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How a light therapy program is illuminating the path to improved officer health

The introduction of light therapy lamps at the Castle Rock (Colo.) Police Department is just one part of the agency’s robust officer wellness program

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A Castle Rock police officer reviews paperwork at a work station in the patrol room. He is utilizing one of the Police Department’s new therapy lamps.

Photo/Castle Rock Police Department

In an era where wellness and workplace health are increasingly becoming focal points of organizational strategies, a Colorado police department is taking innovative steps to ensure the well-being of its staff.

The Castle Rock Police Department has unveiled a light therapy program aimed at addressing the unique challenges faced by its workforce, particularly those working night shifts or in environments with limited natural light.

This initiative, centered around the installation of light therapy lamps throughout the department’s facilities, seeks to harness the power of bright, full-spectrum light to mimic natural sunlight, thereby offering a plethora of health benefits. From regulating sleep cycles and enhancing mood to boosting energy levels and improving focus, the program is designed to offer a holistic approach to wellness.

If you have ever worked the night shift, you know how challenging it is to get quality sleep. According to light therapy lamp manufacturer Verilux, the lamps can significantly improve multiple aspects of wellness, including:

  • Sleep regulation: Working night shifts or prolonged exposure to environments lacking natural sunlight may interfere with the body’s internal clock, resulting in disturbed sleep patterns. Introducing oneself to bright light for 30 minutes shortly after waking can stimulate the production of hormones responsible for regulating well-being, specifically those managing circadian rhythms — the natural cycle of sleep and wakefulness.
  • Mood stabilization: The lack of sunlight during winter or working indoors may adversely affect one’s mood. Light therapy lamps can serve as a remedy by mimicking the beneficial effects of sunlight, helping to alleviate feelings of fatigue and low mood.
  • Energy enhancement: Utilizing light therapy can activate the body’s natural mechanisms for increasing energy, effectively reducing feelings of tiredness and lethargy. This boost in energy ensures heightened alertness and concentration, enabling individuals to approach their tasks with increased enthusiasm and efficiency.
  • Focus improvement: Applying 10,000 lux of full-spectrum light supports vital bodily functions and enhances mental focus and clarity. This intensity of light is crucial for maintaining an elevated level of alertness and engagement, significantly improving the ability to concentrate and excel in various tasks. [1]

In this Q&A with the Castle Rock Police Department, we explore the agency’s innovative program.

1. Can you explain the decision-making process behind the introduction of light therapy lamps within the department? What specific wellness challenges were you aiming to address with this initiative?

The introduction of light therapy lamps at the Castle Rock Police Department is just one part of a broad, robust wellness program. Each resource added is specific to the wellness needs of those in the policing profession.

“Our command staff recognizes that in addition to resources and tools that focus on officer SURVIVAL, we also need to put an emphasis on officer THRIVAL. We know sleep is a major component of overall health and there is a strong connection between sleep quality and physical performance, mental processes and decision-making,” said Castle Rock Commander Sam Varela. “Unfortunately, sleep is often compromised for shift workers, and it can become challenging for them to maintain healthy circadian rhythms.”

In his research, Commander Varela found exposure to specific wavelengths of light at certain times of a person’s waking hours can contribute to a healthy and consistent circadian rhythm.

“This was once achieved naturally when we spent the majority of our time outside during sunlight hours. But now, modern living has dramatically changed the amount of time we spend in natural light. This is even more pronounced for shift workers who may go months without seeing the sun,” said Commander Varela. “We have artificially provided that for them with these lights which we’ve placed at work stations in our patrol rooms, consoles in dispatch, quiet rooms and in offices where there aren’t windows offering natural light.”


A Castle Rock police dispatcher uses one of CRPD’s new therapy lamps at her console. In order to reduce glare on screens, the dispatch center doesn’t utilize a lot of natural light from exterior windows.

Photo/Castle Rock Police Department

2. Are there any preliminary results or feedback from officers and staff on the effectiveness of the light therapy lamps in improving sleep, mood, energy and focus? How are these outcomes being measured or evaluated?

The Castle Rock Police Department is not conducting any formal sleep studies of our team members related to these new lights; however, anecdotally, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive thus far.

“When we first introduced these lights, we were unsure of the response we were going to get,” said Commander Varela. “But right away, a number of officers reached out and let us know they felt the lights had a positive impact on their mood and energy levels, so much so, they requested additional lights.”

As a result, CRPD purchased six more lights to be strategically placed throughout the police department.

“Right away, a number of officers let us know they felt the lights had a positive impact on their mood and energy levels, so much so, they requested additional lights.

