Program arms law enforcement with best mental health practices

BY Michael Hill, Correspondent |

On World Health Day, NJ’s attorney general Gurbir Grewal shared his vision for New Jersey’s resiliency program at the state’s first ever Officer Resiliency Summit.

“The same way we give them vests and shields to protect themselves from external threats, we started a movement by which we’re starting to give them the tools they need to deal with the internal threats; mental health issues, stressors, strains, coping mechanisms, so they could have better lives at home and do their jobs better,” said Grewal.

New Jersey’s resiliency program ultimately aims to prevent officers from committing suicide by requiring every law enforcement agency to have at least one police officer who doubles as a resiliency program officer, or RPO. It’ll be someone officers can speak to in confidence anywhere in the state and get a referral to a provider.

RELATED: How New Jersey is helping officers build resiliency and avoid suicide

The program also sets out to eliminate the stigma of seeking help and the fear of retaliation. The RPOs, and every officer in the state, must undergo training.

“They have to feel as though that they can trust you. That’s the most important thing. That they can trust. And that you also can relate to what they’re going through,” said Former East Orange Deputy Chief Anthony Woodson.

At the summit, Gov. Phil Murphy declared it Law Enforcement Resiliency Day. Murphy, Grewal and the chiefs of police all say the resiliency program is absolutely necessary because suicides keep piling up.

In the 66 days between when Grewal announced the program and this summit, 34 officers ended their lives compared to 19 who lost their lives in the line of duty. The attorney general said he hopes putting the issue out in the open and talking about it will bring about culture change and will make it more likely for officers to step forward and utter three words: I need help.