Cover Story

The Blue Print
Feature Interview with Former Passaic County Sheriff Edwin Englehardt
In every walk of life we hear stories of the “Great Ones”– those who came from humble beginnings and rose to greatness by mastering their trade, and thereby, created a legacy remembered by those who had the honor and privilege to work for and walk alongside greatness. Retired Passaic County Sheriff, Edwin Englehardt is a man of which I speak. His incredible character, impeccable reputation, and devotion to our brotherhood, despite his political and professional power, are “old values,” which are often missing in our modern times.

This feature interview with Sheriff Englehardt (Ret.) begins our new series of discussions with law enforcement icons. NJ Blue Now will periodically select and feature those who distinguished themselves and have valuable lessons to share with our readers.

NJ Blue Now Magazine:
How many years did you serve as sheriff?

Englehardt: Served for 27 years

Why did you decide to retire?

You want the real answer or the one that sounds good?

Real answer

It was time for a change. The last few elections I thought about leaving and my friends would say Sheriff, one more and I would stay. When I left it was the best decision I made, I should have done it earlier, it would have avoided many headaches… (Laughs).

Why do you think it was time for a change?

People change, times change, and it was time for someone else to take over. What I was seeing was no longer something I wanted to fight for. Many were divided and I wanted no part of it. I had a long great career. It was enough.

What do you believe was your biggest accomplishment?

Building a great department almost from scratch. Seeing where it is today brings pride and joy to my heart. There are also many things we were the first to do as a department, but overall, building it was the most special. That covers all the accomplishments.

What did you like the most about being the boss?

Being in a position where I can make the decisions needed to complete the vision. It also gave me the opportunity to protect the people I cared about and who needed the help. Also having the control to protect myself as well. Many more but those come to mind.

You had an excellent reputation on keeping the Passaic County Jail running effectively and clean. How did you get that done? 

I took pride in my jail. I gave inmates nothing more and nothing less than what they were entitled to. My jail was no country club–it was a jail and that’s the way I ran it. I demanded my officers respect every inmate, but I would never allow my officers to take any shit from an inmate who was there to cause problems. My officers knew I had their back at all times. We had the best officers and they were treated as such. You can’t keep a jail running effectively if you don’t see the problems yourself, that is why I toured my jail every day. We kept control of our jail because I knew of an issue before it led to a problem. My administration knew what they were doing because I made sure they did.

How did you handle the ACLU? Today, the ACLU have forced some facilities to follow strict regulations on how to run a jail pertaining to inmate rights, thoughts on that?

Ask them. (Laughs). The ACLU always made demands. Again we fought for what was right. We always gave the inmates what they were entitled to; we were not there to kiss their ass. We were sued many times and we overcame all of them. I always had respect for any inmate we housed. But when they were in our custody they had to follow our rules, and if they didn’t like it, then they should have never broken the damn law. We were not going to turn into a country club under my watch.

Do you believe being the Sheriff is an important position? And why was it for you?

Absolutely. I was blessed to have had the opportunity to have had the influence at a time that people respected a leader. I’m sure they still do in their own way, but back then it was different. Having the power to help people at their worst or teach people how to be better was always something I enjoyed to do. It was also my obligation to protect the men and women who served in my department. My officers sometimes made mistakes, we all do, but I would not allow any bully reporter to go after my officers before going through me. My punishment was enough, they didn’t need some outsider attacking them or embarrassing them. Being the sheriff gives you that power to protect your officers and they should be protected. They have a rough job. Without them, my county would not be safe. I was voted in to do a job and that is a duty I served with honor.

What do you consider to be the most important thing an officer should believe in?

I wouldn’t say this applies just to an officer who has a badge, but all men, most important attribute to have is loyalty. If you have that, most likely your core is good. All other stuff is minor.

How did you handle your enemies or people who critiqued you due to jealousy/hate etc?

Are they still out there? (Laughs)

I’m sure.

Yeah, I believe you. Unfortunately, those types of people are like roaches because they always pop up and they come in all shapes and sizes. They hate because they are envious or jealous of what they do not have, or are not. It’s a deep emotion that infuriates them through their polluted soul. They are unhappy individuals inside, and it bothers them to see others happy or successful. That is a fact of life. It never surprised me.
What I did with those lost souls was ignore them, and wish them the worst. (Laughs). They will always find something to criticize you for, so arguing or confronting an enemy is as senseless as trying to understand them. They are sick and should be treated as that. Their time always comes in some way or another, majority of the times they crack at home. My enemies were always a patch in my ass. And I’m sure there are some other things I did to them that I can’t put on paper. I know you understand. One thing I did make clear was that I had no respect for them, and hopefully one day I would make sure they were sorry for what they did.

You have been at both points in your life. You have seen what it was to have influence and also seen what it is not to have all of it anymore. What comes to mind, or what have you learned from it?

Wow, a lot. With power comes attention, friends, decisions, and the ability to change someone’s life. I was always smart enough to understand that influence brought friends and not having it meant people had no need for you as much, so I understood that one day it will all end and some friendships will end with it. I understood that fully from the start. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Through your turmoils in your life when your career was coming to an end, what did you take from it?

Who my friends really were and how strong my men were around me. I also realized I needed to enjoy my life from there on.

