Inside Perspective

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

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

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

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

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

On the Beat

Understanding Dementia
By Anthony Mikatarian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Operation Rebound

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spotlight

Heroes Behind The Walls
By PO Valerie Stetz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inside Perspective

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featured Interview

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

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

Here is her story:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sheriff Clarke Speaks Out

God is the Source of My Strength
By Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr.

This isn’t something I talk about a whole lot, but as I’ve been talking about my new book, Cop Under Fire: Moving Beyond Hashtags of Race, Crime and Politics for a Better America, it’s something that has come up. So here’s the truth.

My faith in God is how I make it through every day of my life. Without it, I’m nothing.

My worldview, my politics, and my strong defense of law enforcement in our country has made me a target for character assassination. Someone is always trying to destroy and discredit my reputation. That comes with the territory as a sheriff and I accept that. But believe it or not, it’s still hard and can wear the strongest of men down. Though my persona is something that’s viewed as tough and unshakable, I’m still human. Some days, it’s harder than others. That’s when I turn to God for strength. I pray for guidance, compassion, empathy for others, and strength to endure the attacks coming from all sides.

Here’s how I deal with it: I pray every day, knowing I’m guided by my faith. Only through the strength of God and the faith that I wear on my sleeve, can I get through this. I’m willing to put myself out there and serve; that’s why I chose a career in public service. It’s like Jesus said, he who wants to be great must first become a servant of others. That’s what I do, and that’s what every American law enforcement officer does every single day.

In my book, Cop Under Fire: Moving Beyond Hashtags of Race, Crime and Politics for a Better America, I talk about my upbringing. I was born in a Catholic family and my mom and dad sent me to a Catholic grade school and then a Jesuit high school. Later, when I was an undergraduate, I attended a Lutheran college. The belief in the Bible, to understand the Bible, and to be guided by it, began at a very early age for me and has sustained me in my life. It is a central part of who I am. Now, I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, nor am I trying to be. The Lord understands that we are all sinners, and the good news is, Jesus offers us forgiveness.

Without that faith and prayer, I couldn’t get through this tough environment.

I also draw strength from those who came before me. Folks like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, and even further back to the Old Testament leaders like Abraham, Moses, and King David — they all reached a point in their lives where they realized they were mere mortals and needed God’s strength to get them through. That’s what I have to do daily because without His strength, I couldn’t do this.

Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. is the 64th Sheriff of Milwaukee County and is currently serving his fourth full term. He has appeared on many of the national news stations to defend the law enforcement profession.

Cover Story

Blue for Good
It’s More Than A Job
By Sgt. Anthony Espino

In our busy modern world, many parents are hard workers, always striving to support their children, while providing a home that’s filled will love. Children with this upbringing are blessed with parents, who teach them to be respectful, civic-minded, and responsible.
However, there are many children who are less fortunate and are raised by parents who have alcohol, drug, emotional, and or mental problems. In this difficult environment, children can become less receptive to being respectful and responsible. But, let me be clear, I have met children who have come from broken homes, who were good and respectful kids, whereas children that came from loving homes were mean and disrespectful. Yet, the law of averages dictates otherwise. My point is that many children do not have the fortune of being surrounded by positive role models, and this is where police officers can bridge the divide.

Police officers are peacemakers, law-abiding citizens who enforce the laws to keep society safe. Whether we realize it or not, police officers are put in a position to model healthy traits, such as self-esteem, physical wellness, safety, and respect. These are the traits that we were taught at the police academy. Police officers are supposed to be the model citizens who respect and enforce laws. Unfortunately, not every child responds positively to an officer’s modeling. Many are being taught disrespectful attitudes by friends and family, but that shouldn’t stop us from being a model officer.

As a police officer, it’s very important to interact with children in a positive manner. As a juvenile officer, I spend a lot of time at my local schools talking to children on topics such as bullying, stranger danger, saying no to drugs, and being respectful to their peers. This type of interaction can make a difference in a child’s life. Connecting with children is an important part of good policing. Officers who are open and interact with kids stand out in their minds and help develop opinions of those who wear a uniform. Being approachable and answering questions about what you do and how you do it, could be the beginning of a child’s desire to one day want to protect and serve. It’s also the time when a child starts to form favorable and admirable opinions of law enforcement officers.
However, this type of interaction should not only be geared toward juveniles. Police officers need to interact in a positive manner with adults, as well. A simple hello or thank you for opening a door, or letting you enter a lane of traffic, can go a long way to bringing everyone together. Engage in conversation when you’re standing in line at your local coffee shop.

