Public Safety Psychological Health
By Debra Ann Faretra, M.A.

Mental Health is a scary and taboo term that can cause quite a stir in the law enforcement profession. What causes people to frown upon matters of the mind, but not matters of the body? Perhaps how society views mental health and how members of public safety are required to be pillars of stone through all of the storms.

Law enforcement psychological health differs from the rest of the population due to the dynamics surrounding the profession. Psychological wounds are sustained in the line of duty and are part of the occupational hazards, but yet, mostly everyone pretends that they don’t exist. It’s important to separate public safety mental health from the general public’s mental health situations. They differ immensely in their characteristics and although all are human and mental health is under its own umbrella, police officers are in a league of their own.

Manifestations of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are more prevalent these days due to the nature of crimes that the American Police Officer combats. America is a different place and time now that is similar to warlike environments. Traumatic incidents are occurring with frequency across the United States and infect the minds of the police community as a whole. Police take the brunt of most of the atrocities by the changing criminal behavior and activities. In fact, law enforcement roles and mentalities today are similar to military soldiers and with that comes a greater level of responsibility, stress, and risk for psychological wounds and even death. They will be affected by this in one way or another unless these situations are appropriately maintained.

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can manifest itself months or many years after a traumatic event. Its onset can occur after a distressful and life threatening situation where there was an element of fear of death, witnessing death and injuries during mass shootings, terroristic attacks, accidents, shootings, and natural disasters.

Life flashes before the eyes and overwhelming anxiety can occur thereafter. The tragedy seen with others can be internalized by the first responder and cause hypervigiliance or abnormally decreased responses as a form of numbing. Long after the trauma, the mind and body may still be in fight, flight, or freeze mode which can cause an elevation in unhealthy neurotransmitter activity. Like a domino effect, each can affect other areas of functioning.

Panic attacks can occur in correlation to or as a result of untreated PTSD, imbalance of brain chemicals as a result of seasonal changes, sleep deprivation, poor diet, substances, and stress. All of these things are normal responses to serious situations but many times they don’t subside too easily. It’s important to go through the healing channels.

Untreated psychological wounds can spiral into debilitating symptoms and ultimately suicide. Unfortunately, many police officers and firefighters suffer silently with psychological injuries and may not realize what exactly they are feeling; they just know something is wrong. It’s easy for the mind to become barricaded and held hostage by painful thoughts. It can cause a person to feel unstable and scared with nowhere to turn.

It’s understood that those who seek mental health may come under scrutiny from their departments. Officers may be pressured to disclose their treatment and risk becoming a target of an internal investigation and further psychological testing, which would only exacerbate their stress. So what is the solution one might wonder? Damned if you do and damned if you don’t!

Seek assistance from trusted union representatives that will appropriately advise of departmental rules and policies. Police unions need to be comprised of members that are exclusive to the interests of their peers. Administrators should stay clear from union affairs to respect the differences between subordinates. In some cases, how is an officer to complain of their needs to a room full of people that may contribute to their stress? Each officer needs to be able to rely on their union representatives in times of need due to the collective stress of the job.

Blue friendly mental health professionals should be relied on to assist in psychological healing. If people aren’t comfortable using their insurance plans, then perhaps out of pocket expenses will need to be utilized for a short period of time to stabilize situations. Hotlines across the United States are available for peer to peer discussions during difficult times until comfort of professional psychological intervention is achieved.

A desensitization process is required through the assistance of not only a professional, but friends, family, and religious affiliations. Anxiety disorders have a high success rate for treatment and a person can resume their normal life activities once they begin their therapeutic journey that every American Hero deserves.

Psychological challenges that surround the law enforcement profession do not necessarily have to be advertised to the general public, but more work needs to be done interdepartmentally behind the scenes to assist with non bias and effective resources that officers can rely on in times of need.

No one’s health should be neglected or compromised in any profession. Precautionary measures are advised, but no one should ever feel alone.

Thank you all for your sacrifices and services, but please take care of yourselves too! Your life matters! Stay Safe and stay well!

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255

Debra Ann Faretra, M.A. is a Mental Health Public Safety Instructor offering in service training for police and fire. She is also the Principal Mental Health and Wellness Educational Consultant for Forensi Consulting, LLC in Essex County, New Jersey. She is educated in psychology, counseling, and police studies.

Inside Perspective

A Real Leader Inspires Others
By Anthony Mikatarian

In order to be a good leader, you must first aspire to master the art of good followership. As professionals, we spend most of our time in followership roles, therefore, how we perform as a follower sometimes determines how we will act as leaders. In other words, if someone in a followership role is constantly reprimanded for such things as violations of departmental rules and regulations, performance and demeanor, it’s pretty safe to assume when given a leadership role, he or she will pervert the very same rules he or she is entrusted to enforce. This type of leader is not good for any organization. Understanding followership is essential to being a good leader.

Let’s examine this further by looking at common followership paths many people choose.

A) Passive – The passive employee usually relies only on their leader’s decision-making and thinking and doesn’t buck the system for many reasons. They might feel that their direct boss or organization discredits their decision-making and way of thinking, so being passive shields them from the pushback. They may feel that their work habits are not realized or are not appreciated by their leaders and peers. They feel following the leader and their peers are their only answers. This is not the path to choose to become a great leader. However, passivity is also usually contributed to working for an overbearing, stubborn or incompetent leader who will accept no other way but their way. The passive one will only take action when told to by their leader, legally of course. These beliefs cause them to blindly follow their leader, be micromanaged by leadership, won’t go the extra mile, lack enthusiasm, and they will only give interaction with their leader when necessary. If you fall into this category, make adjustments so one day when you are a leader you will succeed.

