Wellness

Silent Killers: Don’t let them destroy you.
By Melinda Inzani

Police officers can develop a broad range of stress-related disorders during their career or after. This may be related to the thoughts connected to officers always feeling on duty. The increased need of vigilance even when off duty takes a toll on officers’ resilience. Not everyone reacts the same way, but with law enforcement and those in occupations associated with high risk, their occupational stress can have a ripple effect on their family. For many officers, hiding their feelings may be considered a badge of courage. Some drown them with alcohol, but at what cost to the officers and their family?

Officers responding to a baby not breathing call, robbery in progress, or the death of an adolescent can stay with them for a lifetime. To this day, their stomach may still knot up, or they may feel the need to let their children know how much they love them before they leave for a friend’s house. Sometimes letting go of a call for those in law enforcement is a feat few understand. Some events have a short-term impact while others plague an officer’s sleep and may become chronic and long-term. Recognizing the issue or even broaching the topic with a fellow officer is a badge of honor that not many find themselves able to achieve.

After a long shift, many gather for a drink and to relax. Many drink to feel good, self-medicate to forget or to socialize. This condoned habit can lead to a dysfunctional coping mechanism that can be correlated to family discord and poor job performance. Surveys have shown that some officers reported drinking in order to be part of a team, while others reported that they were negatively affected by a co-worker’s drinking. The concern is real. The issue is that alcohol consumption intensifies feelings of depression as well as repressed events and emotions. Officers may at times suppress negative aspects of their work lives, never realizing how it invades their off duty experiences. Officers’ lives continue once their shift is over and life at times can be overwhelming. Work-related stress can be compounded by an impending divorce, co-parenting conflict, grief, legal issues, and anxiety.

The way an officer copes with stressors is a determining factor to the balance the officer is able to provide and maintain within the home. There is a definite link between high stress and alcohol consumption. It should come as no surprise that police work is rated among the highest occupation for work-related stress. If an officer deals with stress by consuming alcohol, their children’s coping can be affected. Research has shown that children of alcoholics tend to have issues with adjustment, impulsivity, and difficulty regulating emotion and behavior. This issue can permeate through the officer’s children and manifest in different ways. For instance, according to research, boys have more difficulty externalizing problems than girls. In addition, some studies link alcoholic parents and poor emotion regulation as well as suboptimal parenting due to diminished capacities. It is well documented that children of alcoholics are at risk for both internalizing and externalizing problems. Children of officers at times can bear the brunt of an officer’s bad day. Unexpressed hostility conveyed through harsh criticism can negatively impact a child or young adult. Children of alcoholic parents may even feel alienated by their parents who are officers. This can occur due to the amount of time officers spend on the job, overtime and even the time officers spend with their work family.

Dependable support is what everyone seeks. Many officers deny the possibility that injury, job stress and even retirement can lead to increased alcohol consumption. Alcoholics Anonymous holds a meeting specifically for law enforcement. High amounts of stress coupled with emotional trauma and excessive alcohol consumption are silent killers that can and have proven so many times to destroy an officer’s career, health and negatively impact his/her family. If you or somebody you know is in need of help, seek the right road to travel. Every officer’s life and family is worth it.

Melinda Inzani is a clinical social worker who has worked with multiple populations. She has authored numerous articles, provided trainings and has consulted and lectured all over the United States. Melinda has built a successful practice in Midland Park, New Jersey. She is dedicated to the communities she serves and has volunteered her time to several outreach organizations. For more information contact Melinda Inzani, LLC at 201-704-6749.

Inside View

I Got Your Six!
By Capt. Lori Mambelli (Ret.)

As we welcome in 2016, let’s focus on watching out for each other and helping each other succeed in our ambitions. In our line of work, we have enough naysayers and police bashers who are trying to destroy careers and families. We also have many character assassins among us in law enforcement—this is an unfortunate reality. This needs to stop. We need to support and protect our own, and help build each other up.

Last August, I grieved along with my fellow law enforcement brothers and sisters at the sudden illness and loss of a fellow sergeant. One whom I will always remember showing a level of respect toward me in my rank as captain, but more importantly as his sister in law enforcement. I recall working on assignments where he would gladly volunteer to work with me, saying, “Lor, I know you have my back!” This is a compliment that I will always remember. Words that I have always tried to live by and trying to protect someone’s back, support them, help them through, being there for them, especially when they need it most–during those times of adversity and darkness.

“I’ve got your six” is a saying we’ve all heard many times. What does it mean? It means someone is looking out for you, watching out for what is coming up behind you. The term “got your six” stems from military fighter pilots referencing the rear of an airplane as six o’clock. It’s a term that represents the way military and law enforcement look out for each other. It’s the comfort in knowing that someone is genuinely watching your back and letting you know when you make a mistake and offering you authentic guidance to help you navigate through any difficulties. Those watching your back can also be anybody, such as a family member, friend, work colleague, supervisor, professor, mentor or complete stranger.

