THE MAN BEHIND THE BADGE
The Sentinel has received many different inquiries as to the current status of Keith Grounsell, the former Police Chief in Simpsonville, who vowed to run for Sheriff in the event of a Special Election or in 2020. We decided to reach out to Grounsell who has been working overseas and sat down with him for an interview while he was home at Christmas time.
If you read some of the posts on social media about the city of Simpsonville, you will likely realize that an overwhelming number of people who live, visit or work in Simpsonville deeply miss the leadership and presence of this former Chief of Police. A big part of his legacy was the fact that he promoted community policing, stood against corruption, was tough on drug dealers and made Simpsonville the #1 safest city in the state of SC during his tenure as Chief of Police (per the 2017 Safewise Report, which used 2015 Crime Statistics). Those facts are impressive, but that is not all that makes up the man that many still refer to as Chief. The man behind the badge is much different, Grounsell is a family man that gives praise and finds his strength in God.
Since his resignation as Chief of Police in June of 2016, Grounsell has been working as a contractor for the United Nations and the Department of State’s International Narcotics & Law Enforcement (INL), through a private corporation. He quickly climbed the ranks when he arrived in Haiti and now serves as the United States Contingent Commander and United Nations Unit Chief/Personal Advisor to the Haitian National SWAT Team Commander. Over the last year and a half, Grounsell spent the majority of his time as a National Coordinator and the Lead Training Instructor/SWAT Specialist over 1,650 police personnel from 11 foreign contingents. During his tenure in Haiti he has had the chance to work closely with police personnel from Haiti, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Senegal, Jordan, Nepal, Canada, Sweden, Turkey, Egypt, Uruguay, Brazil, Norway, Nigeria, Niger, Togo, Brazil, Argentina, France, Russia, Spain, Columbia…etc. Grounsell stated, “Working with such a diverse group of people has been a very rewarding assignment that has taught me a lot about cultural diversity and made me more sensitive to the customs and traditions of other countries.”
In addition to his robust level of police command experience reaching a global scale, Grounsell took it upon himself to assist in changing lives of some of the local Haitians.
Early on it became common practice to assist with security during humanitarian aid drops in remote regions of Haiti, which was something Grounsell said was very rewarding. In one case, Grounsell and two other Americans took it a step further when they mentored a young man that was involved in a local gang. This started when Grounsell decided to befriend and mentor a local gang member suspected of having involvement in attacking his UN base on a regular basis.
Grounsell was instrumental in spearheading efforts and paid to get this young man enrolled into school, where he learned the skills to professionally lay tile and disassociated with the gang. In addition, Grounsell and his American counterparts used their own money to build a house for this young man and his mother. When asked why he did this, Grounsell stated, “I look at the Haitian people and see that they have very few opportunities and little in the way of possessions and I know I am truly so blessed by God to live in America and have so much. The opportunity presented itself to help and that is exactly what we did. I am here for a police mission, but I also want to serve the Lord by giving to those less fortunate than myself.
It really is not that big of a deal and anyone in my position would do the same thing…there are many good deeds taking place every day, all around us.”
In addition to the above, Grounsell and the same two American colleagues assisted a young orphan from the 2010 earthquake to find a sponsorship family in the United States. She is in the process of moving to Miami, Florida as we write this article. Grounsell stated, “Finding adequate employment and a job that consistently brings in a paycheck to support a family is a rare thing in Haiti. It is hard for anyone to survive and even more difficult for women.
We saw an opportunity to help a young girl that we initially thought was only about 14 years old, but came to find out she was 18. She lived her life somewhat recluse and scared. She seemed to do very little, other than go to and from school. All of us (Americans), who are fathers with daughters, fell in love with her. We used our resources and found a family that was Haitian American and willing to take her into their household and ensure that she got a formal education in America. It is a dream come true to see almost a year of planning come to fruition.”
Every time Grounsell and some of the other American’s went home on leave they would bring back cloths, games, and anything that would help the Haitian people. Grounsell said, “On a daily basis we give money or food to the locals. It is difficult to work every day and see the level of poverty that we do and sit back and do nothing. I know God would not be happy if we turned a blind eye.” Grounsell ended by saying “I have not done anything any different from the other fine men and women I serve with. As a Christian it is impossible to just walk away and not give up you last bottle of water or lunch, knowing you would be able to eat again in 2-3 hours, but the person next to you may not have eaten in days. When judgement day comes, I want to say I tried my best to help anyone I could help….that is what life is all about.”
