Our site will be undergoing maintenance from 6 a.m. - 6 p.m. ET on Saturday, May 20. During this time, Bookshop, checkout, and other features will be unavailable. We apologize for the inconvenience.
Cookies must be enabled to use this website.
Book Image Not Available Book Image Not Available
Book details
  • SubGenre:Professional Development
  • Language:English
  • Pages:260
  • eBook ISBN:9780988131699

Slay the Toxic Dragon

Police Leadership Impacting Member Wellness

by Sylvio (Syd) A. Gravel M.O.M. , Brad McKay CTSS and Barbara L. Anschuetz EdD RP CTTS

Book Image Not Available Book Image Not Available
Toxicity can be very subtle. The more people talk about, respect and support within the workplace the more elusive and conniving and controlling sources of toxicity can become. Toxicity can destroy an organization.
It's understandable that police organizations and the leaders within them want to portray their work environments as supportive of their members when it comes to mental health. But we see far too many members being hurt and unsupported not to speak out. It's also important for us to state that not all organizations are failing to support their members. Even within some poorly structured organizations, there are many leaders who are doing their best for their members. But there are still enough problems for us to believe that this discussion about toxic work environments has to come out in the open. In our roles, as two peer support workers (retired staff sergeants Brad McKay, York Regional Police; and Sylvio [Syd] Gravel, Ottawa Police), we are often taken aback by how many organizations think, or claim, that all is well with the support they offer their members, considering the conversations we have had with some of their members. We thought it would be enlightening for those who lead police organizations to hear from us as two officers who have a combined sixty-eight years of experience supporting officers who suffer from mental health injuries or illnesses that can be attributed directly to toxic police work environments. We have enlisted Barbara Anschuetz, a registered psychotherapist, with over thirty years of experience as a clinical mental health professional with police members and their families, to add her professional clinical perspective and many experiences to this publication. We are not academics. Nor are we mental health professionals. We are simply two officers who have worked the streets, faced difficult situations in policing and survived. Our journeys were different in many aspects. Yet we both came through our injuries, scarred, but healed in many ways and still healing in others. This book has been written with the intention of sharing with leaders what we hear from those who are suffering now. It may not be the truth police leaders want to hear. But, nevertheless, they need to know what some members see, hear and feel about working in their policing environment. We do not name organizations or people in this book, even when quoting from members in our narrative. These citations speak for themselves. Nor do we advocate for groups or individuals. We want to encourage leaders to move toward positive change by presenting issues that create toxicity for the organization and help leaders "slay the dragon" in their workplaces. Where we can, we offer advice on how to lessen toxicity, based on specific incidents we have seen. But, at the end of the day, this is truly about leaders taking ownership of their own work environments and doing what is right to remove toxicity in all its forms. The more they know about what can go wrong the more likely they are not to let things happen to start with. We end our book by presenting twenty-two recommendations that are based on what members have told us are missing in police services or where areas can be improved. Our intent is to help leaders slay the toxic dragon.
About the author
STAFF SERGEANT (RET'D) SYLVIO (SYD) A. GRAVEL, M.O.M. Syd Gravel is a former staff sergeant with thirty-one years of experience with the Ottawa Police Service. He is one of the founding fathers of Robin's Blue Circle, a post-shooting trauma team of peers, established in 1988, and is still actively involved with them. Syd co-developed this group when the need for peer support became evident for officers involved in fatal or near fatal work-related events. This group has assisted hundreds of officers from all across Canada since 1988 and continues to do so today. Syd was diagnosed with PTSD in 1987 and has reached the state of consistent and sustained positive growth with his injury. In 1999, he was awarded the twenty-year Police Exemplary Service Medal and, in 2003, the twenty-five-year Police Exemplary Service Bar. In 2007, he was nominated by his peers and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police to be inducted into the Order of Merit in Policing, Canada. In 2020, he was awarded the Order of Ottawa for his lifelong service in trauma management and peer support development in the national and international policing communities. During his thirteen years of retirement, he has devoted all his time and energy to writing, speaking and consulting on trauma management and peer support systems for a number of police services, not only in Canada but also in the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. He has appeared countless times on all forms of media. He has written and published 56 Seconds, How to Survive PTSD and Build Peer Support, and co-authored the book Walk the Talk with staff sergeant (ret'd) Brad McKay. This is Syd's fourth book on mental wellness, with Brad McKay and Dr. Barbara Anscheutz, to address toxicity in the workplace. In 2014, Syd developed a three-day curriculum to train peers in Canada. It was modeled after the guidelines set out by the Mental Health Commission of Canada. He is currently co-leading the Peer and Trauma Support Systems (P.A.T.S.S.) Team for the Mood Disorders Society of Canada. He also volunteered for two years as a street-level peer facilitator for Soldiers Helping Soldiers in Ottawa's homeless community. He currently volunteers as a board director with Community Housing Renfrew and as a front-line peer supporter with the Ottawa Police peer group. He has developed the three-day peer training curriculum for Transition to Communities and the content for the twenty-hour, on-line trauma management course for Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. He is also co-developing the four-day train the trainer curriculum for Oscar-Kilo, the National Police Wellness Group for the United Kingdom. Syd is the co-founder of Badge of Life Canada, in 2012, and proudly served as a senior police advisor for that organization for nine years. He is an advisor for the Haven Group. He volunteers hundreds of hours annually to support these two organizations in their endeavours to assist members from policing and corrections. He was the Canadian representative on the executive committee for the Global Mental Health Peer Network (GMHPN) from 2018 to 2021, and the 2020 regional representative for the Americas for the GMHPN. In 2016, he was nominated by the Mental Health Commission of Canada as a Canadian Champion of Mental Health. On a personal level, Syd is the 2018 Central Canada Gold Medal holder in Powerlifting. His spouse, Judy Gravel, is the 2019 Silver Medal holder for the Canadian Powerlifting Union Nationals held in Ottawa. At age sixty-nine, Syd is training to attend and compete in the Nationals and Worlds in Powerlifting in 2022 when he will be seventy. He has been married for forty-five years, is father to two sons and grandfather to three lovely grandchildren.