In order to have someone’s back, you have to be straightforward with them. You need to take time out of your busy day to reach out, call, listen, talk, offer assistance, guidance, and reassurance when they ?need it.

It was encouraging to read the words of an unknown proud citizen who left a note on the patrol car of a Palm Beach Gardens police officer. The note dated ?Sept. 9, 2015, read:

“Officer, With everything going on in our country, and the senseless attacks on your brothers in uniform, I want you to know that I appreciate what you do for us. Thank you for risking your life for our well-being.”

#IGotYour6  ~A Proud Citizen”

Clearly, this proud citizen understands the true meaning of the expression. But there are others, even some of our own, who just don’t get it. To them, it means the good old pat on the back with the one hand while holding that proverbial knife in the other.

Sometimes it’s those who you’ve looked out for, covered their back, shared good times with and gone through tough times together. Sometimes it’s because you turned down their advances, or they disagree with a decision you had made, or that your no-nonsense approach scares them. Sometimes you are perceived as a threat. Sometimes it’s politics. These are reasons why the proverbial knife is drawn. Without warning, you’re set up, you’re hit and only then do you realize the friendship, the camaraderie, the words were not real or honest—they were covertly divisive–a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Et tu, Brute? were the last words Roman dictator Julius Caesar uttered to his friend Marcus Brutus as he was being stabbed. William Shakespeare’s play made famous these words because they signify the ultimate betrayal by a person.

It’s tough to get through the backstabbing, wondering how long has this person been harboring ill-will against you. You ask yourself: was I totally wrong in my judgment to trust them?

So what can we do when we encounter a malevolent person like Brutus? First and foremost, it’s best to cut them out of your life. Recognize immediately that their friendship was never what you thought it was and you had wrongly assessed their intentions. Also acknowledge that you can’t control what people do; you can only control your own actions and reactions.

When “I got your back” becomes “watch your back” it’s time to move on. People like Brutus are distractions and can negatively affect your life. Eliminate the distractions because their insecurities manifesting through antipathy are problems they have. Don’t make their problems yours. Commit yourself to surrounding yourself with people who are authentic and encouraging.

Do you know who has your six?

Lori Mambelli is a retired Captain from Passaic County Sheriff’s Dept., former Adjunct Professor FDU School of Criminal Justice, former President New Jersey Women in Law Enforcement. She has a masters degree in Administrative Science, a Certified NJ Public Manager, Academy Instructor, EMT. Experience includes Commander of Bureau of Criminal ID, Evidence, Patrol, Court Security, and Communications, Domestic Violence Liaison, Emergency Response Team, background investigations, media requests, Sheriff’s representative County Law & Public Safety Committee, Grant Administrator & Internships. Received Dept. of State Award for Excellence, commendations for police work and leadership, & meritorious awards for Exceptional Service.

Spotlight

Exclusive Interview with Julia Torres
By George Beck

Julia Torres is a retired law enforcement officer who worked mainly undercover for city, county, state, and federal agencies; a Gulf War Veteran; and an accomplished author. Since her 2001 retirement due to a Gulf-related illness of multiple sclerosis, she has acted for film and stage, advocated for victims in a police unit, and fostered children in court. Her two non-fiction books–Still Standing, The Story of My Wars, and Bolder And Braver, My Undercover Life–are receiving rave reviews.

NJ Blue Now: As a Gulf War Veteran, you were exposed to chemical warfare. Can you tell us more about that?

Julia Torres: From in-processing at Khobar Towers to our missions to Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Kuwait, NBC alarms sounded off, especially at ports and airports, which were often hit by SCUDs. We’d mask, give the visual signal for those who hadn’t heard it, and stay masked until we’d get the ‘All Clear.’ Sometimes we drove with our masks; we were truck drivers. Other times, we’d get into MOPPP Level IV [highest level of protection-overgarments, footwear cover, and gloves). We wore the same suit the entire tour. They are one-shot deals, once you break the seal on the package and put them on, you’re supposed to burn them. We were so ill-prepared that way, some of us didn’t even have a real suit, but the ones for training purposes. It pissed me off when civilians at home would say we weren’t exposed to chemicals. I’d say, Oh, yeah that’s right. I saw you there. That would shut them right up. In 2001, I received a letter from the Pentagon stating that our unit had been exposed to chemical agents.

You tell how you were forced by direct order to take pills and drink an unknown liquid on the battlefield, and you were told you could not get pregnant for five years after taking them, and you and others developed immediate complications, do you believe this caused your MS?

