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  • Writer's pictureRachel Morgan

Transforming Chronic Violence with Mandar Apte's Cities4Peace Project

Updated: Apr 17

Cities4Peace founder-director, producer of the documentary From India With Love, meditation teacher, and former global manager of Shell Oil's prestigious GameChanger social innovation program, Mandar Apte, discusses the confluence of his work at Shell, generating and investing in ideas that create shared value – business value and social impact, and his current Cities4Peace project, an initiative to promote peace in cities worldwide by bringing together law enforcement, community members, and business leaders to work together in transforming chronic violence in cities like Los Angeles, California and San Salvador, Brazil. The natural service orientation of law enforcement officers and other first responders and the need for all of us to remember that and to respect and honor these professionals for their often heroic public service. He became very concerned about the level of violence in our societies and communities and began interviewing law enforcement professionals to better understand the contributing factors to chronic violence, how a single murder costs a community roughly one million dollars, and the economic need and potential economic benefits and opportunities connected to dramatically reducing violence in our cities.

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Transforming Chronic Violence with Mandar Apte's Cities4Peace Project Transcript

Fleet Maull:  

Hi! Welcome to another session on day six of the Global First Responder Resilience Summit.  I'm really excited to be here today with Mandar Apte. Welcome Mandar. 

Mandar Apte:  

So nice to be here with you Fleet. 

Fleet Maull:  

It's great to be with you. I am so interested in the work you're doing with Cities4Peace. I really  appreciate you taking the time to be part of this summit. Here on day six of the summit, which  is about leading healthy change and public safety. I'm going to share a little bit of your  background to familiarize our audience with you, and then we'll get right into the conversation. Sounds good? 

Mandar Apte:  

Wonderful. Thank you. 


Fleet Maull:  

Okay. Mandar Apte is the director of Cities4Peace, an initiative to promote peace in cities  worldwide. Prior to this, he has worked at Shell Oil for 17 years and managed Shell’s  pretigious GameChanger Social Innovation program, investing in ideas that create shared  value, business value, and social impact.  

In 2016 Mandar produced From India With Love, a documentary film to reinvigorate the  message of non-violence or Ahimsa in the world. Aligned with this mission in October 2018,  Mandar hosted the inaugural World Summit for countering violence and extremism that  brought together peace activists and law enforcement executives from across the world in the  spirit of promoting peace and compassion in the world.  

For nearly two decades, Mandar has taught leadership programs using meditation  practices for the International Association for Human Values, and the Art of Living Foundation.  Let's start out a little bit with your background. Let's talk about how you got involved with  public safety and reducing violence in cities. 

You're from India, and I believe you originally moved to the states to go to graduate  school. And then, pretty much stayed. Although you're back in India at the moment, visiting  family. And I think with the COVID thing, maybe you got stuck there a little bit. Share with us a  little bit about how you found your way into doing this work to try to bring peace to our cities,  and working with both the community and law enforcement. 

Mandar Apte:  

Fleet, firstly, thank you for what you are doing. Thank you for your decades of service. I'm just  getting started. I spent the last 25 years now in the United States. I came as a graduate  student, and then started working for Shell Oil Company in Houston.  

In my job, I used to travel about 200 days a year. Reflecting back on those years, I have  been part of a mob chasing me in Nigeria, several occasions where you are lost in a city. What  do we do when we see a person in uniform and we trust them, and we ask them for all kinds  of things? Like, “Officer, where is the nearest Starbucks?” 

Over my 25 years, I have never met any officer in any part of the world that would look  at me and say, “Are you stupid? Why are you asking me where is Starbucks?” So, I feel that the  officer is so into serving. We take that for granted sometimes. We should honor these men and  women who are going beyond the line of duty. Sometimes, often. We take peace for granted.  But whenever there is violence, these are the first people that will care less about their safety,  more about your safety and jump into hell.  

So, about five years ago, I started thinking about my own purpose. Like, okay. I spent 20  years in the corporate sector and I had become a scholar at George Mason University. The  reason I had left my day job is I was onto a mission of, can peace be profitable? The reason I  had started thinking about this was in the United States, we have so much violence that we  have become immune. We have been desensitized. But whenever there is an act of violence  near our neighborhoods or communities, then we might go with a candle or some flowers.  

