NIC’s Becoming Trauma Informed: An Essential Element for Justice Settings Now Available for Viewing

Experiencing or exposure to traumatic events during childhood and continuing into adulthood is all too common. Less known is that trauma is a dominant factor in the lives of individuals involved with the criminal justice system; in what occurs while in the system; and in how transitioning and living in the community is impacted.

With this increasing awareness, criminal justice professionals are considering what this means in their correctional settings, how to manage this population, and provide effective services. Often overlooked is the challenge of staff who are also affected by trauma in their personal and work lives, as organizational stress and trauma create additional challenges for the workplace.

In this Community Services Division-sponsored webinar series, NIC’s Maureen Buell facilitates a stimulating discussion featuring Stephanie Covington, PhD, of the Center for Gender and Justice and Nena Messina, PhD of Envisioning Justice Solutions. This dynamic three part webinar series focuses on the following topics:

1) The Association between ACEs and Criminal Justice Involvement;

2) Trauma Informed Treatment and Theory; and

3) Becoming Trauma Informed and Moving to Trauma Responsive.

As demand outpaced the limited number of registrations, the linked content is now streaming and shareable. The linked content includes the downloadable recorded sessions, a list of resources referenced during the presentations, and a Q&A document that memorializes questions brought up in the chat.

By accessing this robust series you will explore the issues, find helpful answers, and learn from subject matter experts. Below are testimonials from webinar participants. We think you will agree!

Thank you for a wonderful informative presentation.

Thank you, great information I can take to my job.

Thank you for this great webinar and resources. Looking forward to next week’s as well.

Here is the link to the webinar:

Preventable False Arrest Defeats Qualified Immunity

​Officers are frequently cautioned to slow down in approaching dangerous situations. Pause, take a moment to think when there is discretionary time.​


BELL V. NEUKIRCH, 2020 WL 6304897 (8TH CIR. 2020)

A 911 caller reported a couple of Black juvenile males playing with guns outside a house. The caller described the first suspect as having dreadlocks, wearing a white t-shirt and jeans, and having a gun in his pocket. The caller gave his phone number.

Responding officers called the complainant as they were driving to the scene. He told them the boys had gone into the house. As the two officers drove up, they saw three Black juvenile males. An officer chirped the siren and the juveniles turned to look. One juvenile ran and an officer chased. The officer shouted, “Drop the gun,” and the juvenile tossed a gun over a fence.

The officer could not catch the fleeing juvenile. He broadcast the suspect description as: “Black male. Dreads. Blue shorts.” The officer then added: “Juvenile Black male, 17-18, about 5’10,” skinny, blue shorts, white t-shirt, shoulder-length dreads. He was taking his shoes off. I’m not sure what kind of shoes he had.” The patrol car dash camera showed that the suspect wore a plain white t-shirt; dark solid-color shorts; and long, striped, gray socks that rose to near mid-calf.

Seven minutes later, another officer in the area saw Tyree Bell walking and talking on his cell phone. The officer asked by radio whether the officer who had given chase was sure the suspect had removed his shoes and explained he was watching “a younger Black male with … braids or dreads … white shirt, with black-and-white shorts.” As the two officers were speaking by radio, Bell walked past the police car.

The officer could see Bell wearing a white t-shirt, black shorts with a wide white stripe on each side, short black socks and black Nike Air Jordan basketball shoes trimmed in red with a red logo on the tongue. Bell’s hairstyle was short dreadlocks. The officer got out and called Bell over to him, who immediately complied. Bell was not breathing hard, as he would be if he’d just run from the other officer, though he was a little sweaty, as it was a hot day. The officer frisked Bell, finding nothing, and asked for identification. Bell said he was not carrying identification and that he was coming from his cousin’s house down the street. The officer handcuffed him.

The officer who had chased the suspect came to Bell’s location and identified him as the suspect who ran. Bell denied he had seen police or run away. The two officers briefly looked at dash camera video at the initial scene. A detective arrived to follow up on the report of suspects with guns. The officers told the detective they had reviewed the video and identified Bell as the suspect with a gun who fled. Bell was taken to a juvenile detention center.