Who was the person who disappointed you the most in your circle?

He is not worth the ink in your magazine. When you give everything to an individual and they sell out for their personal selfish gain, then you know they are worth nothing. Snakes like that could never be trusted and will never be satisfied no matter what you give them. They lack the most important thing: loyalty. You can make them the President of the United States and they will want more. God would have to watch out, because that is what they would want to become next.

So no name?

(Laughs). No, and not because of any other reason than he is not worth the ink in your magazine.

(Laughs) I tried.

I would have, too.

What is your worst quality?

What?

A trait you have you feel is not good?

I have a problem forgetting when someone tries to hurt me. I always try to stop myself from going after them. That is what came to mind.

What did you like about the old days that leaders today will not understand or experience?

I didn’t know I was that old. (Laughs). They will never understand what it is to resolve a problem or come to an agreement with just a simple handshake. We understood and believed a man’s word was sealed with a handshake, not a contract. They will never unfortunately be able to get the complete respect of the majority of their officers or followers. I say this respectfully, as I compare to how it was before. The new generation expects a lot and contributes very little. Before, the majority of the leaders were strong and only a few were weak. Today it’s the opposite. The majority are scared of their own shadows, and the strong ones now are the minority. Look around, you will see departments giving up more and more now. It really makes it worse for the officers.

What did strong leaders like yourself do back then that today they just don’t do?

Not all, but many are afraid of their own shadows as I said before. Being fearless and standing up to bullshit is seen less and less. Non-law enforcement politicians always tried to control me or my department and never succeeded. I put it all on the line if they hurt or challenged me on what was best for my men and women. It was clear, they shortchanged my department with budgets and other nonsense, that would have been their last term as elected officials. I controlled my party because of my supporters and officers–my party did not control me. I demanded respect and backed it up with all my resources because that is the only thing they understand.

Some say you were rough and at times punished your officers, pretty much ruled with an iron fist. What are your thoughts on that? Do you think that was a good way to be?

I was and am the way I am. That is what made me successful and that is why I lasted
so long. I was tough but fair. I didn’t like to punish some of them, but I had to.

Anything else on that?

You really want me to give you my thoughts with these questions. (Laughs). If that is what some say, I respect that. I cannot have made everyone happy and could not always have been right on all my decisions. I always tried my best. I always made my decisions based on facts that were given to me and stood behind all my decisions. You will always make mistakes, but you have to stand by them and move on. I relied on my circle for information and I acted on that. It worked for me. In a department with many officers with good and at times bad intentions, an iron fist like you said, was my way to protect my officers, my department, the people who voted for me, and myself. As firm as I was, I still put my officers first, always.

What advice can you give officers or a leader who wants to bring back the kind of control  and power you had against the political party and or decision-makers who control department budgets?

That will take years to properly answer, but I will try to explain it. If you want to control a political party, freeholders and administrators that decide on the well-being of your department, since they control budgets etc., you have to become strong enough to vote them in or vote them out. If you cannot vote them in or out, you have to send a message that you will do all you can to make sure they are perfectly behaved individuals in their personal life. Information brings power, if these decision-makers don’t fear you, they will never respect you. That is the secret of life. Do all you can to find out who these people really are. If they park illegally, you should know. (Laughs)
Once they understand you will do everything to protect your department, they will not only respect you but also become your friend. Politicians come and go, and most of the times they don’t understand how to run or budget a department. You guys have more vested, therefore treasure it and control your destiny.
At the same time a leader can only do so much, but the men and women also have to sacrifice their time and investment to make their union or department strong. If you have a good leader, then build by making the group strong. I believed in a strong presence with anything the department did and that is no longer existent. A weak presence in the community will always lead to someone else having your fate in their hands.
Leaders, devote all your efforts to accomplish your goals. Do not let your emotions get the best of you, be inspirational.

You have truly been real. What are your plans from here and do you have any thoughts that come to mind regarding your career or your life?

I do what I want to do and I go where I want to go. I lived my life the way I chose to. I can say I have been a blessed man that did and received everything I worked hard to get. I have always been a simple person. I could have lived anywhere, but I choose to live on top of my hardware store. Some might find it strange, but I call it home. I see many officers everyday still coming in and out of the jail and courthouse and it makes my day. I have a true respect for many of you and I am so proud of what so many of you have done today.
This is my end, and I am satisfied with all I did and accomplished. I am ready for tomorrow and even the other side. I have lost many friends throughout my years and one day I am excited to see them again. I really want to say thank you to all of you who gave me a little respect, love, and most importantly, your loyalty. I will never forget, and without each of you, I would have never accomplished what I did as your leader. A leader is just as good as the men and women and all smart leaders understand that.

Message to officers out there?

Be careful. Times are rough. Be proud but humble, be cautious but fearless, be true to one another and understand the best is when you support one another not only through the good times but the hard ones. Offer support rather than criticism. If you don’t take care of one another who will? Thank you to you Danny, who just took all of us to a level we don’t always see in this profession. This magazine really amazes me every time I read it and I cannot believe it was born here in Passaic County. You always were never afraid to speak your mind with your friends and adversaries, and that is something that has led you to take steps others will be afraid to. I always remember you called out things for what they were and I am honored to call you my best friend. Great job to you and your team and to all of you who are wearing that badge on your chest today. You are the future; within you lies the new direction in the police world. I love and admire all of you today and forever. You will always have a friend who truly appreciates and respects you from the bottom of my heart.