In addition to his work in Haiti, Grounsell still finds time to help out back home in SC. He and his wife have had full custody of a baby for the last 9 months. This child was welcome in their home with open arms and has been given unconditional love by the whole family. Born addicted to drugs, they had to administer Methadone treatments to him in order to assist with his withdrawal symptoms. They received custody of the baby at one week old. He was only 4 pounds and very tiny when they bought him into their home directly from the hospital. Today, he is what they call “happy, chunky and healthy” without any major developmental delays as a result of the drug addiction. Grounsell was proud to say that the baby has been a blessing to the whole family! He continued, “We prayed about the situation when we received a call asking if we would like to take care of the child. God gave us a clear answer and the next day we had him in our home. He is the sweetest child and we love him just the same as our own child. If it is in God’s plans for us, we would love to adopt him one day….I love the fact that he has been with us since he was a week old and knows nothing but love. I hope we can keep it that way.” Grounsell did not go into the details, but we learned that the mother of the child was a lady that Grounsell and his wife use to be the guardian ad litems for her when she was a minor child. She has since aged out of the foster care system and Grounsell and his wife have kept in touch with her. Despite her ongoing struggle with drug addiction, Grounsell and his wife both said they truly love and care for her, but the baby is their number one priority now. We also learned that Grounsell and his family had taken this woman into their home when she aged out of the foster care system and had no place to live.
On another occasion, while home on leave recently and going through the drive through at McDonald’s in Simpsonville with his son’s, Grounsell noticed a lady that appeared distraught and had two black eyes. Grounsell pulled over and offered her a meal, which she reluctantly accepted. After feeding her, Grounsell gave her a ride to a field behind a hotel where she was staying to retrieve her belongings, which she had hidden when she abruptly escaped the abusive situation she was in. Grounsell took her to a local motel and gave her all the money he had in his pocket. He charged two nights at the hotel on his personal credit card and told the lady that God loves her and offered her advice on the likely hood of domestic violence situations never de-escalating and that she is better off leaving an abusive relationship before it gets worse. Grounsell spoke to her about getting law enforcement involved or going to a shelter, but it was clear she did not want their help and would have clammed up if Grounsell had pushed the issue. Grounsell said he never asked her name, as not to let her think he was going to report her and has not spoken to her since.
We first heard about this story from one of Grounsell’s sons. The son that was present during this interaction said he really learned a lot from this and it made him so proud of his Dad! The event was later corroborated by Grounsell himself.
In addition to his love for human kind, Grounsell and his family are animal lovers. They have two rescued dogs at home and Grounsell said he currently cares for 5 dogs while he lives in Haiti. “When the people struggle to find the next meal, a pet becomes less of a priority and they are abandon on the streets. It breaks my heart to see a dog that is skin and bones, so we try and do our part to help as many as possible. Overall I have helped over 10 dogs and 5 cats. Some I find local homes with families that can afford to take care of them, but others…unfortunately…never find a home, so we show them a little love while we are here.”
These are just a few of the many different types of stories we have been hearing about Keith Grounsell over the years and the man behind the badge.
More than just a Police Chief
As Chief of Police he was known for filling the cupboards of a struggling families pantry with food, buying a car battery for a person to get to work, changing a tire for a stranded motorist, shaving his head for a child cancer research fundraiser, donating thousands to Susan G. Komen with the Pink patrol car, fulfilling the dream of a child battling cancer to become a police officer, giving people a ride that were walking in the cold/rain or partnering with businesses to donate money to pay for Christmas of struggling families/employees. He is not a man that flaunts his good deeds for all to see, but we felt it was necessary to write this article to show the man behind the badge that so many people are curious about.
In closing, when we asked Grounsell how he wants to be remember he stated, “As a man of God that did his best in every situation, always did what was right, took care of his family, friends and would help a stranger. I want people to know that I would rather lose everything than to compromise my morals and values for anyone or anything.” Ladies and Gentlemen, this is what we call a Christian.♦