Missouri Law Enforcement Explain Why No AMBER Alert Was Issued for Missing Father, 2 Sons

Many people across Missouri have wondered why no AMBER Alert was issued for a missing Pleasant Hope father and his two sons.

Darrell Peak and his two young boys, Mayson and Kaiden, were found dead near Warsaw on Monday.

Missouri State Highway Patrol says the case did not meet certain criteria. While no one with the MSHP headquarters would do a camera interview with KY3, the agency issued a statement instead.

“The Missouri State Highway Patrol issued a state-wide Endangered Person Advisory for Darrell Peak, Kaiden Peak, and Mayson Peak,” the statement read. “This advisory informed the media, the public, and law enforcement agencies across the state of the situation involving the Peak family. An AMBER Alert was not issued, as the statutory requirements for the activation of an AMBER Alert were not met.”​​

It was 16 hours after Darrell Peak left his home on Thursday when authorities were notified to be on the lookout.

“Any and every lead that is coming in we’re following,” Greene County Deputy Jason Winston told KY3 prior to the discovery. “We’re exhausting this investigation in every way we know how.”

The Greene County Sheriff’s Office said it asked several times for an amber alert to be issued.

Requirements for issuing an Amber Alert include timely requests, as more time goes by, the usefulness of an alert diminishes. Alert requirements also note parental disputes do not apply unless there is concern that a child could be harmed.

Some wonder why Peak’s history of depression and suicidal thoughts did not merit an AMBER Alert.

”My understanding is the family, the wife or a family member, went on the air and said he would never hurt his children,” Benton County Sheriff Eric Knox said. “My mindset is the family didn’t think he would ever do something like that, therefore it doesn’t meet the criteria.”

Would that have changed if authorities feared Peak could hurt his two sons?

”Yes, I believe it would have,” Knox said. “Again I cannot speak for their people, but if you meet all the criteria of the AMBER Alert there is no reason they couldn’t do one.”

The Greene County Sheriff’s Office previously told KY3 about their AMBER Alert attempts.

”We would definitely like for this issue to meet the criteria for an AMBER Alert, but at the same time we realize criteria is in place for a reason,” Winston said.

After this case, Sheriff Knox said many have asked him if the AMBER Alert system should be changed.

“My statement to that would be no,” he said. “The AMBER Alert is set up with criteria that is fairly stringent to keep that very serious when an amber alert goes off.”

Knox fears a change could lead to people ignoring alerts.

”Something we see day in and day out is people fighting, take off with the kids,” he said. “Happens all the time. I think everybody did exactly what they could do with the information they had. If you set off an AMBER Alert for every husband and wife that had an argument and walked away with the kids, people would ignore it. It would be a nuisance instead of something serious.”

Knox said he feels this case does draw attention to the need for more mental health outreach efforts at the state level.

“Society lets these people down,” he said. “We do not have the proper mechanisms in place to deal with mental illness anymore. And at the state level I think there needs to be help for mental illness.”

By Michael Van Schoik | KY3​

Road to Recovery: How Motorsports Supports Officer Wellness

Bryan Simpson Hixon, owner of Hixon Motor Sports (HMS), wrapped two IMSA Pro cars at Hixon’s own cost to represent Blue H.E.L.P. and law enforcement suicide awareness for the 2021 Mazda MX-5 Cup series. (Hixon Motor Sports)

 
 
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Law enforcement faced many challenges in 2020 including COVID-19, movements to defund the police and what could be perceived as a loss of public support. There has been increasing concern for the emotional well-being of officers and significant efforts have been made to normalize seeking help in the profession.

Proof that more officers are seeking help has been reflected in the increased number of voluntary calls to national hotlines. “The content of the calls has changed. The social shift has taken a toll on officers from all over the United States of America,” said Stephanie Samuels founder and president of COPLINE.

By raising awareness about law enforcement suicide, we have seen an increase in the number of departments and organizations working toward prioritizing officer emotional wellness. While not widely acknowledged, the motorsports industry has become one of the first sports to truly take notice of police suicide.

Indiana Race Saver Sprints cars featured the Blue H.E.L.P. logo and raised awareness and funds for the organization. (Indiana Race Saver Sprints)

In 2018, Thin Blue Line Motorsports revealed a dragster that bears the dates of all officers lost to line of duty death and to suicide from January 1, 2008, to October 5, 2018. It became the first known car to honor officers lost to suicide side-by-side with traditional line of duty deaths.

In early 2020, Indiana Race Saver Sprints cars featured the Blue H.E.L.P. logo and raised awareness and funds for the organization.

