro Police Department, Statesboro Fire Department, Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office, Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, Waycross Fire Department, Georgia Public Safety Training Centers, Federal Law Enforcement Training Center and the United States Army.