Anything raw that comes to mind?

Don’t take anybody’s shit! Not even an Eddie Englehardt. (Laughs). Remember, stand up against these politicians who show you no respect. Don’t let them intimidate you. All of you are doing a great job and without you, these anti-police assholes will be running scared somewhere. Leaders need to speak out against them just like our President Donald Trump is doing.

Any last words?

This will be the last interview I will ever do, and I hope your readers understand I was as honest as I could because of the respect and admiration I have for you and each of you who wear that badge.
To all my friends and my beautiful girls in my office that always protected me, I love all of you. I have you in my prayers always.

It is my honor to have been able to interview you. You have done so much for so many of us and words cannot express the gratitude and respect many of us have for you. For the officers who never met you, after reading this interview, they will understand why your style and message is an inspiration to many of us. Your legacy will live forever. Thank you for your service and commitment to our profession. You are the greatest of all time.

Thank you, Danny.

Heroism Defined

Boston Bombing Heroes
By Debra Ann Faretra, M.A.

It was a beautiful Spring Day in Boston where thousands of participants were running the annual Boston Marathon when suddenly, not only their lives were changed, but the lives of the first responders tasked with working the event. First responders and every law enforcement agency on location had their work cut out for them on that unforgettable day.

Boston police officers were under extreme pressure when chaos abruptly erupted and turned a pleasurable event into a warzone. As a result, there were devastating casualties and injuries resulting in the loss of limbs and emotional paralysis.

In addition, Ventura County Sheriff Captain, Randy Pentis (Ret.), a race participant along with other officers from Boston and Chicago Police, heard the blast and immediately sprung into action assisting runners and spectators, while also securing areas during this critical situation. His account of the scene was pure mayhem and there was no time to think as he had to just rely on the skills he had mastered over the years along with fellow officers.

Subsequent to the bombing, the bombers were on the loose roaming Massachusetts on a murder and terror spree until they arrived at a small quiet residential area in Watertown.
Officer Reynolds received an alert at approximately 12:50 a.m. on the stolen Mercedes that the bombers had carjacked and were driving, as he made eye contact with the older bomber, who was sitting in the driver’s seat.

After making this observation, Officer Reynolds radioed his headquarters and was advised to standby and wait for backup to arrive before initiating a stop on the suspect vehicle. The seven year veteran officer was already feeling apprehensive from watching the news that evening, and seeing a fellow officer shot and killed by the bombers after the fatal explosions. What Officer Reynolds was soon to encounter went beyond the scope of his police duties, as he courageously prepared himself for battle.

As Officer Reynolds awaited his backup, the suspects got out of their vehicle and began firing upon his patrol car. Officer Reynolds mic’d up and screamed, “shots fired” as he began unloading his Glock 23. He immediately emptied one magazine and reloaded, as a barrage of heavy gunfire blasted his vehicle.

As backup arrived, guns were blazing, pipe bombs were being launched, and pressure cookers were thrown in their direction. It was dark and eerie and the bombers were ducking down between cars, but all that could be seen in between, were the lighters from the bombers lighting up their weapons. This morphed into a battlefield of explosives and gunfire. Police officers instantly became like soldiers fighting on American soil.

Sergeant Jeff Pugliese, a thirty-four year veteran of the police department and four year military police veteran, arrived on scene only to be told by another officer, “Sarge were being shot at,” his reply, “No shit!” Sgt. Pugliese made way through several yards and utilized a flanking maneuver to come up on the bombers from about twenty yards away. As he engaged gunfire, a pressure cooker was tossed as he stood between two houses and was instantly stunned.

Sgt. Pugliese had a visual on the older bomber and engaged in a gunfight striking him at least three or four times, but the bomber seemed unaffected by the shots. The bombers then were dodging behind cars, when Sgt. Pugliese took skip shots at their ankles, again striking the older bomber, who came out from the vehicle and opened fire in a one-on-one gunfight from a distance of about six feet away from each other.
Sgt. Pugliese and the older bomber both unloaded their weapons, which resulted in the older bomber throwing his gun at Pugliese, hitting him in the shoulder. Sgt. Pugliese heroically rushed the older bomber and a scuffle ensued. As he was attempting to handcuff him, the younger bomber sped off in the stolen Mercedes attempting to strike the officers, barely missing Pugliese’s head. The younger bomber added to the injuries of his critically wounded brother by running him over as he fled the scene.

The younger bomber was eventually apprehended and taken into custody by MIT Police.

The “Boston Bombers” efforts to blow up Times Square, NY were thwarted by a civilian and ultimately, members of the Watertown Police Department for their swift and heroic actions.

Sgt. Pugliese, aka “BAMF” (Bad Ass Mother Fucker) was coined after his one-on-one battle with the terrorists, which ultimately brought one of the terrorists down.

The warzone lasted approximately nine minutes, but had lasting effects for the officers involved. Some officers described the events, at the time, as numbing and overwhelming, with rushes and release of adrenaline that ultimately caused bodily aches and pains. Some describe flashbacks and difficulty sleeping, but for the most part, they have learned to process and live with this tragic event.