Three weeks later, the detective reviewed the dash camera video recording for the first time. He concluded Bell was not the suspect who fled from police. Bell’s shorts had “a white colored pattern on the front/sides,” while the suspect’s shorts were “black or dark blue.” The suspect wore “long grey colored socks that rode halfway up his calves,” while Bell’s socks “were short and black in color.” Bell was taller than the suspect and his hair was markedly different from the suspect. The detective reviewed the information with a prosecutor, who dropped the charges and released Bell.

Bell sued, alleging the officers seized, arrested and detained him without probable cause and that no reasonable officer could have believed probable cause existed. A trial court granted qualified immunity to the officers. Bell appealed.

The court of appeals reversed the grant of qualified immunity and remanded the case for trial. The court held no reasonable officer could have believed there was probable cause to arrest Bell based on the plainly exculpatory evidence readily available to them. First, the court cited the several differences in Bell’s appearance and that of the suspect seen on the dash camera. The only things they truly had in common is they were young Black men wearing white t-shirts. Bell was five inches taller. When he was stopped a mile away from the initial scene, he wasn’t breathing heavily and was not perspiring heavily – strong evidence he had not just run a mile. The suspect’s hair was all black and bushy; Bell’s hair was in short dreadlocks with colored tips. The suspect wore low-cut shoes or sandals, while Bell wore black Nike Air Jordan basketball shoes trimmed in red with a red logo on the tongue.

The officers asserted the discrepancies in appearance were not so noticeable that they could tell the suspect and Bell apart. The court noted that, in addition to the distinct differences observed by the judges as they viewed the dash camera video and Bell’s photograph, the detective immediately realized the officers had arrested the wrong suspect once he got around to viewing the dash camera recording. The court was critical of the officers for not confirming Bell’s involvement by corroborating his identification with the other juveniles and the 911 caller.

In a case involving an arrest without probable cause, officers have qualified immunity if they reasonably but mistakenly conclude there was probable cause (Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635 (1987)). Courts sometimes use the phrase “arguable probable cause,” where the probable cause determination is “close enough.” “Arguable probable cause exists even where an officer mistakenly arrests a suspect believing it is based in probable cause if the mistake is objectively reasonable” (Borgman v. Kedley, 646 F.3d 518 (8th Cir. 2011)). Nonetheless, in a case where there was easily available exculpatory information that would have shown there was no probable cause to arrest Bell, the officers were not entitled to qualified immunity.

One of the appellate judges observed, “This case is hardly the model of good police work.” The court concluded, “This is an obvious case of insufficient probable cause.” Officers are frequently cautioned to slow down in approaching dangerous situations. Pause, take a moment to think when there is discretionary time. This is a case where there was time for a pause by the patrol officers to review the dash camera video of the suspect, compare it to Bell, and listen to and perhaps investigate Bell’s claims that he had just left his cousin’s house down the street. There was also time for a pause by the detective to review the video recording before three weeks passed. A few additional minutes of investigation would have certainly prevented liability for Bell’s unlawful arrest.

​By Ken Wallentine |  Lexipol’s Xiphos Newsletter |

About the author

Ken Wallentine is the chief of the West Jordan (Utah) Police Department and former chief of law enforcement for the Utah Attorney General. He has served over three decades in public safety, is a legal expert and editor of Xiphos, a monthly national criminal ​​procedure newsletter. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Death and serves as a use of force consultant in state and federal criminal and civil litigation across the nation.

This article was featured in Lexipol’s Xiphos newsletter, a monthly legal-focused law enforcement newsletter authored by Ken Wallentine. Subscriptions are free for public safety officers, educators and public attorneys. Subscribe here.


Executive Order on Safe Policing for Safe Communities

​On Wednesday, October 28, the Department of Justice announced Standards for Certification that are a result of President Trump’s June Executive Order 13929, Safe Policing for Safe Communities. The Executive Order’s goal is to ensure that, together, we continue striving to provide transparent, safe, and accountable delivery of services to our communities. Our work on the Executive Order will enhance citizen confidence in law enforcement, and facilitate the identification and correction of internal issues before they result in injury to the public or to law enforcement officers.