And so, I started thinking, how can I be part of the solution to stopping violence? That is  where I got in touch with the law enforcement community. Because they are the first  responders for the very reason that they are the first to respond to any act of violence, whether  it is a personal/domestic abuse situation, or all the way to global terrorism. 

I started interviewing the law enforcement community trying to see if civil society, if  people like you and me, can complement and can be part of the solution, because we all need  more peace but we take it for granted.  

So, long story short, my involvement in public safety was primarily through a personal  key moment of truth that I won't do anything about violence or being a part of the solution until violence happens to me. Maybe my community neighborhood school. And so, that was a  wakeup call. Like, “What? I'm waiting for an act of violence to show my compassion?” And so, that took me into this rabbit hole, I would say, of peace and public safety. Public health is  included in that. 

Fleet Maull:  

You probably didn't realize how big of a rabbit hole you were jumping into at the time. But I'm  really happy that you found your way to this work. Agents for change come from all sectors of  society. Certainly, from the world of nonprofits, peace work, and social change. 

They come from people who themselves are really experiencing the violence. They  come from the public sector. But I think it's really important as well that agents of change  come from the private sector, and can bring to bear the economic engine of innovation, and the  successful economic engines of for-profit enterprise to find solutions. 

There's so much hope with the idea of social innovation and socially-purposed businesses because the economic drivers are very powerful. If we can get those going in the  right direction to support peace and to support dealing with climate change and things like  this, I think that's really powerful.  

So, very happy to see you bringing the private sector into this work. Everybody's got to  have an investment in this. I mean, our corporate world in the private sector certainly needs to  be invested in our security, from the local community to the global community. It's obviously  important. It's both important for business but it's also a responsibility, obviously, to take care  of their people and their communities.  

Police and public safety professionals of all kinds, and really many first responders, are  subject to continual high stress, a lot of exposure to both primary and secondary trauma. This  can accumulate over the course of their careers and lead to a lot of difficult health outcomes, both physical and mental health outcomes. 

And so, I'm wondering if you could talk about from your experience, the connection  between trauma and violence? I'm not talking about police violence, but generally trauma in  the world, trauma in our communities, trauma in our population, and that connection between  trauma and violence. 

Mandar Apte:  

Yeah. I mean, the connection is so obvious, but sometimes things that are obvious are blurry for  people who are in that industry or in that world. As I was meeting various stakeholders in the  law enforcement world, as well as in the communities that I was visiting, I noticed that both  sides have trauma. It's not post trauma. It's a daily trauma. Its present moment trauma.  

And so, for me, it was a realization that unless I create a space where I don't judge  other person's trauma, like you know, “Fleet, your trauma is only $5. My trauma is $50.” Then  we get into an argument whose trauma is more. But trauma is trauma. And if we create a  space where we respect, and we create a space of healing, and if we can come together  acknowledging that life is pain, everybody who is born goes through situations that create  pain, but suffering is optional. That is the education that we have to give ourselves, our  children, and the future generation. 

There are ways to healthily manage suffering, trauma. That is where we can come  together in the spirit of healing from our trauma. The beautiful thing about healing from trauma  is once you have achieved it, or once you have the modalities to do it, compassion is right there.  Compassion is not far away. We don't have to learn how to be compassionate. We don't have  to learn how to be kind. It's there. We are born with it. But trauma, misunderstandings, wrong  information, wrong knowledge can create a divide. But once that wrong knowledge, once that  misinformation or trauma is gone, then compassion is right there with you. That was the basis  of the solution that I proposed to have police leadership as well as community leadership.  

The thing that you mentioned about business playing a bigger role. The dollar number, the cost of violence for a city like, for example, Los Angeles, one homicide in Los Angeles, if  you add all the dominoes that need to fall, that need to come into play, that cost is roughly $1  million. One murder, $1 million are being spent by the taxpayer by the city. And for cities with inproportionate levels of violence, this is why we need to promote peace, is you want to save  money. Why are you wasting money on violence or the after effects of it? Let's go to the root  cause, and let's promote peace, which includes inner healing. Because if the person is not  healed from their trauma, then that creates a repeat cycle of revenge. Violence leads to violence. 

As they say in the inner city, “Hurt people hurt others.” One of the community leaders I  taught, he educated me with, “Hurt people don't always hurt other people. Hurt people may  hurt other people, depending on your coping mechanism, what books you read, who was your  grandmother.” So, hurt people may hurt other people. 