B) Alienated – Alienated followers look at themselves as unconventional thinkers who have a good way of looking at things. They debate for the sake of debating in order to explore possible further thought. They feel that they have their agencies moral sense in order. However, when they become alienated, they feel that their leadership does not value their natural abilities and ideas; leadership is dishonest with them; leadership manipulated them for their own gain; delivered broken promises from leadership; and that leadership does not concede to their own deficiencies. Therefore, it becomes a tragic cycle or miscommunication. Knowing how to redirect a follower heading down the alienated path is essential for good leadership and also for the follower to be most productive.

C) Practical – Practical followers usually don’t deviate from staying in the middle and don’t want controversy. They might feel that they are accustomed to their work environment and know how to navigate its system. They feel like they help maintain perspective and consistency within their agency. They play by the agency’s goals and objectives. Practical followers are productive employees, however, they may be misperceived as self-gratifying or being politically motivated, or afraid to lay it on the line. Some may misperceive them as self-interest motivated, or perhaps, covering up their own deficiencies by literally going by the book. As a follower in an unstable, inconsistent and ever-changing work environment; a non-personable work environment; consistent negotiating to accomplish goals; an environment consumed by rumors and unofficial information, being a practical follower is a path many choose. A true leader will motivate subordinates from this practical followership to become dependable followers.

D) Dependable – Dependable followers are actively and positively involved in their agency. They may feel that they are independent and critical thinkers but still respect and understand the department’s leaders and the agencies goals. They may find themselves engrossed in and committed to their agency. They find themselves genuine, competent, non-abusive and conscientious with the goal of bringing value to their agency. They are free to act and make decisions. They contribute productively to the organization and often standout. Unfortunately, with insecure leaders, the dependable followers are sometimes targeted. When this happens, it’s usually by leaders who were never dependable followers.

Good, proficient followership will nature good leadership, as good leadership will help inspire good followership. Ask yourself what kind of follower you are? Where can you improve? Work out the kinks now so when you’re the one assuming the leadership role, you’ll know your followers well and understand how to assist them to reach their maximum potential. Always remember a real leader inspires others to become leaders. They are not envious, selfish or jealous. Real leaders are confident and are proud to lift others up along the way. 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.

Cover Story

Are You Ready?
By Bernard B. Kerik, NYPD Police Commissioner (Ret.)

As the sound of automatic weapons overshadowed the screams of innocent concertgoers in Las Vegas, I’m curious to know if there is a cop in this country who watched and looked at this scene and found it surprising.

Chilling perhaps, or frightening, yes, but was anyone really surprised? Given the world we live in today, unless you’ve lived with your head in the sand like an ostrich, or you’re just a complete moron, there’s no way this attack would be surprising.

Unfortunately, with the global threats we face regarding international terrorism, it is not enough to ask if there will be another attack, but rather what will the next attack be and when will it happen.

Is your department or agency prepared? Are you mentally and physically prepared? Are you consistently training, using mock drills and table top exercises? Have you considered scenarios so far “outside the box” that others may look at you and question your sanity?

From 1996 – 2001, New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s Office of Emergency Management continually planned for one crisis after the next, ensuring that every city agency was part of an integral team that created plans, protocols, and policies for responding to just about any crisis you could imagine. However, no one would have ever imagined that massive jet airliners would be used as missiles to attack the World Trade Center or other government buildings.

For the past several years, Las Vegas has engaged in establishing disaster response, crisis management, and active shooter response policies and protocols, but did they ever consider a scenario where they could find themselves under heavy fire from the 32nd floor of one of their hotels?

The reality is that you and your department could be wearing those same shoes next. History is a good guide. Mass shootings and active shooter scenarios are rising, and there are no indications that this disturbing trend will be slowing down any time soon. It’s here to stay. Deal with it by staying ahead of the curve.

The one lesson that local, state and federal law enforcement authorities learned in the aftermath of the attacks on 9/11 was that planning, preparation, preemptive strategies, and protocols to address crisis and disaster response could be in many instances the difference between life and death.

Since the attacks on America on September 11, 2001, we have witnessed one attack after another around the world: Nice, France; Spain, London, Belgium, Brussels, as well as the daily attacks in the Middle East. We’ve almost grown numb to the news and unfortunately, if it doesn’t happen in your backyard it’s no longer an interest.

However, right here in our own backyard, Boston, San Bernardino, Orlando and a number of thwarted attacks in New York City have put America’s law enforcement agencies on notice. It could happen anywhere at any time. However, the reality is that in most cases there is little or no notice at all, but regardless of where and when, we’ve got to be prepared.

The every day “cop on the beat” even in the smallest of suburban communities could be the only thing standing between an active shooter and 200 – 300 kids in an elementary school. An off-duty state trooper with his family at a movie theater could be the one person who prevents a mass shooting, which otherwise could turn into one of America’s most substantial.

The holiday shopping season will soon be filling our malls with massive amounts of shoppers, all unaware that a predator could be lurking and waiting for the right moment to lash out and kill as many innocent people as humanly possible. An off duty corrections officer may be the only person in the mall carrying a firearm and the only person able and willing to stop the threat.

Policing in the United States of America has changed, but do our mayors and governors understand how? When they stand before the mainstream media cameras and call for the elimination of local and state police agencies acquiring federal surplus equipment, do they realize that this is the same equipment that could prevent a mass slaughter in their communities?

To the contrary, when mayors and governors seek the acquisition of that equipment, do they realize that they must then infuse funds into their budgets for training and resources associated with that equipment?

Do they realize the local and state police basic academy classes now have to have an introduction to international terrorism, active shooter training, and disaster and crisis management? Or are they asleep at the wheel?

No one wants to have one of these attacks happen in their neighborhood or their community, but there’s always the possibility, and if it does, are they prepared? Do they have the right resources, training, and response capabilities? Do they have executives that understand how to manage their response and deal with the aftermath of a crisis? Are they prepared to deal with the press and media?

The days of propping up ‘a suit’ in front of the cameras, and an international media that quite often is already anti-police and anti-government, is over. Police executives must be skilled on how to deal with the press, because without those skills and insight, the subsequent days following a disaster or active shooter scenario can be ripe with perceptions of instability, lack of leadership, and the lack of security within one’s community, which has a real chance of exacerbating these already challenging times.