The CO ordered the company to take Pyridostigmine Bromide pills, and drink an unknown green-type liquid before the first alarm sounded. The 13 of us females were told not to get pregnant for five years after redeployment. After returning to base from a Kuwaiti mission one day, one of my buddies said the order to stop taking the PBs had been given. Troops were complaining of rashes and increased urination, but we didn’t get the word on the mission. I said it was too late. I’d already taken the full pack of 21 pills, had a rash on my forearms, and had to pull over a lot to pee, whenever I could. I brought a packet back home because I was curious about it. When I was diagnosed with MS, I looked into it and learned they were used for Myasthenia Gravis, a muscle disease. But, we used them as a pre-treatment for nerve agents. The pharmaceutical company had asked the military for a hold-harmless agreement ‘cause that wasn’t the PBs intended use. I often say the Gulf was an environmental war. I left healthy, led platoon runs, but when I came back, things slowly started going bad, but I don’t think the PBs were the only cause of the MS, nor was I the only one who became ill. Some of the guys died shortly after the Gulf, but their deaths were unexplained. I think the nine unknown inoculations, NBC exposure, depleted uranium, oil fires, smoke, sandstorms, kerosene heat, and burn pits—they were all factors.

This exposure has negatively affected your health, yet you never complain? Why is that?

I believe God doesn’t give us situations we can’t handle, and when He thinks, not us, that we can’t take it anymore, He shows us the way out. I believe that good comes from bad, at some point, like with my books. Writing about my bad experiences will help others heal like they’ve helped me. I think you have to believe things will get better, even when they look impossible, otherwise, what’s your option. Giving up? No way. I don’t know what would’ve become of me if I didn’t have faith.

As part of the East Orange VA, Team Thunder, you represent New Jersey in the annual National Veterans Wheelchair Games, can you tell us more about that?

Since MS is a spinal cord injury, I’m part of the team that competes in sports from weight lifting to quad rugby. Up until it’s time to fly out for the games, we work out with our trainer Ralph Jones at the VA’s gym. It’s like having a whole bunch of big brothers, who at the same time know that this sister will back them up. When we’re working out, we get energized. The music’s pumping, we joke, talk sh** to each other, share our thoughts… Ralph even plans trips–shopping, movies, playing pool, whatever–for us. We can’t have a better guy as our trainer. We’re a family.

Lately, in the news, there has been a lot of discussion about the inadequate care for wounded warriors. Is this justified and have you had a similar experience.

Hearing and seeing this happen makes my stomach turn because as much as the VA has changed since my return from the Gulf, it still lacks. I hadn’t returned to the VA for care until 2001 because it was so inadequate and depressing in 1991. I’d love to help revamp the whole VA system, firing the bad apples, hiring new blood who really profess a ‘veterans come first attitude,’ and if they don’t, well I’d get rid of them too. The patient-liaison advocacy is simply civilian bureaucracy; put Veterans in charge because we don’t feel that we come first. I say this for myself and all the vets I have spoken to. We should receive the best medical care when we need it. And, if you work at a VA, then don’t be a sourpuss. The attitude of some folks is dispiriting, for lack of putting a better word in print. No vet should have to wait for an appointment in an unreasonable time frame, or for a doctor to be hired because there aren’t enough. If no appointment is available, then let us see a civilian doctor without putting bullsh** pre-requisites that prevent us from getting the medical attention we need. And regarding PTSD or MST, let us also choose who we want. We don’t want to talk to someone who can’t relate, who cries over a paper cut… The VA gets a huge amount of money every year for the care of veterans, and there is no accountability. The news relay how funds are misappropriated by civilians. This is disgusting! Put ‘em in jail, and make ‘em pay the money back! There’s no excuse and definitely no pardoning. Everybody’s gotta go. That’s money for our care, not for anyone’s pocket!

You were also a law enforcement officer and a victim of domestic violence, what should our readers know about this unfortunate issue.

DV happens to anyone regardless of sex, profession, age, or financial status.

The deception behind the presumed love is so convincing that you think he/she is the best thing that’s ever happened to you. Their façade is so great that if you mention your suspicions to someone, you’re doubted. Slowly, they separate you from friends and family so that your support network is gone. Even when supervised visitation is awarded, defendants often convince caseworkers that they are good guys, and the victim is considered paranoid or exaggerating.

Regarding the law, FROs don’t protect the victim. Defense attorneys requesting adjournments should be denied. They are tactics to tire the victim from proceeding. I settled for a lesser charge when my supervisor commented on the amount of time it took from work.

If there are visible injuries, arrest. Yes, some victims drop the charges, others bail out the defendant, but those are not reasons to not effect an arrest. To assume that a perpetrator has given you their house keys, and then ask them to take a walk, puts the victim and family in danger. My ex-husband was asked to do just that, although I had visible injuries, and he left a letter on my doorstep with the house key, stating that if he wanted to kill me, he would have.

You have a lot of passion about victim advocacy with veterans, domestic violence, MST, PTSD, sexual harassment and gender equality, but particularly with sexual assault. What motivates you every day to continue this endeavor?