After doing my workshop, he said, “Healed people will always heal others. That's such  a profound statement. It's like whenever you have apple pie. You will not keep it to yourself. You will go and say, “Hey, you need to have an apple pie.” That's what compassion, peace, and  love, and that inner state of well-being is. If we are able to give a glimpse of that inner peace,  then I think that is one of the missing links to being part of violence reduction programs that  cities are looking for. 

Fleet Maull:  

Wow, you shared so much there. Just some really important points that you made, but that one  data point about the financial cost of a single murder, a single homicide. I mean, that is really  startling.  

And when you think of, just in our country, in the US here, much less around the world,  but some of the big cities, where there is a lot of violence and we've heard a lot in the news  about Chicago and the number of killings going on there, but all of our major urban centers have issues with way too much violence and too many homicides, and how those dollars  mount up at a million dollars a homicide and the good that could be done with those same  taxpayer dollars. You know, bills funded into prevention and things that would create support  and caring for the community and improve social cohesion and all the rest of it.  

You brought up equalizing trauma. I do really think it's important to see that there's  trauma on all sides. Certainly, there are many communities that have more than their share of  trauma, and some of it is historical. Some of it is about growing up in poverty, growing up  under racism, growing up under gender or sexual orientation oppression and things like that.  And some of that can be situational to just individual households, and, you know, problems  with addiction, alcoholism, and so forth. Childhood experiences and all the rest of it.  

And then, on the law enforcement side, all of us can have things in our background. Most of us, hardly any of us come to childhood unscathed. So, we all probably checked a few  of those boxes, as well as people in law enforcement certainly do. But then they also get exposed to a lot of traumas just by doing their job. It's kind of unavoidable that it comes with  their job that they're going to be exposed to trauma.  

And the problem is, if we don't do anything about all this, you end up, I think it's similar  in the correctional environment where I do a lot of work in corrections. You have the prisoners  or the inmate population with a lot of traumas. And of course, being in prison is traumatic. And  then you have the corrections professionals and the correctional officers on materials in  particular. They're accumulating a lot of traumas, and they have trauma in their own  background. And then you have this very polarized environment, and they're in a cycle of re traumatization with each other all the time.  

I think the same thing can happen in our community, between the community and the  police, especially in some of our more challenged areas and neighborhoods and so forth. I think  you're going right to the heart of the problem, where it needs to change.  

You talked about our innate capacity for kindness and compassion, altruistic behavior.  We share that belief and that certainty, and that faith in humanity. What gets in the way of  that is fear. Right? When that gap, the misunderstandings you said, and the fear that arises,  and trauma can set us up to be more prone to fear, and then we're back in fear and survival  mode. And that can even take us into acting out aggressively. What we need to do is lower the  fear. If we can lower the fear, create the understanding, bring people together, then our natural  innate tendencies towards kindness, compassion, altruistic behavior come out, as you've been  pointing out. So, really, so much there that you're sharing. 

I want to talk specifically about the trauma, both the cumulative trauma that many law enforcement officers and other first responders carry with them. Especially in some of our  inner-city areas. Of course, we can have the same problems out on rural areas, but in some of  our inner-city areas where I know you've been working in various cities with some of the  people that are gang involved and so forth are having gang involved, and in some of these  neighborhoods where there's a lot of gang activity, you know, there's a lot of traumas there of  all the different types I was describing a moment ago.  

So, in terms of bringing strategies and skillful means to help people heal their trauma,  or to provide them the tools to heal their own trauma, to provide them the tools to heal their  own trauma. I know you've been involved a lot with meditation over many, many years. And so, I'm curious about what you're seeing as effective. What are the tools that you're offering to people that they can learn to sort of manage and heal their own trauma, so that it doesn't  trigger us into those cycles of violence?


Mandar Apte:  

Yeah. This misunderstanding doesn't just happen outside. It happens in our own homes as  well. Beautiful relationships are those that have learned how to agree to disagree, as anybody  in a relationship will know, right?  

There will never be two people who will agree on everything. But some people have  the training or exposure, the wisdom to agree to disagree. It comes natural to them. I think this  is something that can be taught, especially if you are now looking at a relationship between  communities of color and police.  

Let's focus on the police. Most of the police academies that I have visited, they will have  programs on tactical training. If you ask the police chief or the police leadership, “Can you  prove to us that your police officers that are going out in the neighborhoods are mentally fit?”  Then, that list of things that the police leadership will give you is not enough. It may include a  1-800 number, right? And a suicide hotline. It could include therapy sessions once a month, or  you know, have a coffee with a cop.  

