Attorney General William P. Barr Announces Updates on Operation Legend

During a visit with law enforcement in Memphis today, Attorney General William P. Barr announced updates on Operation Legend, which was expanded to Memphis on Aug. 6, 2020.

Since Operation Legend’s launch in July 2020, nearly 5,500 arrests – including approximately 276 for homicide, 66 of which occurred in Memphis – have been made; more than 2,000 firearms have been seized; and nearly 28 kilos of heroin, nearly 16 kilos of fentanyl, more than 200 kilos of methamphetamine, more than 30 kilos of cocaine, and more than $7.3 million in drug proceeds have been seized.

Of the more than 5,500 individuals arrested, approximately 1,124 have been charged with federal offenses.  Approximately 602 of those defendants have been charged with firearms offenses, while approximately 441 have been charged with drug-related crimes.  The remaining defendants have been charged with various offenses.

The Attorney General launched the operation as a sustained, systematic and coordinated law enforcement initiative in which federal law enforcement agencies work in conjunction with state and local law enforcement officials to fight violent crime.

Breakdown of Operation Legend charges:

The initiative, which was first launched first in Kansas City, MO., on July 8, 2020, is named in honor of four-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who was shot and killed while he slept early in the morning of June 29 in Kansas City.  The operation was subsequently expanded to Chicago and Albuquerque on July 22, 2020; to Cleveland, Detroit, and Milwaukee on July 29, 2020; to St. Louis and Memphis on Aug. 6, 2020; and to Indianapolis on Aug. 14, 2020.  A breakdown of the federal charges in each district is below.

Kansas City, MO

174 defendants have been charged with federal crimes outlined below.

  • 67 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 94 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • 13 defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

Chicago, IL

176 defendants have been charged with federal crimes outlined below.

  • 40 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 130 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • 6 defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

Albuquerque, NM

126 defendants have been charged with federal crimes outlined below.

  • 52 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 64 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • 10 defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

Cleveland, OH

101 defendants have been charged with federal crimes outlined below.

  • 59 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 38 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • 4 defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

Detroit, MI

100 defendants have been charged with federal offenses outlined below.

  • 33 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 64 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • 3 defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

Milwaukee, WI

57 defendants have been charged with federal crimes outlined below.

  • 25 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 27 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • 5 defendant has been charged with other violent crimes.

St. Louis, MO

274 defendants have been charged with federal crimes.

  • 125 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 125 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • 24 defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

Memphis, TN

64 defendants have been charged with federal offenses.

  • 35 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 16 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • 13 defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

Indianapolis, IN

65 defendants have been charged with federal crimes outlined below.

  • 10 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 46 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • 9 defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

Missouri Law Enforcement Required to Complete De-escalation and Implicit Bias Training

Starting next year all Missouri officers are required to take one hour each of de-escalation and implicit bias training annually to maintain their licenses.

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s office approved the new training standards that require annual continuing education training.

The new training standards will be effective on January 1, 2021.

They were approved by the Missouri Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission on October 5.

“Our law enforcement officers take on extraordinary risks and make tremendous sacrifices to make Missouri safer,” Governor Mike Parson said. “These enhanced standards will help equip officers with relevant, up-to-date training to meet the challenges they face daily and facilitate better communication and interactions with the public.”

Missouri law enforcement officers must complete 24 hours of annual continuing education training to maintain their licenses.

The POST Commission’s action on October 5 required one hour each in de-escalation and implicit bias training be part of each officer’s 24 hours of annual training.

Hiding in Plain Site: Privacy for Law Enforcement

With the recent attacks on law enforcement at their own private residence combined with the online mobs that seek to destroy officers just for wearing a uniform, every law enforcement professional should take immediate action to protect their personal privacy and thus their family.

While it shouldn’t take the recent attempted murder of Officer Joseph Mensah at his home while he was off duty to wake up our profession, there are far too many that simply haven’t bulletproofed their life away from the job.

Granted, a few decades ago, a P.O. Box and a “private” home phone number was about all you needed but the Internet happened and everything changed.

Here are a few quick tips to get you started.

Internet
If you aren’t using a virtual private network wherever you get online, it’s only a matter of time that you will run into trouble with stolen identity or even worse. There are many out there but we like NordVPN. They use the same technology that the US government uses to secure classified information. It will set you back about $4 a month but with one account, you can add it to six devices. In addition to masking your identity and location online, NordVPN is based away from the EU and US jurisdictions and has no obligation to collect your personal information. They will not record, monitor, store, log or share anything that you do plus you will open a whole new world on Netflix when you can log in from around the world from any device…..anywhere.