Finally, Bryan Simpson Hixon, owner of Hixon Motor Sports (HMS), wrapped two IMSA Pro cars at Hixon’s own cost to represent Blue H.E.L.P. and law enforcement suicide awareness for the 2021 Mazda MX-5 Cup series. The HMS team made its debut at the World Center of Racing, Daytona International Speedway, on January 27, 2021. Before the weekend was out, motorsports enthusiasts could find the HMS car on the iRacing platform.

Bryan Simpson Hixon, owner of Hixon Motor Sports (HMS), wrapped two IMSA Pro cars at Hixon’s own cost to represent Blue H.E.L.P. and law enforcement suicide awareness for the 2021 Mazda MX-5 Cup series. (Hixon Motor Sports)

Hixon is no stranger to emotional struggles and understands the challenges of finding the right treatment, sharing your story, and helping others to heal.

“I went through a dark period in my life. I have hit rock-bottom. I’ve had PTSD. I have had major depression. If it weren’t for Phoenix Mental Health, I’m not sure I would be here today to tell my story,” said Hixon. “Because of what I went through, I believe we can all recover if we seek the appropriate help. Do not give up. Somehow, I made it over to the other side, the good side, and I’m alive to talk about it and to help others.

“I was proud to have two police livery Blue H.E.L.P./Phoenix Mental Health race cars at Daytona. We had a lot of TV time, and I hope every police department in America sees our phenomenal first race. The commentators loved that HMS drove for a cause and showed that motorsports aren’t just about being a race car driver, it’s also about showing we care as a team and as individuals about our social responsibility.”

Thin Blue Line Motorsports revealed a dragster bears the dates of all officers lost to line of duty death and to suicide from January 1, 2008, to October 5, 2018. (Thin Blue Line Motorsports)

While the motorsports industry continues to raise awareness about LE suicide and mental health, let’s do our part by continuing the conversation with our brothers and sisters in blue. You can start by watching something you don’t see every day, a police car leading a chase. Bring it up on your phone or laptop and use it as a conversation piece. We never know what will encourage someone to open up about their struggles, be ready to listen.

POLICE1 RESOURCES

From choosing the right mental health clinician to breaking the mental health stigma in law enforcement, the following is a collection of content on Police1 for police officers at all levels.

How to prevent police officers from dying by suicide

Emotional wellness and suicide prevention for police officers

Are we complicit in police suicide?

Policing Matters Podcast: How to help prevent police officer suicide

7 ways to prevent police suicide by focusing on overall officer well-being

Police health and wellness: 5 myths we must bust

Suffering in silence: Mental health and stigma in policing

4 things police leaders should be doing to stop police suicide

How to launch a successful peer support program

My husband’s suicide: Recognizing predictors of police suicide

Breaking the Silence: Preventing Suicide in Law Enforcement

How to prevent PTSD from leading to police suicide

9 ways for cops to fight mental health stigma

What first responders should seek in mental health clinicians

By Karen Solomon | Police1.com

About the author
Karen Solomon is co-founder of Blue H.E.L.P, creator of www.1sthelp.net and the author of “Hearts Beneath the Badge” and “The Price They Pay,” as well as many articles about law enforcement suicide. Her focus is on the stories of the families who have lost an officer to suicide and the officers who suffer from the feeling they have nowhere to turn. Karen is also the wife of a police officer.

After a Tumultuous 2020, How Tech Can Help LE With the Challenges Ahead

The impact of 2020 was felt across the globe, by every individual, in every industry, across ​​every country. However, no profession was impacted by the events of last year in quite the same way as American law enforcement.

Between the COVID-19 pandemic, civil unrest and responding to “standard” emergencies on a daily basis, law enforcement has been forced to take on more responsibility while addressing evolving public needs and ways of communicating and responding within communities across the country.

While a challenging year, 2020 brought with it the opportunity to rethink approaches to many pressing issues. Like other professions, public safety and law enforcement can learn from the events of 2020 and re-evaluate operations, communications and interactions with each other and the public going forward to create a more connected and safer community for everyone.

Here are a few changes that will take place in 2021 that will help law enforcement respond to ongoing challenges.

MORE INFORMED FIRST RESPONSE

One of the biggest conversations of 2020 revolved around law enforcement response to mental health crises in the community. Important questions have been raised to ensure that first responders who arrive on scene have the context and training needed to deliver the appropriate response.

Having critical background information – such as if the subject is an autistic person or has a mental health condition that may impact their reaction to responders – can lead to a response that results in successful outcomes for all involved.

Innovative communities in Suffolk County, Chicago and Seattle are leveraging technology to allow residents to create safety profiles that allow the public to opt in and share personal information – such as medical history – in case of an emergency. Through innovation and rethinking public safety response, these communities and law enforcement have more real-time context and information about the situation they are walking into and how they should best approach a person in crisis.