There are a lot of lessons that will come out of the Las Vegas shooting massacre. Do we do enough when it comes to hotel security at our casinos or other tourist locations?

Some things we’ve already looked at, some we have not, but one thing’s for sure: There’s going to be another attack, and there’s going to be a need for our local and state first responders to counter the attack and protect the innocent and eliminate the threat.

Are we prepared?

Only time will tell.

Bernard Kerik was New York City’s police commissioner during the 9/11 attacks. He became an American hero as he led the NYPD through rescue and recovery efforts of the World Trade Center. His resumé as a public servant is long and storied, and includes honors from President Ronald Reagan, Queen Elizabeth II, and the NYPD’s Medal for Valor for saving his partner in a gun battle. In 2004, Kerik was nominated by President George W. Bush to head the US Department of Homeland Security.

Inside View

By Joel E. Gordon

“It is a lot harder now to be a police officer than what it used to be”~ Steven Seagal

Not unlike many of us, for me becoming a police officer was a calling inspired by a desire to help people. Periods of boredom and terror on the job notwithstanding, I’ve always loved the job.

Nowhere else that I am aware of do you have a front row seat to what is truly “the greatest show on earth.”

Having worked as an inner big city police officer, a police officer in a private community known as a special tax district, and as chief of police of a small rural county seat, I quickly learned that the job is essentially the same everywhere. People are people and we all share commonality in our quest for affection, belonging and recognition. The primary difference is how fast assignments and calls for service come your way.

Back in the 1980’s Baltimore city, some of the best officers had no or very little amount of arrests, but they also had very little or no serious crimes in their primary area of responsibility. This was when officers were assigned areas and were held accountable for the amount of crimes on their posts. Post officers were last to get detailed out and had other perks like their sergeant asking who they wanted to work their post when they were off. Back then the leadership didn’t micromanage. They let the sergeants run their squads. Usually, the only gold badge you saw belonged to your lieutenant/shift commander. The shift commander supported his sergeants who in turn took care of their squad. Conversely, the squad looked out for their sergeant and shift looked out for the lieutenant. You didn’t have to question your sergeant or shift commander. They knew what they were doing.

My all-time favorite shift commander was Lieutenant Victor Kessler. I had been wearing my hair rather long as a young uniformed officer. Lieutenant Kessler told me, “That’s okay, we need to have your hair a little long to be able to find you.” After all, I was still really skinny back then. Lieutenant Kessler always privately expressed his appreciation to me when I handled situations, even if someone had made a complaint against me. “I’m glad you were the one to handle it,” he would tell me.

When Lieutenant Kessler finally retired, he gave our shift a speech that I never forgot and that became a part of me. “The bosses come and go,” he said, “The bosses don’t really matter. What matters are you guys and gals who make the decisions on the street. Stick together, look out for one another, and work as a team. You are the ones who really matter and make all the difference.”

He was right in one respect. Law enforcement is one of the few professions where the lowest man on the totem pole is charged with making the most serious, potentially life and death, decisions. Policy makers shape the broad boundaries to work within, and supervisors work toward compliance but rarely have to make the truly important decisions day in and day out.

Many times it’s principally directed by a quest for political correctness by some politicians and political executives, but with poor leadership at the top, difficulties inevitably filter downward. In today’s world, the bosses do seem to matter more than before. Gone are the days where true results (reduced crime numbers not simply arrest statistics) seem to matter and the police functioned as a team.
The latest out of Baltimore are reports that Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis’ department is using a special in-house team to allegedly charge officers with minor policy infractions in order to open internal affairs investigations. Cases are then merely left open. The result is that under Maryland Police Training Commission rules, officers with open internal affairs investigations become ineligible for lateral transfers to other agencies who might otherwise hire them. Although denied by the Commissioner, this appears to be one of the ways the department is trying to stem the tide of a mass exodus. But, at what cost to the integrity and culture of the department?

Maryland Governor Hogan announced plans to offer Baltimore City Mayor Pugh state troopers who could aid with investigations and crime lab work. But he said the Maryland State Police were not trained or equipped “to do inner city, urban policing.”

Mandated proposed police reform (the consent decree) could make Baltimore even ‘less safe’, United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions had gone on record as saying.

Meanwhile, as police are being stymied from doing their jobs, crime is running unabated and Baltimore is on a record pace toward potentially exceeding 350 homicides this year.

Now is anyone listening?

Joel E. Gordon is a former Field Training Officer with the Baltimore City Police Department and is a past Chief of Police for the city of Kingwood, West Virginia. He is the author of the book “Still Seeking Justice: One Officer’s Story,” and has been a feature columnist in the Morgantown, West Virginia, Dominion Post newspaper. He is the founder of the Facebook group, Police Authors Seeking Justice. Look him up at


Crossing Over the Double Yellow Lines
By Fr. John P. Picinic

A number of years ago, I had the privilege of meeting John Ferraioli at the inception ceremony of David Brennan as a Lieutenant in the Fairview Police force. Dave introduced me to John that evening. We had a great conversation. As they say, you can know someone in 90 seconds or less. And in a short time, I knew that the man in front of me was genuine, sincere, and plainly put – good.

I remember that his concern was for his cousin who was suffering from cancer. He asked me to pray for her, which I did. But it was in the way he talked about her that moved me. He was very concerned and it was easy to see that this man had a big heart. I was also surprised that as a cop and as a man, that he would be that open in a first conversation. Usually as men, let alone police officers, we have an image to maintain, one that society has imbedded in us, and yet John was free and caring about who he was as a Christian man and not embarrassed to show his love for his cousin. I remember praying that night and thinking about how many good people God has put in this world and John was one of them.