E-Mail & Browser
Everyone loves Google and Yahoo because it is free and simple but there will never be an e-mail or browsing history that you can hide. A simple subpoena or open records request from a nefarious lawyer or activist will reveal everything. That is why we recommend ProtonMail to all of our clients. It is free and if you desire e-mail from your phone, simply download their app. ProtonMail Servers are located in Switzerland and protected by strict Swiss privacy laws. Even better is their end-to-end encryption and zero access encryption to secure emails. Simply put, not even ProtonMail can read your e-mails and they cannot be shared with third parties.

The browser you use to search the Internet is equally dangerous. Each of the known players track your every move and location and that never goes away. Duck Duck Go is encrypted, private and they block all tracking. It is also free and can be added to your phone and computer as your primary search engine.

Protecting Your Address Online
One of the most dangerous aspects today is the exposure to your private life online including your address. To solve this, Officer Privacy is the only way to go. You can get started for free but we recommend a small investment of $199 for their premium package and their professionals will remove your personal information from the top 30 people search sites that expose your home address and they will monitor it each month for just $19.99.

OfficerPrivacy.com is owned and operated by current and retired law enforcement officers and while we know cops like things for free, it is simply too risky to not contact them and see how they can help.

Take It To the Next Level
What we have mentioned above should not be an option for anyone in law enforcement and the time spent doing it is minimal but there is always more you can do and when our clients face intense scrutiny for just doing their job and cancel culture is coming after them, every one of them has told us they wished they would have done all of that and more.

We say do more now and that will take a little more time and planning. You can start over at JJ Luna’s excellent website and while you could get completely “off grid” using his resources, we recommend at a minimum using an alternative home address (where you do not actually live). Even with the help of our friends at OfficerPrivacy.com, your address will be known by creditors and that address is out there for lawyers, the media and anyone else that pays for access to that information. Mail Forwarding Services that permit you to use them as an address are the way to avoid this potential trouble. Stay away from any service that makes you list where you reside and that is why a P.O. Box and many third party services (such as UPS) won’t work. If they know where you live, there is no guarantee it won’t be found out. Most states have private services including some law firms that will give you an address to list and they will forward all mail electronically and even directly to you if needed.

For You Retired Cops
Ok, we get it. You are in law enforcement and you are thinking this can’t be done because your agency needs to know where you live. We understand but giving your home address to your employer should be private to the public and employers are bound to privacy laws from simply posting your home address while others we have spoken about are not. But if you are retired or a private citizen, this can get fun.

For instance, you can claim residency in South Dakota by staying one night in a hotel and showing them a receipt. America’s Mailbox will give you a home address and they will forward your mail anywhere you want. Once you have that hotel receipt, you can get a driver’s license and car tag in a matter of minutes (Yes, South Dakota runs their DMV different than yours). You can use your new “Badland” address when you apply for credit and for just about anything else. Of course there is the bonus of no state sales tax just in case you wanted to maximize that retirement check.

Obviously this last suggestion isn’t for everyone and ​​you should seek the advice of an accountant and if South Dakota isn’t for you, there are similar locations in every state.

Last Consideration
While we may sound like a crazy survivalist, this year has taught us one thing. Those crazy people building “bug out” vehicles and living like the “Unabomber” don’t seem so crazy in 2020…..especially if you live in Portland. Law enforcement takes pride in “officer survival” but until now, we only thought about that in terms of being “on duty.” Those days are over and if you truly believe in “officer survival” you will take heed with some of these suggestions.

By Defend the Heroes | Lawofficer.com

Defend The Heroes is a non-profit organization that exists to help defend law enforcement professionals and agencies from defamation, and the demands of so-called social “justice.” Law Officer is a proud partner of this important organization.

Department of Justice’s COPS Office Awards Grants to Improve Public Safety, Reduce Crime and Advance Community Policing

The Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) awarded more than $536.7 million in Fiscal Year 2020 to increase law enforcement hiring and to improve school safety, combat opioids and methamphetamine, advance community policing efforts, provide training to the law enforcement field, and protect the health of our nation’s officers and deputies.

“Building on the successes in reducing violent crime in 2017, 2018, and 2019, these Department of Justice grants for 2020 help to fight violent crime and deadly narcotics, to improve public safety, and to support the officers who put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe,” said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen.  “Strong partnerships of federal, ​​state, and local law enforcement can produce better results for the public we all serve.”

“Supporting the men and women of law enforcement as they serve their communities is of paramount importance to the COPS Office,” said COPS Office Director Phil Keith.  “Now more than ever, it is critical that we continue to provide state, local and tribal agencies the resources they desperately need to continue to advance public safety, which they are so committed to doing.  We are all the beneficiaries of that work.”