Helping people heal motivates me. I’m a rape survivor. I know the impact a presumed friend who yanked my virginity by drugging me after prom had on my life. I know where not addressing the issues associated with Rape Trauma Syndrome can lead, what it’s like to not have family support. It was a long road to recover me, and I’m indebted to the male officer who helped me see I could trust, and form intimate relationships again. I want victims to know that we are never to blame. Rape is never about drinking, clothes worn, or any of those archaic misconceptions which some people still hold. Rape is about power and opportunity. It happens to both male and female in the civilian sector and military, and it’s a huge challenge for men, who are deemed the stronger sex and are often ostracized because of it. If a person doesn’t believe a victim, I say ignore them. But I challenge the disbeliever to then look at the victim’s behavior after the rape, which will speak for itself.

Ten years later, I confronted my rapist who replied like a sucker–I took advantage of you. Pathetic. Regardless of his defense to label me a crazy psycho when others question him today, I had my say then, and the fact that he will not attend our high school reunions, displays his fear of me exposing him as a rapist.

The more vocal I become, the more I find women and men sharing their stories, some which spouses and family still do not know. It’s priceless to see the hurt lifted, and that is what motivates me.

You are an immensely talented writer, have you always wanted to be a writer?

Thank you, but I don’t know about being “immensely talented.” I just had bottled up things that had to come out. I’m thankful for Jamie Quattrochi, a director I met at an audition in California in 2009 who insisted I write a book when I shared some things with him. I never wanted to be a writer, but the same goes for being a soldier and a cop. It’s just how life developed, but thinking back, teachers and professors said I wrote well, although I never consider myself a writer. It wasn’t ‘til I moved back to Jersey in 2011 and took writing classes with author Barry Scheinkopf–you know him–who taught me how to really write. Barry’s the one who gets the credit.

Any new books on the horizon? Can you tell us about it?

Some folks have said I can’t stop at those two books. I don’t know. Years ago, I thought of writing an anthology of true-life stories of different people. Then, I thought of maybe writing fiction or poetry. I think if I were to write another non-fiction, it won’t be traumatic, at least, I hope not. I’m leaning on a more inspiring, calm after the storm deal. What I’d really love, is to write about God healing my MS. He still does miracles; I just have to wait and see when he’ll do it.

George Beck is a police detective, writer and a Drew University Ph.D. candidate. He’s earned several degrees including an associate’s, bachelor’s and two master’s degrees. He is the author of The Killer Among Us (Noir Nation Books) and several other books. His nonfiction and short stories have been featured in magazines and anthologies nationally and internationally.

Family First

Educating our kids to say No! to Drugs and Alcohol
By Sgt. Anthony Espino

Many studies agree that the adolescent years are the most likely time for someone to start taking drugs or consuming alcohol. Research also indicates that adolescents who begin drinking before age 14 are more likely to experience alcohol dependency at some point in their lives, compared to those who begin drinking after 21 years of age.

Seems today everywhere you look or turn, our children are surrounded with negative influences that either encourage or condone substance abuse. We constantly see people who engage in illegal drug use glamorized on film, and television. News reports show professional athletes that have been caught consuming illegal drugs and/or alcohol, but yet are still successful on the field. It’s these kinds of influences that create false beliefs that if those people can use drugs or alcohol and be successful, so can I.

So what can we do to steer our children away from drugs and alcohol? Pervasive, consistent messages to children about the dangers of drugs and alcohol can help prevent substance abuse. Moreover, effective prevention requires that multiple people such as teachers, parents, peers, and the community deliver the same messages about alcohol and drugs. These important prevention messages must be repeated throughout childhood and adolescence to delay the first use of alcohol or drugs.

Educators are voicing their frustrations to effectively help children say no to drugs or alcohol. Therefore, I believe we need a universal curriculum that is simple, comprehensive, and effective. Our children need to be aware of the risks of using illegal drugs. We must present this awareness in a manner that is believable to them. For some, drug use begins as a means of coping—to deal with anxiety, anger, depression, boredom, and other unpleasant feelings. But in fact, being high can be a way of simply avoiding the problems and challenges of growing up. Research also suggests that family members’ usage of alcohol and drugs play a strong role in whether children/teens start using drugs. Parents, grandparents, and older brothers and sisters are role models who children follow.

Providing an effective drug and alcohol education can offer an alternative in combatting substance abuse. However, other preventive measures, especially proactive parenting and strong family bonds, can also help delay experimentation with drugs and alcohol, and therefore, help reduce long-term problems.

Responsibility for prevention belongs to many individuals and groups, not only school-based prevention programs. Here are three key important components:

• Schools–Programs that are age-specific, developmentally appropriate, and culturally sensitive should be repeated throughout the grades, and re-enforced by youth, parent, and community prevention efforts.

• Parents–Parents provide role models, define standards of behavior and achievement, set limits, and provide consequences for risky behaviors. Parents must talk early and often about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

• Communities–Adopt ordinances restricting youth access to drugs and alcohol. They should be enforced and balanced with opportunities for positive youth involvement.

Effective drug and alcohol abuse prevention is everyone’s responsibility– adolescents, schools, parents, and communities. Our children deserve the best chance at a happy and healthy life, free of alcohol and drug dependency. We have no greater responsibility.