With tragedies of this nature, people involved never really experience life the same again. While most of us are relaxed in nature and don’t have to worry about running into battles, these heroes will always look over their shoulders and wonder if another one is to come. Precautionary measures to preserve life are taken to different levels. Events like this can have such a deep impact and leave permanent traces of battle wounds. This would keep a person in a semi state of fight or flight, as they may feel the need to be ready for the next battle; even though one isn’t present, the body won’t forget that it needs to be.

Watertown does not have a high crime rate and the officers weren’t expecting something of this magnitude to strike, but they handled it like true warriors.

The officers were awarded the Congressional Medal of Valor from Vice President Biden. Sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese, Officer Joe Reynolds, and others that had direct impact with the bombers were awarded the Congressional Medal of Bravery by Congress.

We owe our gratitude and heartfelt appreciation to all the officers and first responders involved in this heroic effort. I am honored to have met such fine members of our American police and they are a reminder of why I love this profession and am always here to help them.

These fine men were not just police officers; they were nothing less than warriors engaged in war on the home front. I am proud and honored to have had the opportunity to engage conversation on numerous occasions with these heroes.

The NJ BLUE NOW family sends their condolences to the victims of the Boston Bombing and to the family of Police Officer Sean Collier, who was shot and killed by the “Boston Bombers.” The victims of the Boston Marathon have shown true resilience after suffering mental and physical trauma.

We would also like to thank Chief Lawn with the Watertown Police Department for permitting this story, and for allowing us to show the rest of America what true heroes look like.

Debra Ann Faretra, M.A., is a Mental Health Educational Consultant for law enforcement. She has a masters in Police Graduate Studies from Seton Hall University. She attended Caldwell University for two years as a graduate in Clinical Counseling Psychology Studies and is completing a second master’s degree at Seton Hall University in Psychological Studies. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Criminal Justice. She currently works in Essex County, New Jersey.

Inside Perspective

Is America Going to War? Should We?
By Bob Dvorchak

I went to war armed with nothing more than a pen. I went through an out-of-body experience my first night in Iraq, looking down on a helmet-wearing figure digging a hole to sleep in, while awaiting the start of the main invasion that would come before dawn. It was 26 years ago, but it seems like yesterday and always will. War leaves a permanent mark, even on those carrying notebooks.

I come from a deep military family, and am a veteran. So when it comes to today’s saber-rattling in the new administration, I am full throated in my opinions. When tensions heat up and buttons are being pushed, I am reminded of what Robert McNamara wrote 30 years after what he called the mistake of Vietnam: “Real power is knowing when not to use it.” And, Carl von Clausewitz described war as an act of violence to compel a foe to fulfill our will, that war is the continuation political intercourse carried on with other means. My point of view is focused more on those in uniform who actually carry out these missions. In the words of Otto von Bismarck, anyone who has ever looked into the glazed eye of a dying soldier will think hard before starting a war.

I pray that the voices of combat veterans in the administration are being heard and considered. If the decision is made to hit Syria with push-button weapons, it’s crucial to ask what happens next, because that region of the world has lived on the premise of an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth for thousands of years. If the policy is to confront North Korea with military force, it’s important to remember that peace talks dragged on for two years in the Korean War, which was halted with a cease-fire but technically remains a state of war.

Even the mightiest military power in history must know your enemy. If we are to send America’s sons and daughters into harm’s way, let’s give them a mission worthy of their sacrifice and the risks they take.

On the Beat

Understanding Dementia
By Anthony Mikatarian

The devastating disease of dementia is on the rise in our country. As time continues, we in law enforcement will have increased contacts with people suffering from some form of dementia. There is also a good chance it can affect our loved ones and associates. Therefore, it is imperative that we understand dementia and its common signs. Knowing the signs, can help quickly resolve or expedite common investigations that we in law enforcement routinely encounter, such as missing, lost, or wandering persons. It will also help officers on medical calls, erratic driving, elderly abuse, shoplifting, intruder calls, indecent exposures, impairment, false allegations, unruly person and others.

As per the Alzheimer’s Association, dementia is a general term defined as a decline in someone’s mental ability, which is severe enough to interfere with daily life. They describe dementia as not a specific disease, but as an overall term describing a wide range of symptoms associated with a decrease in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. There are, unfortunately, many types of dementia, which range from Alzheimer’s disease to Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome. They all have their own distinct way of affecting the brain, even traumatic brain injury can cause or accelerate forms of dementia.