Funds awarded by the COPS Office in FY2020 include:

COPS Hiring Program (CHP):  Nearly $400 million in CHP grant funding was awarded to 605 law enforcement agencies across the nation, which will allow those agencies to hire 2,761 additional full-time law enforcement professionals.  CHP provides funding for the hiring and rehiring of entry-level career law enforcement officers in an effort to create and preserve jobs and increase community policing capacity and crime prevention efforts.

School Violence Prevention Program (SVPP):  Through SVPP, nearly $49 million was awarded to 160 states, units of local government, Indian tribes, and public agencies to be used to improve security at schools and on school grounds.  Awards included funding for coordination with local law enforcement; training for local law enforcement officers to prevent school violence against others and self; placement and use of metal detectors, locks, lighting, and other deterrent measures; acquisition and installation of technology for expedited notification of local law enforcement during an emergency; and other measures providing significant improvements in security.

Community Policing Development (CPD):  Through CPD, 24 awards were announced totaling nearly $8 million in funding to advance the practice of community policing in law enforcement.  CPD funds are used to develop the capacity of law enforcement to implement community policing by providing guidance on promising practices through the development and testing of innovative strategies; building knowledge about effective practices and outcomes; and supporting new, creative approaches to preventing crime and promoting safe communities.

Community Policing Development Microgrants Program:  Through CPD Microgrants, nearly $2.2 million was awarded to 29 local, state, and tribal law enforcement agencies to implement demonstration or pilot projects in their jurisdictions offering creative ideas to advance crime fighting, community engagement, problem solving, or organizational changes to support community policing.

COPS Anti-Methamphetamine Program (CAMP):  Through CAMP, approximately $12 million in grant funding was awarded to 12 state law enforcement agencies that have demonstrated numerous seizures of precursor chemicals, finished methamphetamine, laboratories, and laboratory dump seizures.  This funding will support the location or investigation of illicit activities related to the manufacture and distribution of methamphetamine, including precursor diversion, laboratories, or methamphetamine traffickers.

Anti-Heroin Task Force (AHTF) Program:  More than $29.7 million in AHTF grant funding was awarded to 14 state law enforcement agencies with multijurisdictional reach and interdisciplinary team (e.g., task force) structures in states with high per capita rates of primary treatment admissions for heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil, and other opioids.  This funding will support the location or investigation of illicit activities through statewide collaboration related to the distribution of heroin, fentanyl, or carfentanil or the unlawful distribution of prescription opioids.

Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act (LEMHWA):  Through LEMHWA, 41 awards were announced totaling $4.5 million to improve the delivery of and access to mental health and wellness services for law enforcement through training and technical assistance, demonstration projects, implementation of promising practices related to peer mentoring mental health and wellness, and suicide prevention programs.

Preparing for Active Shooter Situations (PASS):  Approximately $8.8 million in PASS funding was awarded to Texas State University / ALERRT to offer integrated, scenario-based response courses and cross-disciplinary active shooter training to law enforcement and other first responders nationally.

Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation (CTAS):  CTAS provides resources for federally recognized tribes from the COPS Office, the Office of Justice Programs, and the Office on Violence Against Women.  Through CTAS, the COPS Office made 64 Tribal Resources Grant Program awards for tribal officer hiring, equipment, and/or training to 41 tribes, with funding totaling approximately $22.5 million.

Tribal Resources Grant Program – Technical Assistance (TRGP-TA):  Through TRGP-TA, the COPS Office provided $800,000 to fund projects related to the topics of (1) cold cases and missing or murdered indigenous persons and (2) developing an Alaskan law enforcement recruitment strategy.

Full lists of all announced COPS Office awards are available here.

Community Policing in Action Photo Contest Is Now Open

All state, local, territorial and tribal law enforcement agencies are invited to submit a photo that captures a spirited community policing moment for the opportunity to be featured on the COPS Office website, and its Twitter and Facebook headers, for one month during the 2021 calendar year. Each winning law enforcement agency may also be featured in the COPS Office e-newsletter, the Community Policing Dispatch.

The photo should reflect positive engagement that promotes community policing and trust building with community members, stakeholders, local government, and others. While photos may include community members of all ages, we highly encourage photos depicting interactions with adults due to privacy concerns with photos of minors (please see the website for important details regarding photos of minors).