Sgt. Anthony Espino is a 16-year veteran police officer, assigned to the patrol and crime prevention unit. His passion is to lecture to community members, teachers and students to promote awareness and offer tips to prevent crime and victimization.

Legal News

Are Cops Safer on the Streets Than They are in the Criminal Justice System?
By Robert (Bob) Bianchi, Esq.

Well my friends, if you have been following my articles, or news appearances on TV, or our social media, you will see that the attorneys and former prosecutors at The Bianchi Law Group predicted the outcome of the trial of the police officer who was tried in the now infamous Freddy Gray case.

This case to me as a former head County NJ Prosecutor, and now NJ Criminal Defense Attorney, has been an outrage from its inception. The inability to convict the officer at trial is hardly a surprise to me. This entire case will be another black eye to prosecutors, the likes of the Duke Lacrosse debacle years before. And unfortunately, both in Duke and Grey case(s), the themes are the same. Pandering to the community to score political points for reelection or higher office, as opposed to solid and proper prosecutorial practices.

Sorry, those that know my career realize that I practiced civil rights cases for minority citizens for many years in state and federal court. I was given the Man of the Year award from many “liberal” groups, including the ACLU. While I support the work police do, I realize that like any profession, there is good and bad. But, I never would sully the entire profession, as Prosecutor Marylyn Mosby who is leading the Freddy Gray case has done in this case.

Firstly, real Prosecutors care very much about following ethics rules that prohibit “politicizing” cases and “trying cases in the media.” It is unfair to a defendant’s right to a fair trial, and in truth, it is unfair to the public and victims. Poisoning public opinion is never a good tactic. This is why most prosecutors are very careful about the comments they make publically.

Perhaps worse is that Mosby in her media tour (that included a disgusting and unprofessional trip for a prosecutor to make to Vogue Magazine), indicated that she “heard the voices” of people around the nation when making her decision to charge this case. What?! This is about as bad as it gets in my mind. Prosecutors are to evaluate and charge people with crimes based upon evidence and the law, nothing more, nothing less. To brazenly state that she was influenced by the court of public opinion is an outrage. And apparently, she only listened to one segment of the community, as many supported the police as well.

Next, I am dismayed at the reckless speed with which this investigation was done. I have been handling homicide cases for over 27 years, as a prosecutor and defense attorney. Especially when it involves a law enforcement officer, the investigation must be thorough, exhaustive, where no stone is left unturned. While there is no specific timeline to conclude an investigation, I know from experience that it takes many months to do it correctly. The fact she charged these police officers the very same day she received the autopsy report, and only days after the incident, tells me her mind was made up, irrespective of the facts and the law. Worse yet, a sloppy and rushed investigation leads to a sloppy prosecution in the courtroom.

To further exacerbate these already fatal flaws is the fact she chose to overcharge the case, and include people as defendants that could have been used as witnesses. And if that is not bad enough, she chose to start with her weakest case, emboldening other defendants in the case after she was unable to secure a guilty verdict in that case. Strategically, this makes no sense–although as it relates to her decisions, it is at least consistent–badly consistent.

To make things even stranger is that she has devoted so many resources to this case. Four assistant district attorneys and a slew of experts retained after she charged the case. Well, that is all fine. However, that should have been done from the beginning of the investigation and in itself, evidences she did not have all of the information she needed when charging the case.

So, is it a surprise that she was unable to prove her case in at trial. Of course, as I have seen throughout a career with weak prosecutors–who bring bad cases to court for ulterior motives–the mantra will be that cops “get away with murder.” No, they are as defendants entitled to the same rights as any defendant and if the state fails to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, juries do what they are sworn to do.

This case outrages me more than others of a recently similar nature. I have to wonder if the “justice system” is more of a danger to the police than the streets are!

Come join us on the Bianchi Law Group Facebook, or LinkedIn and join Twitter @RBianchiEsq.  I would be honored to have your participation on the many police cases we discuss.

Happy New Year and be safe!

Robert A. Bianchi, Esq., served as the Morris County Prosecutor from June 22, 2007 through February 8, 2013. The New Jersey Supreme Court has awarded him the distinction of being a Certified Criminal Trial Attorney, with less than 1% of the attorneys (approximately 250 attorneys) in this State who are so qualified. Mr. Bianchi is a nationally recognized TV Legal Analyist on many networks and regularly appears weekly on Fox News Network.

Spotlight

Exclusive Interview with Lt. Randy Sutton (Ret.)
By George Beck

Lt. Sutton is an intelligent law enforcement leader whose insights are crystal clear. He’s written for many major publications, including the New York Post. He is routinely featured on national media stations where he stands up and defends the noble law enforcement profession. He’s a best selling and award-winning author. He is recognized as one of the most highly decorated officers in the history of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. He’s trained thousands of officers nationwide on the subject of “Policing with Honor.”

NJ BLUE NOW: You’ve acted in some major blockbuster movies, wrote bestselling books, and have appeared in national publications, what was this experience like for a cop?