Here are some quick facts provided by the Alzheimer’s Association, which are important for our profession:
A) Alzheimer’s Disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States
B) More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease and by 2050 this could reach 16 million.
C) Every 66 seconds, someone in the United States develops the disease
D) More than 15 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with forms of dementia
E) One in 10 people age 65 and older (10 percent) have Alzheimer’s dementia
F) Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women
G) African-Americans are about twice as likely to have Alzheimer’s or other dementias as older whites
H) Hispanics are about one and one-half times as likely to have Alzheimer’s or other dementias as older whites

As per the Alzheimer’s Association, below are the 10 common early signs of someone suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, which based on my experience, can apply to all forms of dementia. They are:
A) Memory loss that disrupts daily life
B) Challenges in planning or solving problems
C) Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, work, or leisure
D) Confusion with time or place
E) Trouble understanding visual and spatial images
F) New problems with words in speaking or writing
G) Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
H) Decreased or poor judgement
I) Withdrawal from work or social activities
J) Changes in mood and personality

From my own experience, some clues can also be increased sleep disturbances, excessive sleeping, increased difficulty with motor skills, shuffling walk/gait, low, mumbled low talking, increased hallucinations, and reliving past events as if current.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) has developed a program to help first responders called the Alzheimer’s initiative. The IACP Program offers suggestions to police officers who encounter persons with dementia while driving:
A) Approach the person from the front so he or she can see you coming. Maintain eye contact–if possible, remove your hat or sunglasses.
B) Introduce yourself and explain that you are there to help.
C) Remain calm, smile, and use a friendly voice.
D) Speak slowly, ask simple questions, and allow additional time for response.
E) Check for a tracking device or Medic- Alert or Alzheimer’s safe return ID.
F) Be prepared for sudden mood changes.
G) Change the topic to something pleasant, if the person becomes agitated.
H) Avoid touching the person without asking or explaining.
I) Provide security and comfort (i.e., blanket, water, or a safe place to sit).

Also, based on my research and experience, I would advise to “play” along with random, and at times irrational questions, statements, visions and asked chores. Reassure the person that everything is okay and that what he or she is asking of you is being taken care of. Do not take what he or she says personally, nor argue or correct their statement. Also, be mindful that having someone with dementia repeat something over and over can cause aggravation. Just remember that someone suffering with dementia is confused, vulnerable, and frightened. They wholeheartedly believe their perceived irrational truths at that moment, which at many times are short lived before they change to another perceived truth. As law enforcement professionals, our goal is to always understand what is before us, so we can accomplish a safe and peaceful outcome that will benefit the public we serve, and our fellow officers. Stay safe and God Bless.

Anthony Mikatarian has been a police officer for over 15 years. He is currently assigned to patrol in a northern NJ municipality. He earned a Bachelor’s degree from Johnson & Wales University, Providence, R.I., and another degree in mortuary science from the American Academy McAllister Institute in New York City.

Operation Rebound

Teaming Up With The Mental Health Profession To Make A Difference: Your Input Needed.
By Caroline Angel, R.N., Ph.D.

When people ask me what I do, I say: I work with the good guys.

I spend my days in service of those who serve/d on the frontlines, the Police and America’s Veterans.

By training, I am a psychiatric mental health nurse who has spent the last twenty years learning what happens to people who survive distressing life events. I also study how surviving those events cause people to grow in the most extraordinary ways. I have conducted research with police who were trained to lead face-to-face meetings between crime victims and their offenders (I studied post-traumatic stress in the crime victims). I then went on to support our transitioning service members to civilian life by leading the Central NJ Chapter of Team Red, White & Blue, a veteran service organization that enriches veterans’ lives by connecting them to their communities through physical and social activity (www.teamrwb.org). I also lead the research efforts for Team RWB now, and supervise police students as they build an evidence basis to their policing practices through a Masters degree program at the University of Cambridge.

Police are some of the most resilient people I know. They bounce back readily from adverse events because of their training and positive mindset. However, I believe that America can do more for the law enforcement community to support the stressful roles and lives that they are facing everyday. But, we need your help. Tell us your stories. We need to know you. We need to know your strengths as law enforcement officers, and we need to know, especially, the challenges you face. There are very high rates of stress that police encounter. This can lead to anxiety, depression, drinking, drugging, and lack of interest in things that were previously enjoyable. It can also lead to suicide. The most important thing to do is to stay connected to others; do not become isolated.

As a concerned citizen for the blue line, I would like to see our communities get to know our law enforcement officers better on an individual level.

One way to do this is to participate in a project that I am co-leading with researchers at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University. We are trying to understand how stress; resilience; physical health; an idea that we at Team RWB are calling “enrichment” (which is defined as physical, mental, and emotional health); genuine relationships; and sense of purpose differ between law enforcement officers, veterans, and civilians. To participate in the online, voluntary anonymous survey, go to https://syracuseuniversity.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_6WqXgJAdCUNbBlz?RID=MLRP_0q7bwT46wN2gbAx&Q_CHL=email

I am also setting up a page where you can share your story with us. If you have anything you would like to tell America about the strengths you have, or the challenges you face, feel free to submit information here: www.surveymonkey.com/r/YourStoryNJBLUENOW

Finally, you can also participate with Team Red, White & Blue (www.teamrwb.org) or Operation Rebound NJ to meet others who serve on the front lines through military or policing. This may give you the stress relief outlet you might be looking for to help you get moving, have fun, and make new friends.

I don’t want to avoid mentioning that if you feel like you want to harm yourself, or are in a crisis, please reach out to Cop 2 Cop, a national call center at 1-866-COP-2COP (267-2267) or http://ubhc.rutgers.edu/cop2cop/

This is just the beginning. As I am committed to serving the frontline, the information you provide will begin an important conversation. In one way or another, we hope to hear from you.

