Falmouth cop's Buddhist support group
A support group for Buddhist police officers, which aims to have a global reach, has been started by Falmouth's very own neighbourhood sergeant, Gary Watts.
The Buddhist Police Support Network (BPSN) is designed to provide a forum in which police officers and staff who share a common belief system can “be themselves”.
Gary said: “I am a lone Buddhist. For a while I have tried to follow a Buddhist path taking teachings that sit well with me from different traditions.
“I was surprised to learn that the majority of my Buddhist colleagues, unlike me, are wary of identifying themselves as Buddhist in the work place.
“Some colleagues have experienced the odd silly joke about being a Buddhist, which is likely the reason others don't want to be open. This is something I would like to overcome.
“However, it did take a station move and a period of time before I was willing to discuss my beliefs at work.”
After asking throughout Devon and Cornwall police, around 40 people got in touch with Gary to identify themselves as Buddhist and this inspired him to set up a support group similar to those available for officers who are black, homosexual, or Christian.
He said: “These groups are supported by the organisation to increase diversity. If a member of staff can be themselves at work they perform better.
“The group members will provide support to each other; the group will provide links for officers to other Buddhists groups in the community and a link for Buddhist groups to the force.”
Non-violence is at the heart of Buddhist thinking and behaviour and the tradition of Buddhism is essentially a peaceful one.
This can create difficulties for a police officer following the religion, as Gary explains: “As you may be aware there are conflicts between law enforcement and Buddhist practice so that can often be a challenge.”
“The typical view in Buddhism is complete non-violence, but I look at it as non-aggression,” he said.
The BPSN is now looking to connect with other police staff across the UK and the wider world and Gary has already been in contact with officers from Australia, the USA and Holland, as well as a Buddhist police group in Cambridgeshire.