Pursuant to authority vested in the attorney general by the Executive Order, the designated organizations included here will serve as the independent credentialing bodies. Law enforcement will be eligible to receive federal funding from the Department of Justice grant making components upon certification by the respective credentialing organization.

An independent credentialing body will certify an applying law enforcement agency if it determines — or, within the past 36 months, has already determined — that the agency is in compliance with two mandatory safe policing principles in the Principles on Safe Policing and Use of Force.  Certification is a prerequisite to a law enforcement agency’s eligibility for Department of Justice discretionary grant funding. Agencies will be required to obtain certification by January 31, 2021 in order to be eligible for federal funds in 2021. The credentialing body will maintain a list of certified agencies within its jurisdiction, and submit this list to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (or “COPS Office”), which will serve as the repository for the list of a​​ll eligible law enforcement agencies.

Please note that tribal law enforcement agencies are not subject to the requirements noted above.

We value your partnership and look forward to continuing to work with you to implement the Executive Order on Safe Policing for Safe Communities.

Please visit for additional information regarding implementation of Executive Order 13929.

DEA Take Back Day is October 24

DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. This is an opportunity to clean out medicine cabinets and dispose of unwanted, unused and expired medications, preventing drug addiction before it starts.

Collection sites will adhere to local COVID-19 guidelines and regulations in order to maintain the safety of all participants and local law enforcement.

For more information on DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, and to find a collection site near you, visit

Alternative Disposal Methods

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, collection sites may be limited. Can’t find a collection site near you? Learn more about other ways to dispose of and keep medications safe by clicking on the following link:
Other Ways to Dispose of Medication

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.

Tips for Interrupting Unconscious Bias

“Why do you brush your teeth?”

When I ask that in my unconscious bias trainings, people give me a very strange look.

Because you want healthy teeth and fresh breath, obviously. Except, for millennia, humans were perfectly happy without either. So what changed

Advertising. Marketing. Pepsodent, especially. They made you want to brush your teeth. They made you desire that clean feeling. They made it into a habit.

A habit is changed behavior. And making people want to do something is how we always think habits should form. Change hearts and minds, and changed behavior will follow.
But it’s not the only way. It’s not the reason, for example, why you put on your seatbelt. You put on your seatbelt because for decades legislators said we had to. And now you do it automatically— so automatically that it has become a habit. They changed the rules, they changed the world.
If you want to interrupt bias for good and want to create a fair and equitable world for everyone, then adapt new habits to change your behavior. If you keep on doing it, day in and day out, your new habits will replace the old habits you had before.

You can apply this practice to interrupt unconscious biases. It just takes doing the work. Here are three tips to help you start.

1. Slow down your thinking.
Bias occurs because you have a fast, automatic part of your brain that instantly makes conclusions about everyone and everything. It processes over 99% of the information coming at you. But you have to slow that way down. When it comes to your interactions and assumptions of people, you need to create the habit of letting the slower, more rational, more reasonable part of your brain kick in.

When you find yourself making assumptions about someone, ask yourself why. Uncover the facts. Why did you reach that conclusion? What evidence demonstrated that belief? When you find yourself forming first impressions of people, analyze why and how you made those first impressions.

2. Create a counter-stereotypical narrative.

In her excellent TED Talk, “The Danger of the Single Story,” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie talks about how stereotypes create only a single story about a person— a single story that is incomplete. Work to build other stories about the person for whom you’ve made an assumption.

Consider your initial reaction to this scene: Nine people are in a bar — two are lawyers, one is a truck driver, two are doctors, one is a judge, one is a legal assistant, one is a firefighter and one is the bartender.

Did you assume that everyone in that bar is a white man, except for perhaps the legal assistant? That assumption results from living in a world that portrays those roles as reserved for white men. Interrupt that unconscious bias by creating a counter-stereotypical narrative in your own head. Imagine Korean judges and Black lawyers and Native American doctors and women firefighters. Constantly interrupt this shortcut thinking in your head.

