Renae Griggs

Ashoka Fellow
Winter Haven, FL, United States
Fellow Since 2003
My work: establishing a new mindset among police officers to prioritize their own mental health

Citation

This profile was prepared when Renae Griggs was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2003.
The New Idea
As police nationwide are commonly seen as people who solve problems and not as individuals who may have problems of their own, Renae is working to establish a new mindset–and motivation–among department police chiefs, captains, desk sergeants, and cops on the beat to give their own mental health sufficient priority, while they dedicate themselves to serving and protecting the public.
Renae is seeking to shift the tone at the leadership and management levels and reframe the perspective on the frontline to focus both on acknowledging the potential impact of the police officer's professional life on his or her personal life, and on recognizing the signs of the psychological demands of the role and how they can manifest behaviorally. This cultural shift will encourage officers to proactively manage the grueling emotional strain of their job by seeking help from peer groups and mental health professionals at the early stages rather than waiting until the situation develops into a life-threatening crisis. Renae's strategy for effecting this paradigm shift in policing is to address these historically unspoken impacts on police officers not only at the academy but also during in-service training and again upon supervisory promotions. Additionally, it is critical that the policies and procedures within the department reflect this proactive approach. And finally, in encouraging officers to seek help, there must be a system of local services and resources in place that are confidential, easily accessible, and specifically skilled in working with law enforcement families.
With the critical insight that the profession of law enforcement–a closed community–has unique needs for stress management, Renae is seeking to model a new approach for police officers to balance the demands of their work with positive family relations. Renae's approach to prevention (not reaction) has the potential to change law enforcement to a career in which one can manage the intense psychological demands of the profession, rather than see them always escalating.
Because policing is an international institution with numerous routes for information sharing, there is tremendous potential for fast spread of effective new ideas. Renae sees that by releasing officers from the notion that in donning the badge they forfeit their humanity and with that their emotional vulnerability, police officers will more readily recognize and more appropriately respond to the true root causes of the situations they face–both on the job and off. The permission to experience emotions common to every human being significantly reduces the long-standing cultural mantra to separate themselves from anyone who is not a member of the police community–referred to as the "us versus them" mentality–and enables officers to open themselves up to developing a tighter bond with the community. Through an effective public awareness campaign, that community will meet them halfway, recognizing and supporting the tremendous sacrifices society expects officers and their families to make.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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