Brief overview on how to enter a complete submission:*

  • Select or snap a photo that best conveys your agency’s “community policing in action.” Please note that horizontal, high quality images are preferred.
  • Fill out the required Permission and Release to Law Enforcement Agencies Form, as well as the required Privacy Consent, Waiver, and Release Authorizing Use and Disclosure of Photographic Image Forms for each recognizable individual.
  • Submissions without these forms may not be entered to the contest.
  • Write a brief description of the photo and how it reflects your department’s positive community engagement.
  • Email in your complete submission by 8:00 PM EST on Monday, November 16, 2020.


*Please ensure to read all Contest Rules, Terms and Conditions carefully prior to submitting an image.

All photos must be submitted by 8:00 PM EST on Monday, November 16, 2020, via email to tellcops@usdoj.gov. Please visit our website for complete contest rules, terms and conditions. Winners will be notified no later than December 28, 2020, via email.

For questions regarding the contest, please see the Frequently Asked Questions on the COPS Office website or contact us by email at tellcops@usdoj.gov.

Please note that photos may be used in other COPS Office communications in the future and there is no cash award or other prize for this photo contest.

Privacy and Accuracy Issues Raised by Facial Recognition

​Photo © izusek/E+/Getty Images

The tremendous benefits of facial recognition technology for law enforcement identification applications have brought with them unparalleled challenges. Some among the public continue to believe that every individual is being tracked and watched wherever they go, or that facial recognition has an ethnic bias. These myths are incorrect—yet their persistence can create obstacles for hardworking officers and agencies.

To further complicate matters, at the same time facial recognition experts are working hard to educate the public on how beneficial this technology is, the amount of incident-related video is rapidly growing, and local and federal law enforcement investigations are relying more and more on video as one of their key sources of evidence to build a case. Body-worn cameras, in-car video and hundreds of millions of smartphones are generating massive quantities of video that can be used as evidence for arrests and in trials. This means that a rapidly growing number of individuals who are not involved in the incidents, and not part of ongoing investigations or trials, are being recorded on video as well.

The failure rate for searches has dropped from 5% in the year 2010 to 0.2% in 2018.

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was enacted to make U.S. government agencies’ functions more transparent. Through the FOIA, individuals, law firms, businesses and news organizations can request any information including these video recordings, from law enforcement agencies. Already resource-stretched agencies are being forced to take time away from critical responsibilities to respond to each of these requests. A significant amount of the video captured includes images of individuals not related to the investigations whose privacy must be protected. Agencies are further required to dedicate increasing amounts of time and resources to manually redact these individuals’ faces from video. Not only does this consume a tremendous amount of personnel bandwidth, it also is susceptible to errors.

Fortunately, while technology is creating more responsibilities for officers in this way, it is also providing the tools to address many of the public’s concerns about privacy and the accuracy of tracking utilities like facial recognition.

How automated redaction helps

Through a combination of artificial intelligence and machine learning, new technology is delivering solutions to ease this burden, reducing the time needed for the manual processes of uploading, storing, searching, editing, and sharing video evidence. Most important, the technology leverages the capabilities of deep learning analytics to automatically analyze video and catalog faces, thus redaction capabilities. This dramatically reduces the time, effort, and expense required for redaction services—in some cases by up to 90 percent.

Automated redaction addresses privacy concerns by ensuring that outside organizations requesting video do not see the faces of every person who happened to be captured within the scene. The video data is maintained in the evidence itself, but it does not get shared beyond the initial capture from body-worn cameras, in-car video, surveillance cameras, or phone cameras. When redacted video is played back inside a courtroom, juries and audiences are shown only the edited version with bystanders’ faces blurred beyond recognition, while the original video remains intact as evidence.

Using technology like this, agencies can streamline their video redaction responsibilities to better respond to FOIA requests quickly and efficiently.

Advanced software improves accuracy

From the moment the public became aware of the existence of facial recognition as an application, there were stories about shortfalls in accuracy. Many claimed that individuals from certain ethnic backgrounds could not be reliably identified. This spurred concerns that there could be accusations, arrests or even convictions that were incorrect based on inaccurate identification of a suspect based on facial recognition.

In reality, the technology has evolved greatly in the time since it was first introduced. Further, the level of accuracy has improved enormously in the last 10 years, according to an evaluation performed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). According to a November 2018 news story, the NIST reports that the failure rate for searches (meaning that the software failed to find the matching face residing within a database) has dropped from five percent in the year 2010 to 0.2 percent in 2018—a reduction of 96 percent.

When facial recognition software scans a face to look for a match, it is processing a number of different geometric vectors. While all software is different, most read such factors as the distance between eyes and the distance from chin to forehead. Depending on the sophistication of the software, it may be reading 50, 75 or more different factors. Typically, each analysis is performed individually, and the only data being stored on databases is the physical information contained in the photos themselves, along with the identities of the individuals in the photos.