3. See the person, not the stereotype.

Practice this pointer when, for example, you see someone arrive late for an appointment. Don’t assume you know what the reason is because of the stereotypes you have of the person’s group (“people like her are always late”).

Instead, start by observing what’s happening in the moment — right now. Explore explanations for why this is happening. Again, slow down your thinking and increase your objectivity. See the person, not the stereotype. And do it with empathy.

You’re not critiquing for the sake of criticizing. You’re exploring with the goal of understanding. It’s not enough to simply see beyond the stereotype. Do the extra work to see the person as well.

Create new habits. Build new behaviors. That’s how you can interrupt unconscious bias for good.

This article first appeared in Real Leaders.
By Michelle Silverthorn | 
About the Author

Michelle Silverthorn is Founder and CEO of Inclusion Nation, that works with Fortune 500 companies, tech start-ups, nonprofits and universities to design authentic, inclusive spaces for success. A recognized organizational diversity expert and speaker, she has written extensively on the topic. She is a TEDx speaker, and author of the new book, “Authentic Diversity: How to Change the Workplace for Good” (CRC Press, Sept. 9, 2020). Learn more at

CopLine: A Law Enforcement Officer’s Lifeline

The perception that ‘​all of America hates cops​’​ ​is taking an emotional toll on law enforcement officers and their families. Photo by Gabe Pierce.


“CopLine, what’s going on?” Those are the first words a caller hears when those 10 numbers are dialed, (800) 267-5463 — 10 numbers that will connect you directly to a vetted, trained, retired officer who is there to listen to what a caller wants to address.

CopLine receives between 200 and 300 calls a month, and the numbers continue to increase. When I am asked about the call volume, it is always followed by a sigh or “That’s really unfortunate.” Maybe it’s me, but I have never looked at it that way. I don’t look at checking in with a friend or family member as “unfortunate,” only as a sign that someone cares and isn’t alone. The unfortunate part is those who do not call — those who were struggling with some external issue or internal strife and thought, “I don’t want to burden anyone; there are people who need to call more than I do.” Let me set the record straight: Hell, no, there is no one more important than you are.

That’s the crux of the problem as I see it, all too often. As a therapist, I rarely worry about an officer who is in my practice; I worry about those who aren’t, those who I didn’t reach. That’s why I have chosen to do some Facebook Live talks to help stop the stigma of talking to a mental health professional and to try to reach so many more than I can in my private practice. It isn’t a job or a career, it is a calling and a way of life. I can’t help but hear in my head the words from the opening of A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness…” That is policing in 2020. No one can go it alone on a social level or personal level, not Lucie Manette, Charles Darnay or even Sydney Carton himself.

I have been asked countless times if CopLine saw an uptick in calls like other hotlines did when COVID-19 became a world “feardemic.” Please don’t misinterpret that as me downplaying the pandemic that has killed more than 800,000 people; I am referring to the fear in the world the pandemic has caused that has immobilized most people. CopLine had not experienced a significant uptick during this time, and callers addressed many stressors, with COVID-19 being only one of them. I pondered why that could be, and it wasn’t until our last training that it occurred to me.

There was a “spirited” conversation about doing our CopLine training remotely. Everything had gone the way of Zoom, and now the pressure was on. The reality is in the training and stringent vetting process of the retirees who answer the lines themselves, the many men and women who have finished their careers and still want to give back to their own and the “uniform” families that support them. Of our nine completed trainings, only three trainings successfully vetted all of the trainees who had taken the class. They all have the heart to answer the phone, but the skill set is far more challenging to acquire. Our success is in knowing that each volunteer has the proper skills to answer the calls and meet each caller where they are, without judgment or the need to problem-solve. This can only be done through grueling role-plays, hours of teaching and daily evaluations by the training cadre. In my true snarky fashion, I have told people there are two things you can’t do on Zoom: You can’t conceive a child and you can’t do CopLine training.

We have seen an uptick not only in calls, but in the emotional toll the societal shift is taking on law enforcement officers and their families.