That's not enough. My experience working with many large police academies and  police officers, is the police officer or law enforcement officer has taken on responsibility on  their shoulder, right, and they are not trained to say, “Chief, I think I have a mental health  issue.” They're just not going to say that because that's not part of their ethos. They are  supposed to be macho and deal with stuff.  

I think my request to whoever is watching, especially police leaders, that this pandemic  has left every household on the planet with emotional scars. It doesn't matter whether you're  black, white, rich, poor, young, old, gated community, inner city. It doesn't matter. Use this  opportunity and provide your police staff with training on mental health and well-being. Not  optional. Make it part of the curriculum. Make it part of learning another skill, professional  development. Just like we learn how to brush our teeth. We don't get any joy from it, but we  do it every day. It's mechanical. We do that time investment because we are concerned about  dental hygiene. The same we need to think about mental hygiene.  

And that is where, the science of meditation, the science of yoga, the science of  breathing exercises, can help each individual because there is a beautiful link between negative emotions and breathing patterns. We have experienced that whenever we are angry,  our breath is fast. Whenever we are sad, we are silent. Officers for sure know this. When they  meet people on the street who are undergoing depression, they would absolutely have noticed  that the person is not breathing. 

Anxiety. I'm sure officers have met people who are anxious. So, this is the beautiful  Universal Science that emotions in the mind have a specific breathing pattern. The reverse is  also true. Using breathing, you can manage your emotions. Isn't this important for an officer?  Absolutely it is because they have to be situationally aware. That is my request to people who  are going to watch this police leadership.  

On the other hand, community members, because their whole neighborhoods are  impregnated with violence of different kinds. Sometimes, police leaders may have learned how  to manage conflicts as part of the Academy. But communities underserved marginalized. You  can assume it that this training of conflict resolution, of how to calm down emotions, it's not  part of any educational system.  

So, the first thing we also did during my work in LA is go to the neighborhood school,  educate the teachers and the principal that, “Hey, why don't you include this in your curriculum  because kids need to learn how to manage that trauma.” That needs to be done for our  community as well. The school becomes a good place where these tools are taught because  it's education. Mental health is also an education.  

I think that is where some of the philosophies that are associated with Eastern  traditions, they have a natural benefit. That was my calling a few years ago. Having been a  meditation teacher for nearly two decades, I was teaching in the corporate sector, I felt a  calling that this wisdom of meditation breathing, I would like to now bring it to the  communities or the organizations that need this the most because there is no access to this  knowledge, right? For whatever reason, there is a bias that are in the patients.  

And that is where, I think today, post pandemic recovery, leaders and organizations, I  think need to wake up because they have to. It is imperative that we re-imagine our purpose,  our impact. Violence is avoidable. It's a public health issue. It's preventable. Emotions need to  be managed, and there are healthy ways to do it.  

This is my call to action. It's the 21st century. Things are available online. You can easily create modules like we have done. We have created a module. Officers use this module in their own privacy, so that they don't need to share with other people that they are sitting quiet.  Because societal programming/conditioning has told us to be active. So, I think that is where  we can use the modern-day technologies, apps and online education, to bring this education of  healing from trauma.  

My request then, because I've worked with police officers in LA, just incredible souls,  okay, incredible. I have seen them caring for the community. They will play basketball with  them. They will play baseball with them. So, why not an officer because they are sworn as  peace officers, why not an officer learn how to teach yoga, breathing, and meditation practices? What's the downside? I think communities will love it.  

Yes, initially, there will be a taboo. Like, “Officer Joe is doing yoga, breathing exercises.” But once the community learns that, hey, there's something good here, they will respect. So, I  think that would be 21st Century policing. Take care of your neighborhoods. That's what your  job is. Be in the prevention space, not after violence has happened.  

I think that would be a good thing to do. And the community members, actually the  police, should not even be answering some calls, right? I think that's where communities need  to also take ownership for mental health and well-being. Resources need to be provided.  Access to these ways of healing need to be provided, so that communities are empowered.  