The network of facial image databases available to and via federal and local law enforcement agencies has grown accordingly, so this level of accuracy is even more important and meaningful. The databases include mug shots, the State Department’s entire directory of visa and passport pictures, and photos from the Departments of Motor Vehicles.

As of October 2021, Americans in 47 states will be required to show either a passport or a new federally compliant Real ID driver’s license to board any domestic flight. For non-government users of the technology, databases could include opt-in customers who have provided their photos for a variety of reasons including security checkpoints, ID access bracelets, VIP club memberships, etc. All of these databases may also be used to determine the identify of an individual caught on surveillance video and suspected of a civil or criminal infraction.

Because there are so many image databases available, it is imperative for law enforcement to have absolute certainty when surveillance video of a crime is being matched up in an attempt to identify a perpetrator caught on camera. Today’s best facial recognition offerings meet that requirement.

Facial recognition has become a hot button for privacy advocates in recent years. Yet there is no doubting that the technology has exceptional application potential—so much that it will without question continue to proliferate. As the ability to redact faces becomes more efficient and the recognition technology itself becomes more accurate, some of the general public’s concerns will continue to fade away.


By Rob Thompkins, i-PRO national sales manager | Police.com

DEA Announces the Largest Domestic Seizure of Methamphetamine in DEA History

At a press conference today, DEA Acting Administrator Timothy J. Shea and Los Angeles Field Division Special Agent in Charge Bill Bodner announced the seizure of 893 pounds of cocaine, 13 pounds of heroin, and 2,224 pounds of crystal methamphetamine, which is the largest domestic seizure of crystal methamphetamine in DEA history.

In June 2020, the Los Angeles Field Division, Southwest Border Group 2, began investigating a large-scale drug trafficking organization with ties to the Sinaloa Cartel involved in the transportation and delivery of large quantities of cocaine and crystal methamphetamine. During the course of the investigation, agents identified a Southern California-based narcotics courier/stash house manager along with multiple locations and vehicles associated with the courier and the DTO.

On October 2, 2020, through investigative means, agents and Fontana Police Department investigators established surveillance on the courier’s residence. During surveillance, Fontana Police Department investigators observed the target and a secondary associate load two duffle bags into a vehicle and leave the location. The courier target and the associate ultimately met with a third associate at a Sam’s Club parking lot in the city of Moreno Valley where they unloaded and delivered the two duffle bags to the third associate. During that time, investigators detained the courier target and the two other associates in the parking lot for questioning and they were later released.

Based upon the investigation and locations previously identified, agents authored state search warrants for multiple locations, including the courier target’s residence and a narcotics stash house within the city of Perris. During a search of the courier’s residence, agents located approximately 25 duffle bags within the garage of the residence containing approximately 406 kilograms of cocaine, six kilograms of heroin, and 650 pounds of crystal methamphetamine.

Additionally, during a search of the narcotics stash house in Perris, agents located approximately 1,600 pounds of crystal methamphetamine. This is an ongoing investigation.

“The largest DEA domestic seizure of methamphetamine in history is a significant blow to the cartels, but more importantly it is a gigantic victory for communities throughout Southern California and the United States who have had to deal with the torrent of methamphetamine coming into their neighborhoods,” said Acting Administrator Shea. “We continue to work with our state and local partners to attack drug trafficking at all levels and this seizure sends a clear message that we mean business.”

“Los Angeles is the major transshipment hub for Mexican cartels trafficking illicit drugs across our southwest border,” said Special Agent in Charge Bodner. “Successful seizures like these save lives and reduce the exploitation and victimization of our local communities.”

“The significant seizures announced today thwarted drug traffickers’ plans to profit from these dangerous drugs that cause incredible harm to our communities,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The Justice Department is committed to making our neighborhoods safer by aggressively disrupting drug cartel operations in the United States.”

Participating law enforcement partners include the Southwest Border Group 2 – including the South Gate Police Department, Simi Valley Police Department, Huntington Park Police Department, Glendora Police Department, Downey Police Department, El Monte Police Department, Irwindale Police Department, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department – and the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Eight Myths About Law Enforcement Officers and Mental Health Treatment

​​Most clinicians who work with law enforcement officers will tell you that the experience can be a little different. Sometimes, it seems to incorporate elements of a spy thriller. First, the call from the unknown number. Then, the interrogation from the unidentified caller, asking about your experience with cops, your ability to keep secrets and if you are in any way affiliated with the department. James Bond must be on the other end of the phone.

