Attorney General Grewal Hosts “Resiliency Summit” to Train Officers & Shine Spotlight on Vital Issue of Mental Well-Being of Police Officers

TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today addressed more than 1,300 members of law enforcement, relatives of fallen officers, mental health experts, chaplains, and other stakeholders as he opened a two-day “Resiliency Summit” organized to address the vital issue of helping officers cope with the emotional, mental and physical stress they endure on a daily basis to protect the residents of New Jersey.

In addition to shining a spotlight on the critical goals of promoting officer well-being and preventing officer suicides, the summit is providing initial basic training to Resiliency Program Officers (“RPOs”) from across the state. In establishing the New Jersey Resiliency Program for Law Enforcement (“NJRP-LE”)—the first statewide program of its kind in the nation—AG Grewal issued a Directive requiring every state, county, and local law enforcement agency to designate an RPO who will be trained in resiliency and will ultimately train all officers in his or her department. The “bridge training” at the summit will give RPOs the basic tools they need to intervene and help officers in need as the often difficult holiday season approaches. The RPOs will receive further training next year.

Governor Phil Murphy delivered the keynote address on the opening day of the summit, which is being held at the Trenton War Memorial. Governor Murphy declared today New Jersey Law Enforcement Resiliency Day.

“Our men and women in uniform make sacrifices – big and small – every day to keep the people of New Jersey safe,” said Governor Murphy. “In turn, we owe them the support they need to excel in both their professional and personal lives. Promoting mental health and preventing suicides within the law enforcement community is a critical step in ensuring that our officers and their families are prepared to deal with stresses experienced on the job. No one should ever suffer alone in silence.”

“The danger, conflict and tragedy that police officers confront on a daily basis subject them to stress and trauma that, if not addressed, can lead to health problems, mental and emotional issues, and officer suicides, which are increasing nationwide,” said Attorney General Grewal. “Officers put their lives on the line to protect us, and we owe it to them to provide the support they need and not let them suffer in silence. Through this statewide resiliency program, we are working to give law enforcement officers the tools they need to cope with their difficult jobs.”

“As we approach the holidays—which can be an emotionally difficult time —the training we are conducting at this Resiliency Summit will mean that each police department across New Jersey will have a trained officer who is prepared to throw a lifeline to officers in need and who will ultimately be trained to teach resiliency to every officer,” Attorney General Grewal added. “This is a turning point for law enforcement in New Jersey.”

“Through this summit, we are training and mobilizing hundreds of officers to go back to their police departments with a message that it is OK to need help and it is OK to talk about it,” said Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice. “For too long a culture of silence and stoicism has prevailed in law enforcement, but we’ve learned that strength comes from communication and support. Resiliency is strength for the long run.”

AG Directive 2019-1 – issued by Attorney General Grewal on Aug. 6, 2019 – requires all law enforcement officers in the state to be trained in the NJRP-LE by the end of 2022. All Resiliency Program Officers will receive their full training in 2020 and they will be able to begin training their departments once that is completed. The full training is a two-day program with a mix of lectures and practical exercises. “Master Resiliency Trainers,” who will train the RPOs, also are participating in the “Resiliency Summit.”

The NJRP-LE is not designed to replace already existing programs, such as Employee Assistance Programs, the Police Chaplain Program of New Jersey, or the very successful “Cop2Cop” program, that already provide a support and referral structure for officers in need or in crisis. Instead, it is designed to work in tandem with these programs by widening the net to cover all law enforcement officers, not just those in crisis or need.

The “bridge training” being conducted during the two-day Resiliency Summit will include the following sessions and topics, among others:

Overview of the New Jersey Resiliency Training Program for Law Enforcement
Suicide Prevention and the QPR Method: Question—Persuade—Refer
Employee Assistance Programs and RPO Confidentiality
Effects of Stress-Induced Trauma on the Brain
Benefits of the Police Chaplain Program of New Jersey
How Cop2Cop Will Interface with the NJRP-LE program
Overview of the Maple Shade Police Department Pilot for Resiliency Training for Families
“Back from the Brink: Stories of Resiliency”— Roundtable discussion featuring firsthand accounts from two retired officers: one officer who responded to the suicide of his best friend, an officer himself; and another officer who almost committed suicide. Those retired officers and a family member of an officer who committed suicide will discuss the resiliency techniques they used to recover.

A recent white paper commissioned by the Ruderman Family Foundation found that police officers are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty. According to Blue H.E.L.P., a nonprofit organization that tracks and monitors law enforcement suicides, at least 167 officers died by suicide last year in the U.S., more than the total number of line-of-duty deaths. In New Jersey, according to this organization, 37 law enforcement officers reportedly have died by suicide since 2016. These statistics are believed to be conservative because law enforcement suicides have been historically underreported.

Job stress also puts law enforcement officers at a higher risk for health- and social-related issues, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, substance misuse, family and relationship stress, and self-harm.

The NJRP-LE is designed to change a culture in which officers are often reluctant to seek help for work-related stress. The program fosters an environment that encourages officers to communicate with each other and their families.

The NJRP-LE also recognizes that officers must feel comfortable speaking with an RPO. As a result, AG Directive 2019-1 protects the confidentiality of communications between a law enforcement officer and an RPO. Law enforcement officers will be provided a list of all RPOs throughout the state, giving them the option to speak to an RPO outside of their department. The Directive also encourages law enforcement to use chaplain programs.

“The New Jersey Resiliency Program for Law Enforcement will greatly expand and strengthen the safety net we have in place to protect our law enforcement officers and help them to deal with the secondary dangers of policing, including the emotional and mental challenges they face every day as they perform their difficult jobs,” said Pat Colligan, President of the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association. “Beginning with this summit and continuing in every police department across the state, we will be providing all of our officers with the necessary training, tools and resources to promote resilience and well-being. This is an important day for police officers in New Jersey.”

“I would like to thank Attorney General Grewal on behalf of the members of the New Jersey State Fraternal Order of Police for working hard to put this resiliency program together with the help of all of our law enforcement groups,” said Robert W. Fox, President of the New Jersey State FOP. “This program is well overdue to protect our officers who protect our citizens every day.”

Attorney General Grewal thanked Robert Czepiel, Chief of the Prosecutors Supervision and Training Bureau in the Division of Criminal Justice, for leading the efforts to organize the Resiliency Summit. Czepiel is responsible for overseeing the statewide officer resiliency program as the state’s first-ever Chief Resiliency Officer.