Each retiree has spent a lifetime fighting invisible enemies and rising to national and international crises. We have seen this throughout history, but what no officer was prepared for was to become “the enemy.” COVID-19 was not the issue; it was the social shift of what at times feels like “all of America hates cops” that has weighed heavily on officers and their families. We have seen an uptick not only in calls, but in the emotional toll the societal shift is taking on law enforcement officers and their families. There are times when I use the word “heartbreaking” to describe what is relayed to me from listeners (who always have clinical support for themselves while they are on the lines). What has been so rewarding is that so many of the listeners have been through riots throughout our recent history (from the 1960s forward), and they really can “sit in the hole” side by side with the caller and understand what they are talking about on a very real and intimate level.

That is the foundation of CopLine, a very simple concept that was not made any more difficult through politics or BS. It’s a great idea, yes, but there is no way to execute it without the help of many. I have always had the easy lift and still do, as the listeners have always chosen the heavy lift and still do. We have ensured that confidentiality is maintained by not taking any government money through grants or loans. That has allowed us to eliminate the fear of cellphones being pinged or calls being traced and anyone coming to the caller’s house to “check up on them” if they talk about thoughts of suicide. Officers and their families need a safe place to talk about these thoughts and feelings, as well as all their other thoughts and feelings, without the fear of losing everything. We are not a suicide or crisis line. We do deal with those calls, but we are here to deal with all stressors in an officer’s life or their families. We believe that if an officer calls when they have “low-hanging fruit,” they will call when they have “high-hanging fruit,” and we have seen just that. More than 90% of our calls are not crisis or suicidal calls — they are about “normal” stressors from a stressful job, and our callers will find a partner on the other end of the line who has the skills and background to help.

It is simple: We are a confidential hotline for officers and their families to call to deal with any and all issues they are having on or off the job, without fear of any repercussions for being human. They will talk to only a vetted, trained retired officer, and from the second they dial (800) COP-LINE, they are never alone.

​​Without the unwavering support of organizations like the Los Angeles Sheriffs’ Relief Association, which generously took out an ad in APB and helped sponsor our 10th CopLine training, we wouldn’t be able to touch as many lives as we have. It truly takes a village, and we couldn’t be more honored to have leaders like the Sheriffs’ Relief Association to help build ours.

​By Stephanie Samuels | American Police Beat 
​Stephanie Samuels, M.A., MSW, LCSW, is a psychotherapist who works exclusively with police officers in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma. She has lectured all over the country on PTSD and vicarious trauma, including undiagnosed PTSD and the fallout from departmental silence after officers are involved in critical incidents. She is the founder and president of CopLine, the first confidential international law enforcement hotline answered by retired officers.

Highlights of the Officer Media Salary Study

When you’re discussing pay raises or additional benefits, it might help to have demonstrable data.

Sponsored by 5.11 Inc., the 2020 Officer Media Group Salary Survey Summary comprised of about 22 questions of our readership. The full report runs 10 pages, to save you from data overload, here are some highlights.

​​Download the full report at

One of the questions identified rank/position. Bear in mind that this was not just a survey for executive personnel, but covered all ranks from the most rookie patrolman to chiefs and sheriffs. It makes sense that the largest responding group represents the largest population within the law enforcement community that we serve: that being management, supervisory, and command staff personnel. As a result, just over 48% of our survey respondents held the rank of sergeant on up through major. Those who identified as executive or command staff accounted for another 14% of the responses while detectives/investigators/inspectors made up another 9%. Combined, those groups represent roughly 2/3 of our respondents. Keep that in mind as you read the remainder of the following.  

When asked what described the respondent’s type of agency, just over 56% answered “municipality,” while another 20% answered county sheriff’s or police department. Those two groups alone make up well over 3/4 of our respondents with state police adding another 8.6% and “Other” contributing 13.4%.

For agency size, approximately half were 100 or more employees. The other half (48.9% versus 51.1%) were less than 100 employees. It’s worth noting, however, that “employees” is different from sworn strength and the division of employee size (20 to 49, 50 to 99, 100+) is such that plenty of agencies with less than 50 sworn officers but enough support staff to push the total employee count over 50. The most recent surveys/polls we’ve seen on sworn strength still places approximately 55% of all law enforcement agencies in the country with less than 50 officers in sworn strength. It’s important to realize that most agencies in the country, even the largest ones, don’t have over 500 to 1,000 officers and those that do you can find on NFL team jerseys. How many NFL teams are there? There aren’t even that many cities with police departments over 1,000 officers.