Caroline M. Angel, R.N., Ph.D., Psychiatric Nurse; Research Director, Team Red, White & Blue,; Visiting Scholar, University of Cambridge. As Director of Research for Team Red, White & Blue, Angel has led the design and implementation of research projects covering the topics of health, social support, sense of purpose in life, life enrichment, civilian-military divide, and leadership. She has been part of the research team evaluating randomized controlled trials of police-led intervention in the United Kingdom and Australia. In her role as a visiting scholar at the University of Cambridge, Angel has supervised graduate level research conducted by Master’s degree students in Applied Criminology and Police Management.

Spotlight

Heroes Behind The Walls
By PO Valerie Stetz

In 1994, Peter Femia began his career as a corrections officer with the Union County Jail. It’s a tough job in a tough place and definitely not for everyone. Hidden behind the walls, CO Femia has witnessed incredible acts of bravery by men and woman in blue who risk their lives on a daily basis.

During this same time, Femia had many friends working as “street cops”, police officers who had regular contact and interaction with the community. In this manner, they were able to form strong bonds and engage in various activities. Femia states, “I enjoyed my job, but learned soon enough that the public’s perception of a correction officer was often jaded by negative portrayals in movies and media,” Femia stated.

He began to think of ways that corrections officers could make themselves better known to the community while simultaneously serving them.
A few COs had been running yearly in the NJ Special Olympics Torch Run, an excellent event that raises money for those in need. As they were preparing for one of these runs, they began to kick around ideas on how to bring more attention to this event, how they could raise even more funds for the amazing athletes that take part in the Special Olympics. Femia adds, “Let’s face it, as correction officers, many in the community have little knowledge of who we are and what we do. That sometimes tends to make fundraising rather difficult.” So, they came up with a way to make themselves instantly recognizable as Batman, Spider-Man, Captain America, Superman, and The Hulk.

They figured that the general public may never know of the heroics that take place behind the walls of correctional institutions, but they could become the “Heroes” that most in society know very well. They recruited more officers from their department, purchased Superhero costumes, and formed the Team known as “HEROES4HEROES” eight years ago. Since then, they have been running in the Torch Run as Marvel & D.C. characters. Seeing the likes of Wonder Woman and Thor carrying a torch down the street with a pack of cartoon characters following attracted immediate attention. Last Year, “Heroes4Heroes” raised $9,000 for the Special Olympics.

Word spread, and soon enough, they were invited to assist St. Jude’s in their Christmas coat and toy drive. “I vividly remember the joy in the room as a small child’s face expressed awe and wonder as Spider-Man kneeled down to chat with him and offer a gift,” Femia said.

Soon after, police departments began to reach out. Elizabeth Police Department requested that “Heroes4Heroes” attend their “Jingle Bell 5K”. Officers strapped on the costumes and did the run, their capes flapping in the wind behind them.

Every year, their numbers increase, and their costumes grow more elaborate. Their exploits received the attention of the F.B.I., and they have been asked to attend events in Newark.
“I’m proud of the Corrections Officers who have donated so much time and energy to ‘HEROES4HEROES’. I’m glad that our endeavors have resulted in raising funds for many organizations in need. I’m also grateful that we have the opportunity to get out from behind the Union County Jail, and show our community who we really are and what we are all about. You can never put a price on the smile of a child. This is most rewarding. I will continue to support the special Olympics throughout my life,” Femia said.

HEROES4HEROES’ next super charity fundraiser is on Friday May 26th, 2017. Come out to support this awesome cause at Frenchy’s Bar and Grill in Roselle Park, N.J. at 7PM, and meet your favorite superhero. All proceeds benefit the Special Olympics. The event is hosted by 30/30’s MC. Charitable donations are encouraged. When you give, you become the hero to those in need.

Valerie A. Stetz (Velazquez) retired on accidental disability from the Jersey City Police Dept. She was injured in a radio car accident responding to a robbery in progress call. Valerie is a member of the NJ Police Honor Legion. She is the radio host for the popular Internet show “Your World Uncensored” on DDV RADIO. She is also the Public Relations Manager for Nj Blue Now Magazine. Valerie is married, with a son and daughter.

Inside Perspective

Do You Have Integrity?
By Thomas Shea, D.Sc., CPP

Think about that answer for a second, while keeping in mind that in the definition of integrity, words are backed up by actions. Are you that cop that, while on patrol, writes sixteen speeding tickets on one shift and later races home at sixty mph over the speed limit? Are you that Sergeant who stands in roll call and lectures all of your subordinates about work ethic and then yourself call out sick eighteen times a year? Are you the elected union leader who utilizes your position as an angle to get unjustly promoted over others whom you represent? Are you that high ranking, command staff supervisor who stands idly by, while your Chief or Public Safety Director wreaks havoc over the police department, but you do nothing because you don’t want to risk your future aspirations to that position? Are you the Chief that constantly writes up patrol officers for the most minor of infractions but then turns a blind eye to your favorites in the specialized units who break the same rules?