I would talk with John on occasion and he was always pleasant to talk with. Each and every time we spoke, he always made prayer requests, mostly for his cousin, but also for all his family members, fellow friends, and his brother police officers. He never asked once for any prayers for himself. I thought this unusual, but I’ll get to that soon.

John and I had one funny run in. I was home visiting my parents for a few days. Every time I am home, my mother puts me to work, lo and behold once a son always a son. My assignment that day was to take my mom to the Shop Rite in Palisades Park. It was about noon. I dropped her off and then went to grab some lunch at Donna’s (still not better than Vincent’s in Cliffside Park, NJ). I ordered two slices to go and then headed back to the Shop Rite parking lot. As I was pulling out, I noticed no traffic on Broad Ave., so I did a no-no. I crossed over double yellows being too lazy to go to the intersection in front of me. I thought I was in the clear. Lo and behold as I made the right, the lights went on. I was being pulled over. I thought, Ok, I’m not wearing my collar, but I’ll say I know John Ferraioli. I’m his priest. Well, the police officer made me wait quite a bit. I was getting nervous. I figured, let me get my paperwork ready. As I was doing that, all of a sudden there was John with a big grin on his face and he said, “Father, you crossed over double yellows on Broad Ave.” I said, “Officer, I know this great cop named John Ferraioli, he will vouch for me.” We both got a good laugh and I remember now not to cross over the double yellows, not yet anyway.

Even then on the side of the road, John was putting in prayer requests for all his family members. I could not refuse since he let me slide on the ticket. I would have said them anyway.

I know that only very few people know this, but on occasion John would send in significant donations to my parish, simply because the Church needed it. He asked for no recognition, except again, prayers for others. What an amazing man, always praying for someone else.

John soon after left this world and I am sure that in the end the one prayer that was always on his heart and lips, that of love itself, greeted him and rewarded him for his generosity. Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God… and your neighbor as yourself.” John lived this commandment because his concern never pointed inward, but outward.

I know that my friend John now prays for me, and how can God refuse the prayers of someone so caring, generous, and compassionate? I know John continues to pray for his family and friends and what an advocate you have! John, my friend, I miss you, but my faith tells me that the time you pulled me over in Pal Park will not be the last time we meet, but when it is my turn, I hope to see the lights come on behind me and that it is you guiding me home, even if I have to cross over the double yellow lines.

Fr. John Picinic was ordained on Aug. 13th, 2005 by Bishop John Flesey at Our Lady of Grace Church in his hometown of Fairview, NJ. He is currently the Pastor of Holy Family in Sewell NJ and the Police Chaplain at Washington Township PD.

Up Close

By PO Valerie Stetz

NJ Department of Corrections Officer Joe Graf always dreamed of a career in law enforcement. At 38, his dream became a reality, and shortly thereafter, a major medical event roused a fighting spirit deep inside Officer Graf. His road ahead is marked with challenge and hurdles, but his indefatigable spirit and resolve will mark this warrior’s path to victory. Here’s Officer Graf’s story:

Officer Graf met his wife Kelly when he was 23 years old. The couple is celebrating their 13th year of marriage. Kelly had a daughter from a previous relationship, which simultaneously propelled Graf into a father and husband role. To support his family, Graf worked as a Special Police Officer in Lavalette, and repaired automobiles. At that time, he was endeavoring to get hired from Lavalette or another surrounding town, but his dream of becoming a police officer began to diminish. The newly weds purchased a home and were expecting a child. As everyone knows, the pay as an SPO is not enough to support a budding family, so Graf committed his concentration in the field of auto repair. Graf’s employment sufficiently supported his family, but he always felt he was missing his life’s passion, and with the encouragement of his family, he took the Civil Service exam. Five years later, in Jan. of 2017, he received a letter informing him that his passion for a career in law enforcement was about to become a reality. Soon thereafter, the New Jersey Department of Corrections hired Graf, and at 38, he began the arduous task of completing the Corrections Academy in Seagirt. He tells how reducing his annual income by $40,000.00 was a huge decision—one he doesn’t regret. The instructors quickly learned of Graf’s leadership ability, and chose him to be a squad leader in Bravo Platoon. He was a perfect shot at the range, and on June 27, 2017 he raised his right hand and was sworn in as a corrections officer. His life’s dream was finally a reality.

Graf was enjoying his first year on the job. But on Monday morning Sept. 25th, while sitting in his vehicle and waiting for his 7am shift to start, he became dizzy and nauseous. He exited his vehicle and realized he was going to pass out. He leaned on the car door and collapsed. Once he regained consciousness, he immediately returned to his vehicle and realized the right side of his face was bleeding. A fellow officer came to assist and called for medical help. Graf was rushed to Robert Wood Johnson in Hamilton, NJ. He went into cardiac distress several times, and was moved to an

ICU Unit. A CAT scan discovered Graf had a large mass on his brain. A subsequent MRI provided a more detailed report. Graf’s condition was caused by a 5 ½ inch tumor on the right side of his brain. Two days later, he was transferred to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, where a team of neurosurgeons were waiting. By Friday, the medical team had performed a biopsy to determine the type of tumor. This was the best option because of its location and size. Removing it would be too risky. Officer Graf was discharged and is currently taking several seizure medications and steroids to reduce brain swelling. The pathology report concluded the tumor is Cancer/Malignant. A plan for treatment was put into place. Graf will receive radiation five days a week for six weeks and chemo for 47 days. Joe will continue chemo for an additional 6-8 weeks and hopefully discontinue the seizure medication. The neurosurgeon’s plan is to shrink the tumor enough to monitor or remove it.

What impresses me the most about Officer Graf is how positive he is while facing much adversity. His will to fight is unmatched and commendable. He embodies the warrior spirit—the strong-willed and determined hero to overcome against all odds. As courageous as Graf is, he is also a humble man of a modest disposition.

“The amount of love and support we have received is truly the most amazing thing I have ever witnessed,” Graf said. “I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart.”