In terms of actual salary, the largest bulk of respondents are paid between $25K to $100K. Quite surprisingly, 25.4% report being paid between $100K to $150K. What should be of larger concern is that there were actually respondents who get paid less than $25K per year. Unless they are part-time officers, that is absurd.

On a final note, we asked the takers if their salary had increased or decreased this year from last year. While the largest majority saw the cost of living increase, 2.4% saw salary decreases and some of those decreases were more than 15% of their total salary.
By the Editorial Staff | Officer Media Group

POST Commission and DPS to Discuss Response to Survey

​​The Missouri Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission and the Department of Public Safety today invited Missourians to listen in as commissioners discuss responses from law enforcement officers and citizens to two surveys on law enforcement training and discipline in Missouri.

On Wednesday, Aug. 26, at 2 p.m., POST commissioners will discuss responses from law enforcement officers to a survey of officers on law enforcement training requirements and discipline in Missouri. The survey was conducted from Aug. 17 to Aug. 24.

On Monday, Aug. 31 at 2 p.m., and on Wednesday, Sept. 2 at 2 p.m., POST commissioners will discuss responses from members of the public to a survey conducted from Aug. 18 to Aug. 26 on law enforcement training requirements and discipline in Missouri. Members of the public are encouraged to continue to participate in that survey through Aug. 26, 2020 at

Two phone lines, each of which can handle up to 500 callers, are being provided to each of the listening sessions. A WebEx link is also being provided for those who would prefer to listen with a computer.  

Additional comments from the public may be offered by email during the listening sessions. An email address will be provided at the beginning of each listening session. There is no audio option to ask questions during the listening sessions.

Aug. 26 – Law Enforcement Survey Listening Session

Phone number: 650-479-3207
Access code: 133 961 8599
Web address for attendees:
Event password: PWd7KE7HPZ3

Phone number: 650-479-3207
Access code: 133 212 6776
Web address for attendees:
Event password: 7fQV6kwyKM4

Aug. 31 – Public Survey Listening Session

Phone number: 650-479-3207
Access code: 133 488 8026
Web address for attendees:
Event password: rKQHgSaU242

Phone number: 650-479-3207
Access code: 133 924 4860
Web address for attendees:
Event password: SQnXFMqQ834

Sept. 2 – Public Survey Listening Session

Phone number: 650-479-3207
Access code: 133 643 4469
Web address for attendees:
Event password: Bfbqa2VYY32

Phone number: 650-479-3207
Access code: 133 884 0241
Web address for attendees:
Event password: vjMiqSkf976

Established by state statute, the POST Commission is responsible for the curriculum for law enforcement officer basic training and continuing education in Missouri. More information about the commission, Missouri’s Peace Officer Standards and Training Program and the disciplinary complaint process is available on the POST Program webpage.

In Missouri, law enforcement officers must complete 24 hours of continuing law enforcement education each year to maintain their peace officers licenses: 2 hours in Legal Studies; 2 hours in Technical Studies; 2 hours in Interpersonal Perspectives; 2 hours of Skill Development involving firearms; 16 hours of electives in any of the preceding core curriculum areas; and 1 hour of racial profiling awareness training.

The First Responder Network Authority

Talbot County’s (Maryland) first responders received a boost in their wireless communications with the addition of a purpose-built cell site. Photo taken on August 27, 2019.


“So, what’s FirstNet?” You may have heard this on a tradeshow floor. You may have overheard it in the locker room. You may have even asked it yourself. Set to the most simplistic of explanations, the First Responder Network Authority is an organization established by congress that oversees the implementation of the FirstNet communications network built with AT&T. What the FirstNet Authority is not is the provider of the service.  

I connected with Assistant Chief Harry Markley (ret.), and subject matter expert for FirstNet Law Enforcement. “We’re no more a vendor than the FBI is a vendor. We’re actually part of the federal government,” he says.

