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Be Fit, Be Well, Be More: Making Wellness an Operational Priority in Law Enforcement

Sheriff Robert Jonsen | May 3, 2024
Sheriff Robert Jonsen Talks with Julie Learmond-Criqui from Courageous Heart

What would happen if law enforcement agencies prioritized wellness and resilience at the top of their organizational goals? Below, get inspired by Bob Jonsen — Sheriff of Santa Clara County — who is making significant contributions to establish and share initiatives that support this vision alongside other leaders in his organization. In the following interview, Sheriff Jonsen discusses this groundbreaking work with Julie Learmond-Criqui — program director for Compassion Institute’s Courageous Heart trainings.

Since becoming Sheriff of Santa Clara County, you have been selected to Chair the California State Sheriffs Association’s first Wellness Committee. Tell us about your goals and how the committee will be supporting wellness for Sheriff's Office personnel in California.

The committee is tasked with developing new ideas and sharing perspectives to better deliver information, resources, and programs focused on health and wellness. In April of this year, we hosted our first Wellness Workshop for law enforcement personnel and covered Peer Support Programs, including Processing Trauma and Building a Toolkit to Thrive.


The workshop was well received, and another one will be scheduled for the end of the year. We will also be presenting these topics to the state’s 58 sheriffs at the CSSA Annual Conference in June.

In your own organization, how important is health and wellness, and what is your commitment?

The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office has made health and wellness an operational priority and we have adopted the motto of “Be Fit. Be Well. Be More.” The average life expectancy of a law enforcement officer is 57 years. That’s 22 years less than the general population. Contributing factors include long hours, sleep deprivation, chronic stress, and dangerous working conditions. Additionally, limited time with family and friends and burnout can take a toll.

The Sheriff’s Office recognizes how these stressors affect mental, emotional, and physical health and well-being. We strive to provide a healthy environment, programs, trainings, and services to encourage health and wellness. We want our employees to thrive — not just survive their careers, and continue to thrive well past the age of 57. We believe that mentally and physically fit employees result in safer communities and happier families.


In Fall 2023, we hired a wellness coordinator to oversee and collaborate with individuals, groups, and other organizations to support our employees’ overall health and wellness. Our coordinator has been instrumental in motivating the workforce to be engaged in their own well-being. She consistently sends information on healthy habits and provides detailed recommendations for staff to implement into their daily routine. One popular program is our “Wellness Wednesday” campaign where every week a new fitness video is sent out and all staff are allowed to wear their “Unleash Your Potential” t-shirt.

Does compassion training play a part?

Yes, we have offered Compassion Institute’s Courageous Heart POST-certified resilience, compassion, and leadership training to all supervisors — and more than 100 have so far taken part. The feedback has been phenomenal, and we are working on providing the training to all members of the organization as soon as funding is identified. We are also offering Compassion Cultivation Training© to our inmate population, thanks to CCT™ facilitators Chanda Dharap and Christine Ferry. The first group will complete the 8-week course in June.