We at NJ Blue Now thank you, Officer Graf. We thank you for inspiring all of us to continue to fight and overcome all challenges we are facing in life. We wish you much success on your road ahead. We, and all of us in your Blue family, are rooting for your victory. God bless you!

Please help our brother Officer Graf and his family during this challenging time. You can donate directly on the GO FUND ME page at: -medical-expenses.
As a new officer, Graf has only accumulated two sick days and two vacation days, let’s help ease the financial strain by supporting the Graf family. Donate now! Let’s show Officer Graf what the Brotherhood is all about!

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 “Blue 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.

Fake news, plagiarism, and liberal poets

Fake news, plagiarism, and liberal poets universally loved by their mirrors
By Eddie Vega

There is no deadlier bullet than a wicked truth and no sharper bayonet than a subversive poem. That may sound odd, but only because you are reading this in a U.S. publication. It is one thing to be a poet in a country that does not know you even exist—no matter how much you publish or what and how many awards you win. It is quite another to be a poet where poetry matters. Consider Benjamin Moloise in South Africa, Hashem Shaabani in Iran, Warsame Shire Awale of Somalia, all executed by the state for their verse, or Susana Chávez of Mexico, who was murdered and mutilated for her poems decrying the murderous violence against women by drug cartels in Ciudad Juárez.

In those countries poetry gives powerful people night sweats. Which makes them want to shoot poets, not with tropes but with copper-tipped bullets, or to cut them down not with cultivated conceits but with poorly sharpened machetes, or to hang them with ropes that leave ligature marks on corpses. That’s how the poets there die, not in some retirement home for professors who spent entire careers writing about how their parents left them alone for too long with the nanny who kissed like a lapping dog or how shafts of light are sharper in October than in August, or how a close wet shave inspired thoughts of Ulysses sailing between the razor thin margins of Scylla and Charybdis. In our country, the worst they face is a critical review.

Most reviews of U.S. poetry get as much notice as the poems themselves because they tend to be efforts at selling the book rather than of offering insight about the merits of the work. In fact, some poetry reviews have been rejected by editors because there was nothing in the review that would make readers want to buy the book. When that is the standard of review, what readers often get are highly placed, smarter than the average bear, Amazon-style five-star reviews by family and friends of the poet.

Not so with William Logan, the most astute, incisive, and courageous reviewer of poetry alive today. He writes about poetry like it mattered; like it was worth your life if you got caught writing it. And if it’s worth dying over, it had damn well be good and true.

Case in point: the recent poetry book by Jill Bialosky, How Poetry Saved My Life. It is not a book worth dying for, and a book that despite its title is unlikely to save one.

In a recent review of the Bialosky book, Logan identified several problems, mostly poor writing and critical thinking. But it was the bombshell discovery that Bialosky plagiarized extensively in her book that shocked the U.S. publishing establishment—Bialosky is a senior editor at W.W. Norton, a major publishing house known for poetry textbooks—and caught the attention of literary rubberneckers in every market where English language newspapers are available, which is to say, everywhere.

(I won’t waste column space providing the salacious details when they are mere clicks away: Google Logan Bialosky Plagiarism Tourniquet Review.)

Why does this particular review matter? It’s only poetry, after all? It’s because in the age of fake news and monumental efforts to factor out the idea that there’s such a thing as Truth or that there can be even simple commonly accepted facts, it hurts our democracy when a noted poet and editor—in fact the sole recognized arbiter of what poetry gets published at Norton—plagiarizes like no one was watching.

It doesn’t matter that she did it in the backwaters of corporate media. It doesn’t matter that she did it in the safest genre for Americans to write in because of poetry’s negligible political and societal impact. It matters because the Norton editor undermined the only thing that sustains poetry across generations: pitiless adherence to Truth.

Unlike other countries where the practice of poetry increases the chance of a brutal and violent death, here poets ordained by the publishing industry can complain only of stinging reviews and tarnished reputations. The horror. The horror.

But that’s only true when there are literary critics, such as Logan, who know, really know what’s at stake and are willing to suffer the blowback from the subjects of their criticism and those invested in them. To attack the Queen Bee is to attack the entire hive that depends on her.

Following a NY Times story about the Logan review which focused on Bialosky’s plagiarism, 72 writers, about half of whom had published works with Norton, responded with a letter to The Times: “72 Friends of Literature, in Defense of the Poet Jill Bialosky.” They claimed: The Times, by giving a large platform to a small offense, has tainted the reputation of this accomplished editor, poet and memoirist.

I read that last sentence with some amusement. No. Scratch that. I laughed so hard I had a heart attack. I’m fine now. Thank you.

The signers—headed by Kimiko Hahn and David Baker—are ideological liberals, universally loved by their mirrors, who in this particular instance found common ground with Donald Trump: The New York Times is fake news.

In this instance the Times is not fake news. It reported the very real news that Bialosky had plagiarized extensively, and if it seems a small offense, it is so only because so few people care enough about poetry in this country to hold poets accountable when they present work as original that was crafted by someone else or when they publish original but mendacious gibberish. But let’s be clear about the former: there is no worse sin a writer can commit than plagiarism.

In his poem “Asphodel, That Greeny Flower,” William Carlos Williams famously wrote that people died miserably every day for lack of what is found in poetry. I don’t know if Williams was right on that point. Certainly people die every day without the consolation of poetry, or religion, or a last meal. But is there something that poetry offers without which people would physically die and that they can’t get from any other source? Something as critical as news about a coming Cat 5 hurricane, or a warning label on a box found in a nuclear power plant? Williams thought so—and Bialosky premised her book on that dear and precious idea. I don’t know. But I do know this and know it with certainty: people die every day for lack of many things, but no one ever dies for lack of plagiarism.