Lt. Sutton: Of all my experiences first and foremost, the most satisfying and challenging was being a cop. The other stuff gave me a different dimension and experiences to draw on. The acting was very fun and allowed me to meet people that I never could have if I didn’t pursue the opportunities. I love pursuing challenges. The writing has been life-changing for me. Not only does it allow me the ability to express myself, but the written word is incredibly powerful and touches lives.

Did your department welcome your celebrity?
Well let me put it this way, I had a lot of support from some people within the department but it also caused resentment and jealousy among some. I got sideways with one of the Sheriff’s that I worked for and he actually did not allow some episodes of the TV show “COPS to air because as he told the producer, “This isn’t the fucking Randy Sutton show!”. It’s amazing though, how many letters and communications as well as face to face meetings where police officers on my own department and many others said that they grew interested in policing from seeing me on that show and some of the movies. I consider that, as nothing but positive.

Your written and speaking talents are impressive. What is it you did to develop these skills?
I’ve been asked where I was trained to write and what classes did I take in college many times. The truth is, I barely got out of high school and never took a writing class in my life. I guess I was self-trained because, as a child, I was very sickly and was relegated to bed for much of my childhood. I couldn’t go out and play like other kids often and so found solace and entertainment in books. I love to read and grew to love stories and adventures in the pages of my books. That love of reading continues to this day. But it was policing that created the writer within me. Being a witness and participant in the greatest dramas in life are part of ‘A Cops Life’ (hence the name of one of my books) and those experiences created a need within me to express them and share them.

You began your career here in NJ with the Princeton Police Department, and left it for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Many officers often think about switching departments, what was it that made you decide to pack up and head to Las Vegas?
It was one of the most difficult decisions that I ever made and in my case one of the best. I liked being a Princeton cop. It was my hometown, I knew everyone, I was comfortable, but there were two major issues. The leadership of the department sucked and more importantly, I was bored doing small town policing. I wanted action and in the immortal words of some wise man. “Be careful what you wish for” because going from a small town like Princeton to Las Vegas was a true culture shock. I had to go through the Academy again and start all over but it was all worth it. The greatest challenge was leaving my family and just picking up and starting over. Of course I was almost halfway to retirement in New Jersey and at the top of my pay scale as a Detective so taking a $10,000 pay cut was a bit tough as well. But I never looked back.

What was it about policing you enjoyed the most?
Two things really. I loved the action. I’m definitely an adrenaline junky and getting into the mix of a hot call was something that I still miss even after being retired a few years. But most importantly, I enjoyed playing a role in the lives of others, both the people whose lives mine intersected with on the streets, and as I became a Sergeant and then Lieutenant, my cops. I believe that there is no greater honor than being chosen to lead and being part of the lives of my officers was the most satisfying part of policing to me.
What did you dislike the most about policing?
That’s the easiest answer. The politics of policing. As I go around the country and speak to officers from small towns and big cities when I present my seminar “Policing With Honor” I hear the same complaint over and over. The men and women whonserve are not afraid of going out and facing the bad guys, they are afraid of their own administrations and their politics. That’s exactly the way I felt. I was constantly fighting the bosses because some wanted to make political sacrifices of my cops or “make an example” out of them. Being a cop means being a seeker of justice and that shouldn’t stop when you put on some stripes or bars or stars.

Right now you are a dominant force defending the law enforcement profession on social and mass media. What promoted you to get involved on this level?
When I was a still working I was pretty vocal about my views and that often got me in trouble with my bosses. Things have gotten much worse for those who are actively serving and they are powerless to voice their concerns and opinions because they know that their agencies will destroy them. It’s happened time and time again. Out of frustration, an officer will make a social media posting or public comment and the wrath of the Chief or Sheriff will descend upon them and punish them for their point of view. They didn’t have a voice. Since I have somewhat of a forum, all I did was say what they were feeling and things snowballed from there. A few months ago, after I did a video directed at President Obama accusing him of his anti-police strategy that was seen by almost two million people, many of them police officers, the Huffington Post referred to me as “The Voice of American Law Enforcement.” Of all the things that I’ve been called over the years, and there have been a few, trust me, that is the greatest honor I could ever have been given.

What is causing all the negative sentiment against law enforcement?
That’s a topic we could spend days on. America is going through social upheaval and the police are always on the front line of social change. They are an easy target because they are the most visible representation of government. Add to this the revolution of camera and social media and sprinkle in an organized and well-funded liberal campaign, a media that feeds on drama even if they know it isn’t true, and you have the perfect storm of anti-police movements. Then, of course, let me not leave out our own President and his Department of Justice who would much rather investigate police officers and agencies than organized criminal elements masquerading as “social and civil rights movements.” I think this is the most difficult time to be a police officer in history.