Let’s start by exploring the impacts that a career in law enforcement can have on officers. Law enforcement officers are a special population (like military and paramilitary personnel and other first responders) who experience coexisting medical and behavioral health issues with links to job-related stressors. According to a landmark study published by researcher John Violanti with the University at Buffalo in 2012, various factors contribute to the very serious physical and mental health concerns experienced by many law enforcement officers. These factors include:

  • Shift work
  • Long hours
  • Unpredictable schedules
  • Exposure to critical incidents
  • Being the frequent focus of public attention and criticism
  • Various physical demands
  • High rates of on-the-job injuries


The major concerns identified in Violanti’s study are high blood pressure, insomnia, heart disease, diabetes, posttraumatic stress disorder, obesity, depression, anxiety, cancer, substance abuse, relational distress and suicide. This special population often presents with higher rates of depression, substance abuse and suicide than does the general public.

In the October 2010 Issue of the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, Daniel Mattos, a law enforcement veteran for more than 30 years, described the psychological impact of police work: “By the very nature of what we do as police officers, we are unavoidably exposed to a host of toxic elements that can be likened to grains of emotional sand that ever so gradually are placed on our psychological backs. As time goes on, the sand increases in volume. Without the proper tools to remove it, the weight can become unbearable. In fact, in some cases, the sand becomes so heavy that it can collapse officers. The result of the sand’s weight takes a heavy toll on us; substance abuse, anxiety, depression, failed marriages, and other emotional and physical ailments that rise well above societal averages plague our profession.”

In an international meta-analytic study completed in 2012, researchers Claudia Morales-Manrique and Juan Valderrama-Zurian identified strong links between the high-demand/low-control nature of police work and the high stress levels that negatively impact the physical and mental health of police officers. In high-demand/low-control careers, individuals are required to be at constant peak performance levels, stemming from the unpredictability and wide range of scenarios that can be presented to them.

Research suggests that officer rates of completed suicides are three times higher than in the general population. In January 2014, Perry Mason, a retired Canadian constable (police officer), publicly described in an interview with The Hamilton Spectator his suicidal thoughts and a very near suicide attempt during his career. During 34 years of service, Mason also recounted that seven of his fellow officers had died from suicide. Mason admitted that he sought help, but also kept it highly secret because of his fears of possible repercussions to his career. He never disclosed his suicidal thoughts until after he retired.

Dilemmas and challenges complicating treatment

The high rates of physical and mental health conditions among law enforcement officers reflect the need for medical and behavioral support and treatment. However, treatment resistance is often a significant barrier.

In 2002, the American Psychological Association recognized the need to take a closer look at law enforcement as a special population and to define guidelines for forensic psychology. Ensuring public safety requires that officers are mentally, emotionally and physically stable and deemed “fit for duty” to perform effectively.

Law enforcement personnel often struggle to manage the challenges associated with competing demands. Very intense and difficult circumstances must be addressed while simultaneously mitigating the impact those demands have on personal health and well-being. Seeking and adhering to needed medical and behavioral treatments can present specific dilemmas and challenges.

Law enforcement officers are legally and ethically mandated to maintain good physical and mental health. However, the stressors these individuals face, ranging from inconsistent shift work to frequent and unpredictable threats to life, result in both physical and emotional challenges for the majority of officers during an average career. Law enforcement employers are legally obligated to verify and monitor officers to ensure physical, mental and emotional stability, as well as job performance capability. As a result, any signs of behavior that are in question, either on or off duty, are subject to scrutiny by the officer’s department or chain of command.

Every single law enforcement officer undergoes fit-for-duty evaluations that entail a combination of psychological testing and interviewing. In the book Practical Police Psychology: Stress Management and Crisis Intervention for Law Enforcement (2006), Laurence Miller writes that failure of the evaluation may result in job loss or suspension. An unintended consequence is that the majority of officers are hesitant to seek help with mental, emotional, relational or even physical issues because it could result in their inability to work.

According to retired police officer and psychologist Joel Fay in the April 2012 issue of the POA Journal, officers presenting with medical or mental health concerns often struggle taking medications as prescribed to address symptoms. Officers are restricted from having certain types of medications in their systems. For the safety of the public and the officers, police departments have policies against the use of certain classifications of medications such as strong painkillers and benzodiazepines. An officer-involved accident or shooting is often subject to a review of the incident that includes blood tests to determine the possible presence of chemicals or medications that may have played a role in the incident. Officers recognize that doctors may be unaware of these restrictions. Unable to fully understand the classifications of medications, officers may consequently resist taking prescribed medications.