Cover Story

Featured Interview with New Jersey State P.B.A. President Patrick Colligan

By Daniel Del Valle, John Welsh, George Beck, and Joseph Uliano

NJ Blue Now Magazine: What was your major goal when you first became PBA President and has that goal been accomplished?
Colligan: The major goal was re-establishing relationships with politicians. Tony Wieners at the time, and correctly so, shut the books on politicians after Chapter 78. We were let down by not only Republicans but Democrats also. But, unfortunately, you know there’s a point where you have to reestablish those relationships. So part of that was the Political Action Committee starting with the PAC fund and literally meeting every senator and assembly member over six months and Marc (Kovar) and I hit the road. I came back months later and said it is going to take a year to accomplish this, because it’s a pretty big state.

What is your major goal right now, where you sit currently in your position?
I think what’s been lacking not only in the New Jersey state PBA but almost every national law enforcement group is re-engaging the membership. I think in 2017, not only in the police field but in any organization there just seems to be less involvement and I get the people have big schedules and are dealing with families, but you know my joke is call “CrossFit” when you get in trouble, because if you can’t make it to a PBA meeting, I’ve said it and Marc has said it, everybody is the PBA, it’s not just Marc and I. We can’t vote for you, we can’t get involved locally for you. So there’s no magic bullet. What we are trying to do is education for the locals. We’re doing the Quick Book seminars. We are doing things to help the locals be successful locals. If you don’t have a successful local, you are not going to successfully negotiate a contract or deal with your administration.

What goal has been established by the PBA moving forward with a new governor in office?
Well, we have the club called Chapter 78, they hit us all over the head. My goal with the new governor and the reason we came out so early is being realistic with the 2% cap, not the arbitration cap, but the 2% property tax cap. It’s virtually impossible to reset Chapter 78 and I don’t think any politician really has that appetite, but we can get pieces of that back and that’s really the goal that I set with Phil Murphy and it’s the reason that we came out so early for him.

What can be done to make law enforcement a powerhouse player in New Jersey politics in the years to come?
You nailed the question. It’s New Jersey politics. We started the PAC, $18 per person per year. There was a point just a few months ago, where we ended up with over $800,000 in that PAC account. That PAC account was designed for this election cycle where you have every assembly person every senator and the gubernatorial race; there are only two gubernatorial races in the country this year. So that from its inception put us in play. I’d love to see a Super PAC established. It’s something we’ve been working on now for a little over a year. A Super PAC dedicated to law enforcement.

Is there a goal or a timeframe to establish the Super PAC?
The requirements to run a Super PAC are very stringent and pretty difficult to work around, so we of course want everything done legally. So we are probably within a few weeks. I was hoping to get it set for this election cycle, which is still a possibility, but it’s going to probably be too tight.

In November of 2016, there was a pro-law enforcement push created by the Trump campaign that has really taken off since being sworn in as the 45th President of the United States, which was evident at the National Law Enforcement Memorial. We were there in the crowd; you were on the stage, so you saw the rally. Why should a conservative police officer cross the lines and vote for Murphy?
Well, we have a lieutenant governor, who I have said and I will say it to her face, a great woman, a nice woman and past law enforcement, I know she was an F.O.P. member, to me, I understand she was working under Chris Christie and I get that. I understand that may not be the easiest place to work, but if you are going to be a law enforcement officer, you need to stand up for law enforcement and there should have been a period, especially in the beginning when Chapter 78 was being formed. There should have been a period that she said, look the men and women of law enforcement are different, because I’ve said that in the very beginning and I’ve believed that since I put my hand on the Bible in 1992. We are different, and I don’t have to tell any of you in this room why we are different. There had to be a point where she should have stood up and said, stop, don’t hurt our men and women in law enforcement. She didn’t and to come in now in the 11th hour of the 7th and 1/2 year and say hey, I’m standing with law enforcement, I just think is disingenuous.

Again nice woman, but if you look at her website the answer should be evident to anybody in law enforcement. I’m not sure what it takes for the men and women of law enforcement in New Jersey to stand up and say stop. She wants to give us our pension, but she wants us to take the liabilities too. We have a Constitutional Right to our pensions. Why would anybody want to give that up? She talks about consolidation. It’s obvious how she feels about the 2% arbitration cap, which has literally put a belt around our necks. We have a permanent 2% cap on our salaries, we have the recruitment problem that’s evident nationwide and we’re starting to see it in New Jersey. We have additional one and half percent towards our pensions and when does it stop? She can say she’s pro-law enforcement, but her actions haven’t brought that out.

Many officers express concern for Phil Murphy’s pick for lieutenant governor, believing that Sheila Oliver doesn’t have the best interest of law enforcement in her heart. How does the P.B.A. plan to address these concerns?
We met with Phil Murphy the night he announced that and we addressed our concerns prior to that announcement. Quite frankly, it was disappointing. It was one of those things that you look back and say that that’s not where we wanted him to go. We now know from the meeting with him that it’s part of the bigger picture and I said it in my article in New Jersey Cops this month and I hate going back. I feel like it’s arguing with your wife. Your wife always brings up the past but I hate to keep bringing this up, but if we hadn’t voted as a block–law enforcement and teachers for Chris Christie–nobody would know who Sheila Oliver was. So you know, I’m not in love with the pick, but I now know the reasons why and we’re going to move forward. The lieutenant governor as we saw with the governor now, is not a position that really generates much policy and procedure. That was probably in place before she was picked, and as I also said, there is no perfect politician. We are not going to be in love with everything Murphy did or does. We’re not going to be in love with everything Trump does. Trump is going to have a major impact on the Supreme Court and those Supreme Court picks are not going to be helpful to law enforcement, so you have to take the good with the bad. If anybody is looking at these candidates and saying, oh this is the perfect pick, sorry I have some oceanfront property in Ohio to sell you.

Going back, do you believe that if you were president at the time when Christie took over that you would have a different relationship with him?
I would probably have a relationship with him, but being perfectly blunt, this was in the makings and in the works long before he took his hand off the Bible. He knew how to take out the Public Employment Relations Commission and make it the disgrace that it is and the Civil Service Commission. I think that this was a plan that was a well-established plan and I don’t know, as much and as hard as I work and as passionate as I know I am, I’m not sure if there was anybody in this seat that wouldn’t be able to stop that tidal wave what happen when Christie was elected.