Is there something we can do to counter all the negativity against law enforcement?
Yes there is and that is part of my mission. I believe in one really simple concept when it comes to confronting the critics of American Law Enforcement. It’s called ‘The Truth.’ The truth is that policing is the most misunderstood concept in the government. The truth is the vast majority of those who serve as law enforcement officers do so out of a sense of honor and integrity and perform their duties well. The truth is if the public knew the realities of policing and the men and women behind those badges, they would support them to a much greater degree. But the truth is law enforcement as a whole sucks at getting this message across. I am currently working on a national effort to change the perceptions of the American law enforcement officer. Watch out for it cause it’s coming!

What would you say to an officer out there who wants to get involved and speak out against the injustices against our profession, but is worried about retaliation from politicians and others who may try to destroy their career?
There are forums for bringing those views public but they have to be very careful. They need to read and understand the policies of their agencies first and foremost. Publications like NJ Blue Now and other law enforcement news sources are interested in a well-put-together article that expresses viewpoints. And I make myself available on Facebook and my website both for public discussion on my page and private conversations where I can be their voice.

Do you believe policing in America has changed drastically since you retired in 2010?
Policing itself has not really changed since the first Constable put on a badge. When I say that, I mean that people have always faced temptation, internal struggles, mental illness and so on. The human condition created challenges for police officers throughout history. The things that have changed on the positive side for law enforcement is training have vastly improved, equipment and technology including protective equipment is vastly better and accessible and education has improved. On the other side though, the dangers facing officers have never been greater. Physical danger from physical confrontations have always been part of the job but with the current breakdown in American society, lack of respect for any kinds of authority and a lack of fear of repercussions, more and more people who never would have thought of assaulting the police are feeling empowered to do so. The misuse of social media and lack of true leadership in police agencies has cost careers as well as lives.

Who do you admire in law enforcement?
I admire those cops and deputies and troopers and agents who still believe in the importance of what they do and go out every freaking day and do it with honor and integrity. I admire those who despite the rhetoric and biased news media are not afraid to make the car stops and pedestrian stops and face the criminal enemies that prey on the people they serve. And I admire those who still act with kindness and compassion and aren’t afraid to reach out with empathy when they feel they should. In other words, I admire most working cops.

George Beck is a police detective, writer and a Drew University Ph.D. candidate. He’s earned several degrees including an associate’s, bachelor’s and two master’s degrees. He is the author of The Killer Among Us (Noir Nation Books) and several other books. His nonfiction and short stories have been featured in magazines and anthologies nationally and internationally.

Entertainment

Ink Masters’ Winner Dave Kruseman
By Dan Lorenzo

Love it or hate it, Spike TV’s Ink Masters has helped popularize tattooing to the main stream. Season six winner Dave Kruseman owns and works out of Olde Line Tattoo in Hagerstown, Maryland with his wife Kim. Kruseman’s specialty is American Traditional. I recently met Kruseman in Atlantic City. He was kind and humble with me as well as with his fans.

Dan Lorenzo: Right before you arrived in Newark, NJ to film 
Ink Masters what were your fears if any? Were you afraid to leave your family?

Dave Kruseman: Yeah, I think that my biggest fear was leaving my family for a long period of time. I didn’t know what to expect, you know what I mean? I didn’t know if I was going to be gone for a month or two months… for a week. I think it was more a fear of the unknown and not knowing who I was going to be competing with until once I got there.

You knew Duffy (his former apprentice) was going to be there, but no one else?

She was the only one that I knew. Other than her I didn’t know anybody else.

From my understanding you are really cut off from the outside world once you sign on. Could you at least speak with your wife Kim?
I got to talk to Kim every night on the phone for about an hour, but other than that we were pretty much on “tattoo lockdown.” We couldn’t leave or go anywhere. All the windows were blacked out. We basically just lived in the dorm rooms with a bunch of guys that we had never met that we were competing against.

I heard there were times you wanted to throw in the towel because you missed your family so much?

Yeah, I think that a couple of times I wanted to throw in the towel because I missed my family and a couple of times because I thought that the challenges were so ridiculous that I almost refused to do them, but my wife being the awesome person that she is and the voice of reason, talked me into staying multiple times.

Reality television has a way of spinning your worst moments into common occurrences. For somebody who saw your persona just via Ink Masters was that a fair representation of the real you?

I think that the show is pretty dead on. They portrayed me exactly as I really am so I can’t really speak for anybody else. I look at it this way: If they put it on there, you had to say it. They can’t create words that come out of your mouth.

Were there any artists you met on the show who you think you’ll be lifelong friends with or did everybody go their separate ways after the show ended?
Everybody pretty much went their separate ways, but I will definitely be lifelong friends with Duffy and Matt and Katie McGowan are friends of mine. I also think I will be lifelong friends with Craig Foster. We really hit it off.

The tattoo convention circuit features really long days. Isn’t it a much harder work day than it would be at your shop  in the mall?
I think the typical Friday is really hard because you’re in a new environment and need to set your stuff up a certain way, but once you get through that first tattoo then it’s a cakewalk. It’s like moving into a new shop and you get used to your surroundings and you roll with the punches.
The fact that the finale was live and it seemed like the audience was so loud it must have been hard to hear. Was that more pressure?