So, what can we do as clinicians to help reduce the stigma and minimize the fear that going to counseling has for many law enforcement officers? The first step is to help officers understand their rights to privacy. I asked the legal experts at Bruno, Colin & Lowe P.C., with more than 60 years’ combined experience in protecting the rights of law enforcement officers in Colorado, and Mariya Dvoskina, a police and public safety psychologist with Nicoletti-Flater Associates, experts in the evaluation and critical incident response for law enforcement officers, to give me “just the facts.”

Collectively, we identified eight myths that keep many law enforcement officers from seeking support through counseling. Because each state may have some independent legislation in this regard, it is important for clinicians to verify the legal standards in the individual states in which they practice.

The myths

Myth #1

Departments/agencies have the right to obtain information about officers that seek help from licensed mental health professionals.

False! Licensed mental health professionals are legally and ethically bound to protect client privacy. If an officer reaches out to a therapist on his or her own — in other words, if the officer wasn’t ordered to see a therapist by a court or the officer’s department — then the employer doesn’t even have the right to know that the officer is attending therapy. Nothing that is said in counseling can be released to anyone without the officer’s written consent. The U.S. Supreme court has ruled that the confidential relationship between a psychotherapist and an officer is privileged. To learn more, see http://www.apa.org/about/offices/ogc/amicus/jaffee.aspx

The only times confidentiality can be broken are for the reasons below, which apply to every client/patient.

  • A suspected incident of child abuse or neglect must be reported.
  • A threat of imminent physical harm by a patient must be reported to law enforcement and to the person(s) threatened.
  • A mental health evaluation must be initiated for a patient who is imminently dangerous to self or to others, or who is gravely disabled, as a result of a mental disorder.
  • A suspected threat to national security must be reported to federal officials.
  • Suspected abuse of a senior adult (70 years of age or older), including institutional neglect, physical injury, financial exploitation or unreasonable restraint, must be reported.


 Myth #2

Rights to privacy change if you use your insurance or employee assistance program (EAP).

False! Treatment by a licensed mental health professional that is paid for by your insurance company or your EAP is protected by HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), and the same rules apply.

Sometimes patients choose not to use insurance benefits so that their outpatient treatment remains separate from their medical record.

 

Myth #3

There is no reason to see a licensed professional because the rules are exactly the same with a peer support team.

False! Limits to confidentiality vary by department and the standards may be different than those that licensed professionals have. The peer support member must disclose these limitations in the first meeting. In addition to the exceptions to confidentiality listed in Myth #1, most peer support teams are also expected to report crimes and sometimes policy violations. Outside of those limitations, conversations between a peer support member and an officer are confidential.

Myth #4

The department or agency automatically has a right to know if an officer receives a mental health diagnosis or takes medication.

False! HIPAA protects both diagnosis and medication or other treatment methods because they are part of the clinical record and therefore confidential. If an officer would like the department to know this information, he or she must sign a release of information. Otherwise, the professional treatment provider cannot disclose anything related to the client/patient to the department or anyone else.

 
Myth #5

If an officer seeks help from a hospital or a rehabilitation facility voluntarily, the department automatically has the right to this information.

False! The department can only access information that an officer has granted it permission to have, as is the case with any other medical condition.

Myth #6

If an officer is placed on an M-1 hold, he or she automatically loses their right to carry and possess a firearm.

False! When there is a court-approved certification for an involuntary mental health hold, restrictions to weapons are limited while the certification is active. If the provider that requested the certification acknowledges that the client/patient is no longer a danger to themselves or anyone else, then the restriction can and should be released as well.

Myth #7

If an officer seeks the support of a licensed mental health professional, that automatically means that the officer is not fit for duty.

False! Seeking counseling voluntarily would NEVER automatically mean that an officer is unfit for duty.

Myth #8

Counseling is the same as a fit-for-duty evaluation.

False! The most important question to ask is “Who is the client?” If the officer is seeking support on his or her own, all of the rights stated above belong to the officer. If the department is the client, as is the case in a pre-employment evaluation or a fitness-for-duty evaluation, then the information most often belongs to the department.

By Jessika Redman | Counseling Today

About the Author

Jessika Redman is a licensed professional counselor, a national certified counselor and the founder of Well Relate LLC (http://www.wellrelate.com) in Castle Rock, Colorado. Contact her at jessika@wellrelate.com.