You mentioned and just to go back to the super PAC and I just quoted you with the perfect pick, do you think that the intent and the objective to build a Super PAC is to at some point have the perfect pick or close to the perfect pick as we can?
You know a PAC doesn’t develop a candidate, the candidates develop themselves. So, can we look in the future at a candidate and help push them? Yeah, at some point we probably could, but I don’t want to sound like a defeatist because I’m certainly not, but there is no perfect candidate out there. It’s kind of like your chief, you end up with a great chief and as much as you like him or her and as pro-union they are, he or she may be, they have to make a difficult decision at some point. We have a state that is almost in a financial meltdown. There’s no candidate that can come in and say, yeah we’re going to roll back Chapter 78 completely and we’re going to completely fund the pension. There’s going to be a give and take. When our economy improves, which you know is the answer to a lot of our questions, then we may end up with closer to the perfect pick, but I really don’t believe that we will. I said it, is there a perfect politician? I think your readers could answer that. We know they’re not out there, but sure I’d love for Phil Murphy to be right of center on some of those issues, but we will take the good with bad right now. We have two options in 2017, and it’s either Phil Murphy or Lieutenant Governor Guadagno.

What good do you see coming out of New Jersey law enforcement today?
Well, if you look nationally, there’s been some incredibly bad press out of some areas. I’ve always said that we are better trained–that we attract a better candidate a more professional candidate–and I think that is why there’s been no major incident in New Jersey. This goes back to what I said before, as we’re starting to see a recruiting problem and my fear is with this permanent 2% cap and all the other issues surrounding New Jersey Law Enforcement. You know some Senate and Assembly people that just don’t embrace what we do and feel that we should have a 2% cap, then we’re going to get back to not attracting the best and the brightest New Jersey recruits at some point going back to what we had pervasive in the sixties, uneducated and I don’t want to say this is a blanket, because I don’t want to disrespect those that were doing a great job in the sixties, but generally we were a group that didn’t have advanced degrees and didn’t have advanced training. I think our academics are doing a great job with self-defense and less than lethal. My concern and to just get a little off topic, I see now you have the City of Camden is giving awards for not engaging some people and I hope that we’re not getting into a dangerous realm of handing out teddy bears to everybody, but we have a great group of law enforcement officers in New Jersey.

What needs to be improved upon not only in New Jersey but throughout the nation for law enforcement officers?
I think our officers have to realize that no matter whether they are on duty or off duty, in a pursuit, sitting in the car, they’re on video and we unfortunately, have been exposed to some embarrassing situations. It’s not an easy job. It’s a job that that those who aren’t in law enforcement don’t understand and unfortunately, there’s no other career on the planet where people can watch one episode of a police show and suddenly be experts on police policy and procedure. So I’d like to stay out of the press. That doesn’t help our profession. It doesn’t help moving our agenda forward. It’s difficult to see our people stealing money and you know, we just had a murder-suicide, tragically on the corrections side. I think our officers need to know that not only are they in the limelight, but they are in the limelight 24/7.

Where do you see our pension in four years and do our retired members get to see the return of COLA?
I’ve been very public about it and my number one priority is to get COLA back, because I know what it’s doing to guys and gals who retired 30 or 40 years ago. And I’ve said this to our retiree group, it’s not like I hide from the facts. Returning COLA back to the way it was will have a pretty profound and heavy hit on our pensions. I’ve said this in testimony and I’ve said this to our retirees, we need to figure out a responsible way to phase it back in. If we just turn it on, it drops the system significantly.

I never hide from my answers. I’m going to give you the answer, it may not be the answer that you like, and it’s very difficult for a retiree, whose COLA is greater than their pension, it is disheartening to me. It actually eats at me that we have retirees delivering Chinese food and driving Ubers. It is bullshit to me that we’ve disrespected our police officers and firefighters like that. So the first responsibility is to get COLA reinstated in some responsible fashion. You know, respectfully, a person that just retired a few years ago is not in the emergent situation that people who retired in the 70s and 80s are. We need to get it turned on fiscally, responsibly, and it is it is also bullshit to me that we have two police officers in the same car on two different tiers of employment. How you have a Tier 3 and Tier 1 officer in the same car, and a legislature can say that’s a good idea is a disgrace and I’ve been public about that.

So where do I see the pensions? I know we’ve developed a responsible plan to take it from the state and unfortunately, the governor didn’t sign it in the 11th hour because I think there was another chief that retired with a $500,000 check, which we don’t see. I find it amazing that with our PFRS plan to take from the state, it’s my pension too. I’ve said it, I’m not a trust fund baby, my wife is a school teacher, I’m a few months from poverty if I lose my job today, like many other cops and firemen, especially after seven years of decreases in our pay. So for those who seem to think that I’m going to make a crazy amount of money out of this, point out where it is. I just want a pension and I don’t want to be dragged down by the other systems that are there. We were always the responsible kid on the playground. When we had the opportunity to drop our side of the pension contributions, like the teachers did, we refused and it wasn’t an easy position from the State PBA President at the time to find out that, hey, we are over 100% funding, let’s reduce our pension contributions. The teachers did and then a short time after that the teachers also lowered their retirement age. So it was the death knell of their system. They were near a hundred percent funding, if they weren’t over a hundred percent funding then. So now you look, we were the responsible kids on the playground and now we know we had that close call of the blending of the systems just two years ago.

If you have the opportunity to address some of your critics what would you say to them?
I wake up in the middle of the night. I wonder what else we could do. I wonder if I’m missing something on some issues, you know we’ve had some losses, Atlantic City to me is devastating and living with that. I went down to address their PBA meeting and it was not an easy meeting. It was “what’s the PBA doing?” I stood before them saying I don’t know what else we could’ve done. Were there missteps with some of the things that we did, possibly! But I don’t lose sleep that it was something else we could have done. I just wonder if there was the magic bullet sometimes. So you have Atlantic City, you know consolidation is still on the plate and it’s something important. You know we are going to have some losses on consolidation too.