Fleet Maull:  

Absolutely. We know so much. I mean, you're talking about basic self-regulation skills that we  all need as human beings. Most of us when we went to school, we didn't learn anything about  how to manage this most complex system in any known university. Human brain, nervous  system, body and so forth. We didn't get a lot of training on how to communicate with other  people to mutually get our needs met in mutually beneficial ways, or to deal with conflict. We  learned lots of good stuff and skills, but what could be more important than being able to  manage ourselves and communicate with others to get our needs met in mutually beneficial  ways, right? 

So fortunately, now, this age-old wisdom from the east and from your country, from  other India, with meditation and yoga and breath work and all that, we have now the  worldwide mindfulness movement, and all the neuroscientific research and all these different  skills. And so, now we have a body of knowledge that is evidence based, that's grounded in  science. We know how to do all these things that you're talking about. It's having the political  will to actually bring this into society. Fortunately, the combination of mindfulness training and social emotional learning is being brought into K through 12 educations in many places.  Unfortunately, often it's places of privilege but not exclusively so. There are some inner-city schools where this is being done. 

Your vision of police officers in the community teaching meditation, teaching yoga, teaching breathwork is such a beautiful vision. It's really about shifting all the resources we  end up spending on the back end of the system, where things are already out of control, people's lives are out of control. And then, we had all the money we spent warehousing them to get all this shifted to the front end around prevention as you're talking about. 

Even when there needs to be an arrest, one vision I've probably had for quite some  time, although you’re saying 21st century policing, evidence-based policing, and policing  informed by those kinds of work you're talking about. So, an arrest needs to happen and police  officers put someone in handcuffs and get them into the back of a squad car. And then, they're  saying or maybe even before that saying, “Look, let's breathe together. You don't want to hurt  me. I don't want to hurt. We’re going to get through this together. You got to go through the  arrest, then you're going to get a lawyer. You're in that process now, but let's breathe together.  Let's take care of each other. Let's make sure none of us get hurt here. And we'll just get  through this together.” You know, something like that. I think all these things you're describing  are entirely possible, right? 

Mandar Apte:  

Yeah. The example you just mentioned, I'm sure officers do it. 


Fleet Maull:  

I know some officers are doing it.  

Mandar Apte:  

I’m sure officers would because they have to do it. How will they manage their emotions? They  can't just say in their mind, “Be quiet, be quiet, be quiet. Be calm, be calm.” Right? So, that's  where the breath is a tool in your toolkit.  

Most grandmothers have said to us, “If you get angry, count to 10.” That's part of every  tradition, globally. Now, there is no magic in 10. What that does is it harmonizes your breath.  And then, you don't do things out of that anger, which later on you will regret. That wisdom,  you can say, is Policing 101.

Fleet Maull:  

Absolutely. To be able to self-regulate. To be able to make good decisions and so forth then. 

Mandar Apte:  

This will not only improve their health, right? So, if you're again talking about money, police  officers because of stress, because of challenges, day off is cost. Yeah? 

Fleet Maull:  

Absolutely. Healthcare costs, absenteeism costs, and all the rest of it that can be turned  around. 

Mandar Apte:  

That is then becomes a lawsuit is cost. And if you do a debrief of situational, like how could the  officer have handled it, that's again, that this training, the tools in the toolkit, if they are accessible, the police officer will be able to manage the situation more effectively. 

Fleet Maull:  

We spoke about the academies a moment ago. I know even your work in the corporate sector,  you know in the corporate sector they often talk about the hard skills and the soft skills. And  then, you get same thing in law enforcement. I really believe we need to dissolve that  boundary. The so-called soft skills in the corporate world, things like emotional intelligence,  and so forth, and self-regulation skills are actually more determinant of success than the so called hard skills. But you know, they can be completely integrated.  

Any tactical training can have mindfulness and breath work built into it. There isn't any  kind of tactical training you could do that you couldn't be inviting officers and recruits, academy  participants to be practicing breath regulating and mindfulness while they're doing the other  kind of tactical training. I mean, it really needs to be integrated from the very beginning, so that  your graduating recruits and officers that have these capacities for self-regulation to manage  their own physiology, which allows you to manage your own emotions, which allows you to  manage your own decisions effectively. I mean, this just needs to be right there from the  beginning. 

Mandar Apte:  

Yeah. I have now taught not only law enforcement but also folks in the military. My  assessment is that these structures are top down. The success of my work in Los Angeles happened because the Chief of Police attended my breath-based meditation leadership  workshop with his own spouse. He felt the transformation within the four-day program.  