Harry MarkleyThe First Responder Network AuthorityHarry Markley is the law enforcement liaison for the FirstNet Authority. His experience includes over 31 years as a police officer, retiring from the Phoenix Police Department as chief of the patrol division. He’s been with the FirstNet Authority for about two years and has since produced a newsletter sharing news and information with law enforcement. I spoke with him mid-May.

The FirstNet network has been in operation for two years and, according to Markley, 99% of the U.S. population is covered with 12,000 public safety agencies. That’s breaks down to 1.3 million connections worldwide—a significant milestone for a network so young.

It’s this acceptance that keeps Markley optimistic and parallels the network’s advancement to the Apple iPhone. “The iPhone came out 11, 12 years ago. I remember when you looked at the phone you had about 50 apps on it…and we thought it was the most amazing thing in the world. Now, if you look at the iPhone today and the 100’s of thousands of apps, the capabilities of the camera—those are the leaps to be made.

I just think about where we will be in another 10 years. Just like the iPhone, what this network is going to be able to do and how it’s going to be used are going to be amazing. It’s going to have a significant impact on not just law enforcement but on public safety as a whole.”

AT&T won the FirstNet bid and are partnered together in a 25-year long contract. While the organizations aren’t responsible for the technical side, they’re comprised of teams to oversee various aspects (like confirming reported speeds) to make sure that the build deadlines are being met.

The other side of the First Responder Network Authority organization comprises of education: what FirstNet is, what Firstnet can do, what Firstnet can’t do, and whether or not FirstNet is even the correct choice based on circumstances, location and if the service is right for the agency at the time. With his experience of going from a heavily populated area in Phoenix to the middle of nowhere within Arizona, Markley is realistic and cuts to the point, “It might not be right for everybody. That’s part of my job. Talk to them, find out what their needs are. What their resources are. Where they are located on the planet and if this is the right service for them at this time.”

It starts with coverage. Put simply, without cellular coverage you can’t talk on your phone. Without cellular coverage you can’t use data. But that doesn’t mean that coverage can’t move where you need it. Should there be a need where there isn’t coverage—say, responding to a wildfire in the middle of nowhere—a fleet of deployable units can be sent to the location. You can even use a tethered drone with a ground-based power source to provide a temporary cellular tower.

What about the radio?

Consider the computer in the patrol vehicle. Consider your smartphone. Often cellular coverage for these devices can go where radio coverage hasn’t. “We’re not looking to replace mobile radios,” Markley says. He tells me a story from Arizona, where Phoenix, the fifth largest city in the U.S., is heavily populated – there are extremely rural areas. “Areas where our state police don’t have any radio coverage at all”, he says. Once they hit radio darkness, officers were flying blind with the closest back up an hour or more away. FirstNet built with AT&T were able to provide a solution to allow officers to use their mobile phones to communicate to dispatch through an LTE-LMR integration. One trooper was quoted, “Now I can do police work again.”

Markley goes around the country demonstrating the capabilities of FirstNet, by making a call from Florida to dispatch in Arizona in the midst of IACP 2019 as well as utilizing the new Push to Talk app to connect to California while in Guam.

Can I sign up?

Many officers inquire about 1) whether they qualify and 2) if they can sign up privately. Short answer: yes, if an officer wants to be on the network on their own—they can.

Oftentimes, many people consider public safety as only police, firefighters, and EMTs— but the FirstNet Authority includes so much more. “It’s not always sworn,” he says. “There are task forces that are made up of military and civilian and they do search and rescue for a sheriff department, or they’re a part of a drug task force where they aren’t actually a sworn law enforcement officer but they provide support.” Law enforcement agencies and officers alike can contact AT&T for more information on who qualifies for access on FirstNet.

The network is only in its infancy. “We’re so early on in this process that what we’ll look like even five years from now will be so much different than what it looks like now,” says Markley. “When you look at live streaming video, when you talk about being able to live stream dash cam video, body cam video, video cameras on the end of electronic weapons. The possibilities are endless.”

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By Jonathan Kozlowski |