Do you see more of that coming, consolidation?
I do! This 2%, again not arbitration cap, but 2% property tax cap, is strangling some towns, some communities and it was passed to force this. It was passed to force consolidation on those towns. So to the critics, I don’t know what else I could do. I’m always open to somebody calling me and giving me an idea they have. Sometimes politically there is a reason why we can’t do something, but there are some issues that I wake up in the middle of the night that I’m fearful that we are missing something. Even with the PFRS that plan and I’ve said it at the meetings, we even went to the F.O.P., we went to the State F.O.P. meeting. It was the first time the PBA ever presented at an F.O.P. meeting. It was historic and I said to them, please tell me if I’m missing something,  because I fear that when this legislature goes through and you know, it was endorsed by the two previous presidents, the F.O.P. came on board which was great, it was kind of almost like a relief and a win that okay, other than one public safety union, everybody seems to be on board with it.

You mentioned suicide earlier. What do you say to the officer that is contemplating suicide today?
That’s another frustrating issue. I sit here sometimes and I ask our professionals, what are we missing? What else can we do? Every suicide is a blow because somebody somewhere saw that, and we are a vocation.Nobody really took this job, well some did just because it’s Civil Service, but we have a special bond, a brotherhood, sisterhood. We are in an environment that unfortunately, our suicide rate is higher and I just beg people, not so much the officer that’s contemplating, but the co-workers to keep an eye out and don’t be ashamed to ask. It’s one of those frustrating things, one suicide is devastating.

The stereotypes and the stigmas are still there. The officers are afraid to get help! Is the PBA in communication with the chiefs and the directors, advising them that they have to find a way to tell our guys that they’re okay to go get help and when getting help their law enforcement career doesn’t end there?
I agree with you, but the problem is we still get those chiefs. We have the case of Frank Marchione out of Hightstown, who asked for help and then was subsequently sent to seven psychs, who I guess in their minds was lucky enough to find someone to fail him (said with a smirk).

And that becomes damaging to the other officers who may be in crisis, because now they’re afraid to go get help, due to the possible repercussions.

Yes, that has a ripple effect throughout our community, which is why Dr. Stefanelli is here at no small cost to the PBA. We spend a lot of money to have somebody here two days a week. We put a lot of effort into being able to call “Cop 2 Cop.” If you are concerned about your EAP, then come here, that’s why we’re here. I get it! Believe me! There is still a stigma. I’m not sure if that stigma will ever completely go away and yes one of the first things I did when I became president was develop a relations with Chief’s Association, which it’s like the politician, we’re not always going to agree with the chiefs, but it’s been a great partnership and you know even dealing with that quote, unquote “psychologist” up in North Jersey, who seems to be a henchman for the chiefs. We’ve even exposed that. It’s my goal to have him not evaluating anymore because the danger that he presents to our membership, the amount of people that he had terminated. Call here. We don’t want anybody to think that they’re going to have a stigma, they can come here and they can deal with it privately. This was setup as a triage, but some people are here longer terms because of those fears with their chiefs. Call me! We will find the right service for you depending on what are your issues are. I didn’t coin it, but suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem and there is always an answer, things do get better.

What do you feel or what do you think corrections should be striving for in law enforcement?
I really embraced the corrections group when I took over. Corrections has always suffered from the stigma of you know, lesser than law enforcement. I’m supporting the police title bill but not sure how much traction that’s going to get, we’ll see with the new governor. I’ve said it every time I address them, I could never walk into a jail every day. They definitely walk to the worst beat in the nation. At the end of your career, you’re locked up for a third of your life, literally. You are searched, you have no phone access, so the average law enforcement officer sitting in his or her car, I think needs to realize to put yourself in those shoes of the kind of job that really is. I know the working conditions. You are locked up. If the prisoners don’t like the jail cell, then the officers don’t either. As a matter of fact just before you guys got here, there’s a professional corrections group that I want to make sure we are going to keep, that make sure the correction chair and vice chair still want to be part of that. The first mini convention, I had a separate break out and then we had a couple of assembly people come in. I’d like to continue that as long there’s interest. They are the unsung members of law enforcement that deserve a lot more respect that they get not only from sometimes the rank of the police officers but from the general public too.

What do you want to be remembered for? What’s going to be your legacy?
I think that it’s really getting into the political process. You know, I’ve joked about it that sometimes when you’re involved in New Jersey politics you want to step away and take a shower when you are done, because sometimes it’s pretty dirty, but there is no other way to move our agenda forward if it’s not through the legislature. Yeah I might be a nice guy and yeah I can go have a drink with somebody, but at the end of the day they need money to run a campaign and we need to get our message delivered in the Senate and Assembly. We have to develop relationships with the politicians. So I think being heavily engaged in the political process put us on the map. I’d love to see this PFRS legislation put through. So hopefully we can expedite the issues of COLA and Tier 1 and Tier 3 members, so that would probably be my two top priorities.

When law enforcement is over for you where do you see yourself?
I have a dream of standing under a Sabrett hot dog umbrella until 2 pm. Seriously this is an extraordinary labor-intensive job. This job is sometimes seven nights a week, sometimes four nights a week you know it’s difficult to juggle with a family. I’m lucky that my children are a little bit older. You can’t do this with young children, and you would be doing a disservice to your family. I have a great wife, Lynette who’s a school teacher who understands why I’m out driving around the state and flying around the country, because public service to her is important and she didn’t deserve what this governor did to her. She’s a dedicated school teacher. I love this job. I love the people I work with, but we’ll see what happens at the end of my career, whether to continue a heavy work load or I want to literally stand under the Sabrett umbrella.