News from CRI-TAC The COPS Office Collaborative Reform Technical Assistance Center

Police officers wear protective masks while maintaining a road block on the bridge leading to a drive-through testing facility. Angus Mordant—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Protecting Our Law Enforcement Officers As They Serve The Community During A Pandemic​

As millions of Americans try to limit their exposure to the possibility of contracting COVID-19, there are certain groups that need to stay on the front lines, and law enforcement is one of those groups. While the predominant focus is on staying physically healthy, often overlooked is the mental toll faced by the officers and deputies, who are valiantly continuing to do their jobs in the face of a worldwide pandemic. To that end, CRI-TAC is offering two webinars that will focus on the mental health of law enforcement doing their jobs during this trying time:

Maintaining Morale During a Public Health Crisis Webinar

On October 19, 2020, the COPS Office Collaborative Reform Initiative Technical Assistance Center (CRI-TAC), in conjunction with CRI-TAC partners NSA and IACP, will host a webinar on what sheriffs and other law enforcement leaders can do to help maintain and improve morale among personnel – both sworn and civilian – during a crisis. Speakers will include Sheriff Garry McFadden, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. To register for the webinar, please visit https://sheriffs.org/CRITAC-StaffMorale-Webinar.

How to Prevent a Global Crisis from Becoming a Personal One: Stress Management in High-Stress Times Webinar

On October 27, 2020, the COPS Office CRI-TAC, in conjunction with CRI-TAC partners NSA, IACP, and FOP, will host a webinar on the mental health of officers during COVID-19. This webinar will offer realistic practices and tips for first responders and their families to help address and manage stressors during a pandemic. Speakers will include FOP National Director of Wellness Services Sherri Rowan, Dr. Kimberly Miller, and Metropolitan Nashville Police Manager David Kennington. To register for this webinar, please visit https://www.sheriffs.org/CRITAC-MentalHealth-Webinar.

Don’t Forget to Contribute to the COVID-19 Law Enforcement Impact Dashboard!

The National Police Foundation recently announced a real-time COVID-19 Law Enforcement Impact Dashboard to collect data and monitor workforce impacts, including the number of officers unable to work/placed in off-duty status due to possible or confirmed exposure, the number of officers that have been tested and diagnosed, and personal protective equipment (PPE) needs.

The NPF, IACP, and other CRI-TAC partners encourage law enforcement agencies to submit their data here: https://www.policefoundation.org/covid-19/. Data collected through the COVID-19 Law Enforcement Impact Dashboard will assist the field with understanding the scope and impact of COVID-19, as well as informing CRI-TAC tools and resources for the field.

New Offering Under CRI-TAC’s Menu of Technical Assistance

CRI-TAC is pleased to announce that its technical assistance offerings will now include the topic of “use of force.” In response to tremendous requests from the field, use of force will now join a number of other highly requested topics including community engagement, de-escalation, mass demonstration response, officer safety and wellness, and school safety. Technical assistance on use of force will include:

  • Offering training and awareness on best and promising practices, including offering peer-to-peer exchanges to share those practices
  • Reviewing and providing tailored guidance on an agency’s policies, procedures, and training
  • Training and guidance on how to conduct use of force investigations
  • Developing a calibrated use of force investigation process tailored to the type and size of the agency
  • Addressing how to handle complaints, as well as how to follow-up complaints to ensure investigations are safe, and accountable

Agencies can request more information by visiting CollaborativeReform.org or contacting TechnicalAssistance@usdoj.gov.

DEA and Discovery Education Launch Expansion of Operation Prevention

Unsplash Photo by Scott Webb.

The Drug Enforcement Administration and Discovery Education have expanded Operation Prevention, a joint effort to curb drug use among students by educating them about the dangers of abuse. In response to growing demand, new modules launched last night build on the original student curriculum, which is geared toward elementary and middle schools students. These new lessons educate young people about the effects of a wider range of drugs and pharmaceuticals on the human body.

Operation Prevention will host a webinar for educators on October 14 to review the existing curriculum, and showcase the new multi-drug curriculum with a video topic series and activities for grades 3-8, and tips for implementing them within the existing Operation Prevention resources. Educators can register here.

“The first line in prevention is always education,” said Acting Administrator Timothy J. Shea. “By reaching out to youths, presenting them with information to expand their base of knowledge about drugs and drug abuse, we can stem the future tide of misuse, abuse, overdose, and death. If we reach just one child and prevent even one death through this program, we will consider it a success.”

DEA and Discovery Education launched Operation Prevention in 2016 as a three year program for middle and high school students with lessons centered on the dangers of opioid prescription drug abuse. The DEA-funded program was soon expanded to add elementary and Spanish-speaking students. A second expansion added a workplace module to allow businesses to access this important information. The program continues to evolve with a module for Native American/Alaskan Natives in the planning stages.