3. How does the introduction of light therapy lamps fit into the broader wellness and health initiatives under the department’s One-By-One Policing philosophy?

The Castle Rock Police Department’s One-By-One Policing philosophy is to serve people one-by-one so together, creating environments that are safe and secure and where people can thrive. Serving people one-by-one starts within the organization.

“As police leaders, we must ensure we are creating environments that are both physically and psychologically safe for our team members,” said Castle Rock Police Chief Jack Cauley. “It’s a direct correlation. If our members feel safe, supported and valued at work, that directly translates to their interactions with people in the community. They will be compassionate and understanding which in turn will help us build trust with our residents and community members.”

“Our wellness program is the most influential way we create those safe and secure environments internally,” added Commander Varela. “Each component of our wellness program is designed to make sure our officers and team members can thrive at the Police Department.”

In addition to the new light therapy lamps, the Castle Rock Police Department’s wellness program follows “eight dimensions of wellness,” designed to develop competency in physical, intellectual, environmental, emotional, financial, social, spiritual and occupational wellnesses.


The Castle Rock Police Department’s building renovations in 2023 included the expansion of the fitness center to include a dedicated cardio room.

Photo/Castle Rock Police Department

Some examples of programs that fall under these categories include paid/on-duty workout time, free access to mental health services that specialize in first responder needs, physical therapy sessions, access to in-house personal trainers, mindfulness training, financial wellness training, peer support, chaplains program, quiet rooms and more. These examples fall under the People, Innovation and Community umbrellas:

  • People: We invest in our team members by providing quality training and the best equipment available. We are laser focused on creating a healthy organizational culture where our team members can thrive internally so that positivity can translate to our everyday interactions with the community. Healthy, happy team members make good decisions and treat others with dignity and respect.
  • Innovation: As it pertains to wellness, we are constantly evaluating the needs of our team members and leveraging technology in innovative ways to meet those needs. The therapy light boxes are a perfect example.
  • Community: Officers and team members are part of the greater Castle Rock community. We need to have thriving members of the policing profession so we can build trust with residents, business owners and visitors.
Fitness Yard 1.jpg

CRPD officers utilize the department’s outdoor fitness yard. Officers receive four hours of paid workout time each week as part of the agency’s Employee Fitness Incentive Team (e-Fit) program.

Photo/Castle Rock Police Department

4. Do you have plans to expand the light therapy lamp initiative based on the initial results or feedback? Are there additional wellness technologies or strategies the department is considering to further support the well-being of your officers and staff?

The Castle Rock Police Department is always monitoring and evaluating the wellness program to determine how to best support team members. With the understanding that member input is the surest way to develop best practices, Command Staff created the In the Details program. This gives members an immediate way to provide suggestions for improvement. QR codes are strategically placed around police facilities so members can scan and then send their recommendations directly to command staff. It’s a great way to get everyone involved and invested in their physical and mental fitness as well as ensure our members’ needs are being heard and satisfied.

Quiet 1.jpg

One of two quiet rooms at the Castle Rock Police Department. Team members utilize these rooms to decompress, practice mindfulness, sleep between duty assignments or meet with a mental health clinician.

Photo/Castle Rock Police Department

5. What advice would you give to other police departments or organizations looking to implement similar wellness initiatives?

“Much like survival skills, ‘thrival’ skills require an attitude and mindset that has to be embraced,” said Commander Varela. “If you want wellness or any other initiative to be part of your organizational culture, you need to have people at all levels modeling it and messaging it consistently. The greatest endorsement our program can receive is when one of our members gives positive testimony to their teammates about their experiences with our wellness resources. That’s authentic and the best compliment we could ask for.”

To maintain its robust wellness program, the agency has a wellness program budget. With input from its members, command staff is constantly assessing and projecting what the members’ needs are going to be and exploring ways the program can be expanded to provide the most efficacy.

“When we’re people centric and focus on the wellness needs of our team members, the operational successes follow,” said Commander Varela.


1. Verilux. Benefits of light therapy.

Nancy Perry is Editor-in-Chief of Police1 and Corrections1, responsible for defining original editorial content, tracking industry trends, managing expert contributors and leading the execution of special coverage efforts.

Prior to joining Lexipol in 2017, Nancy served as an editor for emergency medical services publications and communities for 22 years, during which she received a Jesse H. Neal award. In 2022, she was honored with the prestigious G.D. Crain Award at the annual Jesse H. Neal Awards Ceremony. She has a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from the University of Sussex in England and a master’s degree in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California. Ask questions or submit ideas to Nancy by e-mailing