That's when he said, “Hey, these tools can be useful for my beat officer, my officer who  is in community relations.” So, I think my request to the leadership of policing organizations is  you have to model the change. And because your organization is inherently top down, the  officer needs to feel comfortable that what he is doing will not be made fun of. And that is why  your leadership team needs to invest time in learning this wisdom and practicing it because  you cannot advocate unless you practice it.  

And so, that is where this pandemic is calling out for such leaders. You have to be the  change for your organizations, for your community, for your city. I would say the police chief is  a caretaker of the city. So, prevention and how you spend your time on your own mental well being is so important. And if you can be a role model for that, then the chain of command will  follow it because they are inspired by you. 

Fleet Maull:  

Absolutely. It's really important for public safety leaders not just to make the decision to  support this kind of work, provide the budget, and bring in training for line sets, but it's  important that public safety leaders model it themselves, right? Model good self-care and a  more holistic approach to working in resilient ways and so forth. Because when leaders model  it, then that's when it really has great influence.  

I'd like to talk a bit about your Cities4Peace program. There has been a breakdown in  trust in many communities, between the community and the police. Not universally but on  some levels within some sectors.  

Here in the US where we've had so many of these tragic police shootings and police  killings of unarmed persons of color and unarmed people all together, both people of color and  Caucasian people, but it's particularly impacted the communities of color, and led to some real  breakdowns in trust. Unfortunately, our justice system wasn’t really dealing with it either.  

It seems like now police are going to be held accountable. But at the same time, it's  created an environment of blaming police, and police have a really tough job. The answer isn't  going completely the other way and getting punitive and having police be terrified of the  community and terrified of doing their job, right. So, it's really about creating the trust. 

If somebody in uniform actually does something that is really criminal and needs to be  dealt with, that needs to be dealt with by the justice system. But before that, we have to find ways to rebuild the trust. 

And so, I'm curious. On the ground, what Cities4Peace are doing in Los Angeles and  other communities. Because I know you work with law enforcement, you work with the  community, you work with either currently gang involved or formerly gang involved members  of the community. You've also brought business leaders from the private sector into these  programs. Could you talk about how that works and how you're actually rebuilding that trust? 

Mandar Apte:  

Yeah. I think, again, the learnings from corporate sector or even your home on the role of  communication, communication, and communication is so important in building trust, in  building those bridges. Because once that communication breaks, then we are always  misunderstanding or misperceiving what has happened.  

So, if you look at the mechanics of where trust breaks, you either perceive things  wrongly, you either observe things wrongly, and then its observation written as well as print  and media, or you express things wrongly. So, whenever somebody is stressed, you will see  that these three levels of communication suffer. One is perception, observation, and  expression.  

That is where the Cities4Peace program starts with giving people tools to manage their  mental well-being, because if you are stressed, then you are, by default, going to have a wrong  perception, wrong observation. When your stress goes away, you are going to say, “Oh, was it  that?” So, that is the root, the cornerstone of our program is to give people tools based on this  science of the breath that I was explaining before to manage their own stress, manage their  own well-being. So, that becomes step number one.  

Step number two is related to this. It is trauma healing. The trauma doesn't have to be  today's trauma. It could be trauma that happened 20 years ago that still rules your life because  whatever happens, it creates a bias, and an inhibition, and a fear. So, as you continue these  breathing exercises, you are healing yourself from that trauma. “Being free from that mental  impression of an event or a situation.” 

With these two steps, I think the individual is stronger in terms of being mentally fit to  listen to the other side, right? Because like I said, if we are not mentally ready, mentally calm, composed, compassionate, we are not going to listen to the other side with that compassion.  We are going to judge. But when we are stress free, when we are mentally in that city in  space, we will listen and observe with compassion.  

If both sides learn how to do this, then that is when we bring the conversation between  the two sides. Usually, when I've started doing this work three or four years ago, people talk  about restorative justice. My only question is, there's nothing wrong about restorative justice  circles, it's a great idea. But the person who is holding the space and the people who are in  that space, they need to restore themselves every day. Right? 


So that is where this work, the inner work, will help improve that restorative justice  practice as well. Because you cannot start conversations unless the trauma is healed, because  it will keep coming back, right? You did this and, you know, five years ago, you behaved this  way. Right? So that is where the cornerstone of our programs is building the inner strength of  the individual. The second step, like I explained, is having conversations between people who  want to have conversations, right? So, we are not forcing the conversation.  