Unfortunately, examples such as these are not that uncommon in law enforcement. I am sure that many of you reading this can think of somebody matching these descriptions within your respective departments. If you really observe others closely, you will learn that at some point during a cop’s career, they have to face an internal, professional ‘test’ of their moral courage. The decision they make regarding this test will likely adversely affect their lives in some fashion or another, should they choose to “buck the system.” This could mean losing a benefit of some sort. Many people, not just officers, are not willing to do this; alternatively, they try to justify their choices by stating things such as, “Well, they would probably do the same thing to me.”

Judging by how much revenue it generated, the movie Braveheart appeared to resonate with the public. Many of the ethical principles in the movie, such as integrity and humility, are applicable to the point of this article. The main character, William Wallace, played by Mel Gibson, had an uncompromising conviction regarding his beliefs. This is an admirable personality trait which we all aspire to possess but in reality, is extremely rare. There is one particularly memorable scene where Wallace is bribed with titles and gold to turn against his countrymen. Wallace says, “…And then I should become Judas.” The Princess with whom he is negotiating with states, “Peace is made in such ways.” Wallace then replies, “Slaves are made in such ways!” Now, imagine the ‘titles’ are promotions in your departments and the ‘gold’ are salary increases that come with it. Would you truly turn it down if you knew that it was not the right thing to do, or would you give in, thus compromising your integrity? Keep in mind that whatever decision you make, you should probably be aware that many more people than you may realize are observing you. The respect they have for you may be diminished as a result of your choice and it will be extremely difficult to ever earn back.

For those of you who have children, you likely recognize that this is the most important job you will ever have. You are probably aware that you are the template from which they form their ethical standards. They often duplicate everything that you say and do. Many times throughout their lives, you most likely advise them on what is, “the right thing to do,” while at the same time attempting to  instill in them the morals and values which you find essential in order to be a good human being. What I’m about to say is not meant to offend anyone, rather, the intent is to be thought provoking. The next time you begin to lecture your eight or nine year old, really try to consider if you “practice what you preach.” If you instruct a child about a particular set of ethical standards and then leave for work and violate them yourself, are you not being hypocritical? What if your children saw those actions that directly contradict what you taught them? Do you think that they would draw that conclusion? If the answer is probably yes, you should probably reevaluate your choices.

Thomas Shea attained degrees from Rutgers, Seton Hall and New Jersey City Universities. In 2015, he completed his doctoral dissertation in police executive leadership. He retired from the Long Branch Police Department in 2017, where he was assigned to the Patrol Division, Investigations Bureau and Street Crimes Unit, Training and Internal Affairs. He is currently an Assistant Professor at Centenary University. Lastly, Dr. Shea is a Marine Corps veteran.

Featured Interview

Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis: Sandy Hook Elementary School Survivor and Teacher
By Joe Uliano

In this featured interview, I recently spoke with Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis–a Sandy Hook Elementary School survivor, teacher, and hero. After working seven years as a teacher, Roig-Debellis faced the greatest challenge of her career on Dec. 14, 2012, as she made the decision to survive and protect her students. Be prepared to hear the chilling inside view of what transpired on that horrific day. We are hopeful this feature will get all of us thinking about how we can better secure our schools, with the anticipation of preventing any further attacks on our most vulnerable and precious population.

Here is her story:

“My students and I were sitting in our morning meeting, which is a very calm, quiet time. We had just greeted one another as we do every morning and we were somewhere in the midst of sharing our holiday traditions when very loud, rapid fire shooting began over and over and over. Our classroom, being the first in our school, I knew immediately that what I was hearing was a gun. There was not a moment of pause or hesitation. I got up, closed the door, and turned off the lights. My keys were across our classroom on my desk and I knew I did not have the time to retrieve them. Our door remained unlocked.

I turned to my students and said, ‘We need to get into our bathroom right now.’

They protested, ‘How?’ ‘Why?’ They were arguing, because our classroom bathroom was an impossibly small space. It was a single occupancy stall built for a small child, no larger than 3×4 feet, with a toilet in the center. However, if we were going to attempt to survive, this was our only option. We had to try to fit. We began rushing to the back of our classroom, shots ringing out as if we were at war on a battlefield. Our colorful, vibrant classroom faded immediately. We started pushing into our bathroom. I stood one student behind the toilet, a few on top, my tiniest little girl, I held up on the toilet paper dispenser until all of our bodies were finally piled in. That’s when I realized that the door opened in–we were in but couldn’t close the door. I began picking students up and putting them behind the door until eventually we were able to close it, and lock it. I told my students we had to be absolutely quiet. They were and we waited.

We stood there huddled, squished like sardines listening to the sheer horror of what was happening on the other side of a cinderblock–pure evil reigned all around us. As time passed, it grew increasingly hot, it was very difficult to take a deep breath–
this was not a space meant for 16 people to hide in–it was barely large enough for a six year old. Some of my students were growing very uncomfortable and started to whisper, ‘Can we get out?’ I reminded my students we were waiting for someone good to rescue us, and so we waited. In waiting, there were so many unknowns. I never thought we would make it through, we were just too close. As we waited, I told my students how happy I was to be their teacher, how glad I was that they were in my class and how loved they each were. I did not want the horror they were hearing to be their last memories. We waited for 45 minutes I’m told-I had no watch, no phone. It felt like an eternity.

Eventually a knock came at our door, terror struck as I was sure the gunmen had finally found us. Why wouldn’t he have, we were in the first classroom? I whispered to a student to ask who was there, I did not want a monster to know that there were 16 terrified people hunkered behind that door.