Let people know we are human beings just like them, and not the lunatics the media has lately portrayed us to be.

Police officers are viewed as authority figures–someone who has all the answers and makes problems go away. It’s important that we behave in the manner we represent. Police officers enforce the laws; therefore, we must follow those laws. Remember, with great responsibility and power, comes being held to a higher standard.

Over the years, teachers, parents, and friends have told me that children watch and admire me, and many want to be just like me. Think about that for a second. I am not a celebrity, nor am I a professional athlete. Yet, I have the ability to make an impact in a similar way and on a personal level.

Here are some tips to become the best possible role model as an officer in the community.

1. Be Respectful – As the old saying goes, “Respect is not given, it’s earned.” Respect has always been a two-way street—those who give respect, more often than not, are treated with respect. At times we as officers can feel that nobody respects us, and can fall into a cynical and negativity trap. As a role model we have to rise above this and make sure we are modeling the appropriate behavior. Even in the most difficult of times, being respectful will show others that you are a leader and can adapt under pressure.

2. Integrity Matters – Think about someone you consider a role model. Now ask yourself why you chose that person. Chances are you selected him or her because of the high level of integrity he or she demonstrates on a consistent basis. Good role models never compromise their integrity in any situation—good or bad. Having the upmost integrity with every decision makes others want to model your behavior.

3. Accept Responsibility For Your Actions – Anyone in a role model position is quick to preach to others about accountability, yet, how many are willing to accept it for themselves? True role models know accepting responsibility and being held accountable is the appropriate behavior to model for others. If one is not willing to hold himself or herself to this high standards, how can they expect others to do so.

4. Words Matter – Take a moment to pause and think before speaking. Make certain your words are chosen to inspire and support others, especially when around children. Slow down the conversation with them. And if for any reason, especially when you are out in the public’s eye and become angry, take some advice from Thomas Jefferson: “When angry count to ten before you speak. If very angry, count to 100.”

5. Be A Good Listener—Your most cherished and important mentors in your life are not only wise when it comes to decision making, they are expert listeners. When someone is facing a situation in their life and they seek a friend to help, they routinely select those who are good listeners. Only when you fully know the problem someone is facing, is when you should respond. So ask questions, and make sure you are listening. Being a good listener is essential for all role models.

6. Demonstrate Confidence and Leadership – A good role model is one who is confident and can inspire others to increase their self-esteem. Confidence includes being direct when speaking to subordinates and also showing you are fair with everyone. Be confident in your actions and decisions, and who you are as a person and officer.

7. Follow The Rules – As simplistic as this sounds, it must be strictly enforced. A good role model follows the rules and does not break them for any expediency. If you want others to act appropriately, make sure you are also following the rules.

8. Be Involved – As an officer in the community a simple wave and smile to residents as you are patrolling the streets can go a long way, but take it a step further. Get out and speak with them. Let them know you are available to help if they need your assistance. Get involved with the schools and programs for the youth. Showing them you vale them by sharing your time with them is a gift worth more than anything money can buy.

When I chose this career 18 years ago, it was to help people–to be someone the community can trust–and not a person looking for accolades or personal gain. As officers, we are fortunate to play an influential role to the children in our communities. We must seize this role. Take as much time as it takes to speak with the youth and provide them with information that is educational, inspiring, and positive. As they move ahead in life, these interactions and experiences will help them be better people, and they can make the right decisions when confronted with a bad situation.

Over two decades ago in a Nike commercial, former basketball player and current sports commentator Charles Barkley said, “I am not a role model… Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.”

I agree with that statement; it’s the parents’ responsibility to mold their children, teaching them proper manners, respecting one another, and preparing them for the future, but we as police officers can also make a difference in a child’s or adult’s life. Clearly, we have a role to play. Make sure we are modeling the appropriate behavior. Future generations of Americans will be glad we did.

Sgt. Anthony Espino is a 18-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.