The finale was definitely the most pressure that I felt through the whole season just because it was live. I mean, I’ve never been in a band or anything like that so I’ve never been onstage. As soon as the people started coming in and the crowd got louder and louder I got really really nervous, but at the same time I kinda felt like a rock-star that night. It was really cool to look out and see the sea of people that were supporting us.

Tell me something about your personal life. Are you into sports? What music are you into?
I’m a huge Johnny Cash fan. I’m a huge Waylon Jennings fan. I’m really into painting in my spare time and my children. We’re nerdy moms and dads that just happen to be cool. (laughs)

Every tattoo artist I know is against tattooing the name of a loved one’s romantic partner.
I try to steer people clear of that, but if they are going to do it I try to get them to do it in a color so it’s easy to cover up.
Do you have Kim’s name tattooed on yourself?
I do. Very very small! (laughs)

Interview

Short, Sharp Interview Detective Sergeant Anthony Damiano (Ret.)
“I Ain’t Your Papi!”
By John Welsh

NJ Blue Now: You spent over 25 years in law enforcement and all over the country you are known for your appearance on the television show COPS and that classic “I ain’t your papi!” phrase. What was that experience like?

Anthony Damiano: I hear that phrase all the time and everywhere I go. The COPS show was a great experience. At first I didn’t know what to expect. I was a little nervous on COPS. There was a camera guy in the front seat and a soundman in the backseat and I didn’t know these guys. But, once I got into a foot chase and the cameraman kept up I knew working with these guys was going to work out just fine. After that I was a little bit more open to the COPS crew riding with me every day. Hey, plus the free dinner every night didn’t hurt either.

I also remember thinking at that time how everybody would react to my style of policing. Looking back, being on COPS was one of the best experiences of my life.

Did your department welcome the attention you received?
The department got a lot of good feedback from other police departments all around the country after I appeared on COPS. The sheriff at the time, Jerry Speziale, would call me and tell me ‘hey you got another 20 letters and emails that came in.’ He also told me anytime he would go out of state, people always asked him how’s the guy from Cops doing. I also hear to this day people still call headquarters and ask if I still work there.

When did you decide to pursue a career in law enforcement?
As far back as I can remember I wanted to be a police officer. I grew up watching my dad, Carmine. He was a Clifton Special Officer in the late 60s up until 2014. It was great seeing him in uniform. When he was on patrol he often stopped home for dinner with the squad car. My brother, Steven is a sergeant with Prospect Park PD. Our father was our role model. Because of him, we wanted to be cops.

If you didn’t become an officer, what would have been your plan B?
Right out of high school I started taking law enforcement entrance exams. I received a call in 1987 for the Passaic County Sheriff’s Department Courthouse Division.  Prior to that I worked in the Shearson Lehman kitchen at the World Trade Center, so I guess it was a blessing that I got called for the Sheriffs Department job or I may not be around to talk about it today.

What did you like most about being an officer?
Besides all the action and outsmarting and arresting of criminals, I would say the most rewarding part of being a cop was when you would help someone with something basic, like having them follow you when they are lost in the city somewhere or pushing them to safety with the squad car when they were stuck on the highway. Also speaking to the kids and being a good role model. I always like when children ask all kinds of question and their faces light up when you speak to them.

What have you learned after retiring that you’d like to share with all the officers out there right now?
Make the best out of your law enforcement career while you’re in it because everyone is replaceable. Don’t think for a second your department needs you.

When you retire all you have left is your legacy and how you wish to be remembered and your fellow officers are either going to say you were either a good person and cop, or good for nothing. Your career goes by as fast as a blink of an eye.

What do you plan to do in your retirement?
I plan to continue to enjoy retirement by traveling, drinking good wine, enjoying good food and smoking a nice cigar. It’s that simple. I’ll spend my summers in Italy and during the year head out to Aruba, Costa Rica and wherever else a plane can take me. It’s all about enjoying life.

Any advice you can share with officers?
In this new world we live in, you need to have a new way of policing. You have to always be aware of your surroundings and always know someone is watching you even when you think that they are not, so make every decision wisely. Someone is always ready to scrutinize your work. Treat everyone as if you want him or her to treat you. And remember a bad decision is better than no decision at all.

Also, don’t take the job home with you. Leave it at work. Enjoy your days off with your family. They put up with a lot from you working holidays and weekends and your occasional bad mood when you get home from work. And lastly, your main objective is to keep yourself safe as well as your fellow officers and the community. Always remember you chose this profession, you wanted to be a cop.

Do you have any regrets?
I have no regrets. I had an outstanding career. I’ve made lots of friends on my department as well as other police agencies from all over. Throughout the years, I’ve celebrated birthdays and many holidays with my brothers and sisters in law enforcement. They became part of my cop family. Who else knows you better than your fellow cops about what you go through day in and day out. And, seriously, I have nothing to regret. My most important accomplishment was making my dad proud of the work I’ve done in my career. That’s good enough for me.