The third step is we actually want the community to learn how to promote this trauma healing, peace work, and become peace builders. Because, you know, the field of peace building also needs to be contextualized and brought to a community level, or even at an  individual level. The reason is that the community leader has a much more connect with what  is happening with an individual and can influence that person before even that person does an  act of violence.  

So, I think that is where we need to build the strength of the peace building. And so  that is what we do in our programs, is we want to create these ambassadors of peace, who are  going to share this wisdom of breath, healing, trauma, relief, compassion, through practical  ways, and transform their identity. 

If you have been, let's say, a formerly incarcerated person, on the last day of this  certification program, I ask them, “So, have you sold drugs?” And they will say, “Yes.” So, I say,  “That means you know the art of selling. I want you now to sell peace.” And the twinkle in  their eye, the smile on their face. Because you are no longer your past identity. Right? You have  transformed yourself. You are no longer that past person. You have gone through this  programming on inner well-being and teaching other people. You have a whole new life ahead  of you. 

So, that is where I think we need to transform communities, marginalized communities,  because the wisdom of how best to transform the community needs to come from that  community. And so, you need to focus on empowering the peace building and healing the  victims of violence, the survivors of violence, because we all move on. 

As an American society we move on. But what does a person, who has just lost a loved  one on gang shooting or to a suicide do? That is where we have to take this knowledge. That's  our calling in Cities4Peace. We want community members to be actively involved in peace  building. Because who wants violence? Nobody wants it. We have to take ownership for  promoting peace. We cannot be bystanders. Right? We cannot wait for an act of violence, so  we can actively promote peace. Right? 

Make it part of the curriculum in your neighborhood schools. Demand for it. And police  can play that role of a catalyst. Police leadership has the influence, has the ear of the mayor, has the ear of the city council. So, police leadership can work together with the community  because more peace, more mental well-being is good for the police departments. You will not  be called in those neighborhoods. That can be your achievement. You enabled it. You are a  peace officer. 

Fleet Maull:  

Wow! This is really a beautiful vision. I'm very happy that it's not just a vision, but it's  something that you've actually been doing through Cities4Peace in Los Angeles and other  major cities. It's just really encouraging work because obviously there's so much work to do. We've all seen with COVID-19 how sometimes our infrastructure around public health has  been lacking, and our commitment to public health. And really, violence is a public health issue  as well.  

I have friends in Chicago that take an epidemiological approach to violence in our cities. It really is a public health issue. It's about bringing people the skills, information, and  knowledge. And to have our law enforcement officers and first responders be community  leaders in bringing that to the communities. It's such a beautiful vision. I really want to applaud  you on your work and encourage people to check out. So, Cities4Peace. 

Mandar Apte: We are a peace consultancy, nonprofit organization. We actively work with  city leaders, community leaders on designing solutions where we can complement everything  else that you are doing. Because our solutions are based on breath, work, profound breathing exercises that will within four days give you a whole new person and a toolkit of techniques  that you can use on a daily basis. 

Transformation is not a destination. It's a journey worth exploring. And that is where  you need tools, you need friends, you need wisdom. It's just like going on a long drive, right? After a while you need to pause, look at the scene, stop, go to the food court. Right? So, that is  what transformation as well is. And situations and events like the pandemic need to wake us  up because that means we have to transform and be even more bold. 

Police leadership I would say are innovators. Police are innovators. This is now what  your call to action is. How do you build better unless you transform the mental health and  well-being of the city and the community you serve? So, be radical. I see behind you a book.  Radical Responsibility, is that correct?  

Fleet Maull:  

That's right. Yeah.  

Mandar Apte:  

That's the slogan of this conversation. 

Fleet Maull:  

Absolutely. Well, thank you so much Mandar. Mandar Apte, director of Cities4Peace. Thank  you so much for the work you do and for everything you shared with us today. And really, what you're speaking is that innovation we need. 

We need to really get out of the boxes and really innovate. And we have the tools and  the science and the knowledge east and west to really do the work. We just got to do it. So, thank you so much for leading the way. 

Mandar Apte:  

Yeah. And then, my gratitude to you and all the law enforcement executives that will be  watching this. Your service is humbling, inspiring. And this has been a very turbulent year. So, thank you for everything that you have done for the cities and communities you serve. 

We are available for being a thought partner, being part of the solution, because we are  in it together. We are not separate from civil society. We cannot be away from the solution  that we can design.


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