My student asked, and as you would reply to a small child the voice spoke, ‘Hey little fella, it’s the police, we are here to help you.’ At that point, I spoke. ‘If you are really the police we need your badge,’ which they immediately slipped under the door. As I held it in my hand, I could not believe it, not after what we had heard and endured. I said, ‘I don’t believe you, this does not look real; it looks like a toy badge. We aren’t unlocking the door. If you are really the police, you should have the master set of keys, and be able to unlock this door.”

They did have the master keys, and after trying 5, 6, or 7 different keys, the door finally popped open and pushed in. We were greeted by an entire SWAT team, head to toe body armor, masks, shields, machine guns. They began pulling our bodies out of the space we were wedged in. I never thought we would see the other side of that bathroom door, and I am eternally grateful that we did.”

Please tell us a little about Victoria Soto, who selflessly lost her life protecting her students.
Vicki Soto and I had an adjoining door. We opened it often to pass students through, share materials or ask questions. She was an incredible, extraordinary teacher. It was very clear that teaching was her passion and she exuded that in everything she did. She lived for her students and she gave every lesson, every experience, her all, every single day.

Did you suffer from survivor’s guilt?
No. I have never suffered from survivor’s guilt. Perhaps because for so long I didn’t believe we had survived. After I finally realized we in fact had, it was my faith that would not allow me to feel guilt for surviving. If I start questioning surviving, I am questioning my faith. And if I start questioning my faith, which has always been very strong, then what do I have?

You mentioned during a recent presentation, that you attended counseling to move on with your life. Would you say you were dealing with symptoms of PTSD and what did counseling do for you?
I did attend counseling. There were two main reasons I knew I needed the guidance and help of a mental health professional. First, I needed a plan for my students, to help them feel safe and secure in our new classroom space. Second, I needed someone to convince me that I was alive. I had a very difficult time believing we had survived based on our proximity and how unimaginable it seemed for us to fit in our tiny bathroom. My therapist, who is now a friend, was amazing, and helped me to grapple with, and ultimately tackle both of these issues. Whether or not I had symptoms of PTSD, I’m not entirely sure. I was ‘cleared’ of ever having PTSD. I’m sure there were remnants. I don’t think you survive what my students and I did and not have some trauma and stress that sticks with you. It seems impossible.

Unfortunately, officers are trained to see these tragedies, it’s what they sign on for, but not our school teachers. Do you feel that a part of your career objectives have been stolen from you?
Thankfully, no! What happened on that day has nothing to do with teaching, or who I am as an educator. I can gratefully say that since that tragic day, and every day since, who I am as an educator has only been bolstered. So much was irrevocably changed that horrific morning, for myself, my students, and so many incredible people. I am grateful that who I am as a teacher was not.

Should our teachers receive hands-on training rather than just drilling to better prepare them for these incidents?
I believe that awareness and preparation are both key. When I say that what happened at our school could have never happened there, that is a true statement. And yet, look what happened. Sometimes I fear we live in a culture of ‘it will never happen here, or to me’. I think that people need to have a heightened awareness of their surroundings, of who is in their presence, of what is happening around them. If there is a way to prepare teachers better for this, I fully support it!

Seeing what you’ve seen, are our children safer now in terms of school security?
This is important, it’s an important first step, but there is so much more to be done. I know that more can be done and needs to be done. However, I believe that there is a level of greater awareness today.

I think it’s important to address basic safety as a main concern. I travel a lot in my work now speaking and I am amazed that there are still schools in our country with unlocked doors. This is unacceptable. My students and I would not be here if our school hadn’t been locked. We are here because he spent three minutes shooting his way in through a window and we had time to hide. You can’t predict the unimaginable, but you can do everything in your power to make schools as safe as possible. When you tuck your children in bed at night, your front door is locked. Our schools doors need to be as well.

What do you say to the SWAT team that rescued your students and you?
Thank you. It is hard to articulate my gratitude to the SWAT team that found and rescued us from our bathroom hideout. I will be eternally grateful to each of them always.

Please tell us about the outpouring support that you and your students received, which led to the creation of your non-profit organization “Classes 4 Classes.”
Classes 4 Classes, initially was my life line. When I founded it back in January 2013, it was my way to find good in what seemed a very dark and evil world. Since, we have begun to transform the way social emotional learning is approached here in the United States. I am so proud of the work we do every day. Classes 4 Classes is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, and we are the first ever social network for classrooms across the U.S. We currently serve classrooms in 25 states, and we plan to expand to all 50 this year! We provide a place for teachers to showcase student work, crowd fund for an educational need, and connect with other classrooms. We believe that social emotional learning needs to be active, and that students need tangible experience. That is what our website provides to thousands of students in their classrooms. We can’t wait until we are serving every single classroom in our great country! We believe we can change the way students learn to care about one another and connect so that there is no room for hate.

Joe Uliano has served as a police officer for the last fifteen years. During his time serving he obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Caldwell University and a Master’s degree from Seton Hall University in Human Resources, Training and Development. Joe is currently attending Seton Hall University, where he is completing an Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) degree in Educational Leadership, Policy and Management.