No matter who ultimately ends up responding to these types of incidents – be it police, mental health professionals, EMTs or a combination – this critical information can help any first responder provide a well-informed, appropriate response that keeps everyone involved as safe as possible.

COLLABORATING WITH KEY STAKEHOLDERS

Police are typically first on the scene in an emergency, but in many cases other departments or agencies need to get involved quickly – whether that’s emergency management, fire or, as we have seen with COVID-19, public health. These different entities need to be on the same page when it comes to coordinating the best and fastest response possible.

Emergencies unravel quickly and can be chaotic – especially when multiple players or stakeholders are involved, so the ability to know the role every department plays in a response can save time and lead to better outcomes. By using technology to collaborate, share data and communicate effectively and in a streamlined manner, departments can better manage major crises, like the pandemic, but also be ready for daily emergencies that are shorter in duration, such as fires, medical incidents or acts of violence.

The right technology not only coordinates incident response with task management, activity status, reminders and reference resources, but also dramatically accelerates the response, allowing for those involved to return to safety quicker.

Solutions that allow law enforcement to better coordinate incident response, share real-time data and communications among multiple responder teams or departments, ensure compliance with task lists and protocols, and record all actions taken for audits and reporting will become critical to our emergency responses.

This allows law enforcement and other emergency personnel to do their jobs to their greatest ability, knowing that there is one source of data that can guide actions, support on-the-fly changes and escalate past due tasks to the appropriate personnel.

TARGETING COMMUNICATIONS TO RESIDENTS

Public safety and law enforcement are often leading the charge when it comes to communicating to residents about new protocols and guidelines around COVID-19. This can be especially challenging when living in a large city or town where some areas are more affected by the coronavirus than others. Communication to residents must be customized based on their unique population and experience with the spread of the virus.

However, despite the need to communicate and inform the public, many are getting weary of notifications and reminders about the pandemic. Up against this challenge in particular, public safety will need to get creative in how they communicate with their residents in 2021, taking both geography and channel – like phone calls, emails, apps, and text alerts – into consideration.

As public safety and law enforcement consider their go-forward strategy, officials should consider the modes and tone of various communications. For example, reminders for mask wearing, social distancing and the like could be kept to social media channels or digital signage around town while direct communications, like calls and text messages, should carry some weight of urgency and be used only for the most important information. Otherwise, residents may begin to tune out mass notifications – a potential risk to a community’s public safety.

Like many others, I’m excited to turn the page on 2020 and look forward to seeing how our communities become stronger from lessons learned. Public safety and law enforcement have always been resilient, despite the many challenges they have faced over the years. By learning from events of 2020, law enforcement can prepare for future emergencies and focus on what matters most: protecting their communities. And while 2021 may ultimately be as unpredictable as 2020, it is certain that law enforcement will be ready to adapt and serve.

By Todd Miller | Police1.com

About the author

Todd Miller is the SVP of Strategic Programs at Rave Mobile Safety. Prior to joining Rave, Todd managed the self-service consulting practice at Oracle where he was responsible for the delivery of customized software solutions for clients in North America, supporting millions of users. At Oracle he was awarded recognition as a member of Oracle’s top 10% in consulting. Todd’s previous experience includes leading consulting teams for Siebel and eDOCS in North America, Europe and Australia.

Photo by Jakayla Toney

Never Walk Alone

“O​fficer needs help!”

There are no phrases emanating from a police radio that evoke a more visceral response than that one. Regardless of the size of the department, the demographics of the community served or the type of jurisdiction, that phrase means an officer is fighting for their life! It may be an ambush, gun battle, foot chase or hand-to-hand combat, but to any officer who hears that call, the physiological response is the same: hearts race, minds plot the quickest route to the call, palms sweat, pupils dilate and even the least religious utter a word of prayer. But what happens when officers need a different type of help?

In 2019, the national media became acutely aware of police officer suicides and ran story after story, special after special. As quickly as their interest peaked, it waned. But the officers with problems, the officers who needed someone to talk with because of personal and/or professional issues, became unimportant to the media.

I’m a huge proponent of peer support programs; my first department launched peer support in the ’90s, modeling off the successful Secret Service and BATF peer-to-peer programs. At its zenith, the peer support program in that agency had over 200 peer members for a department of 13,000 officers. Times change and that agency now has fewer than 200 peers.

Smaller agencies can benefit from peer-to-peer programs. My current agency is a 100-person department serving a community of about 60,000 people in a major metropolitan area. When I first was appointed chief in 2012, I was approached by our police counselor, Victoria Poklop, who asked my feelings about peer programs. After some discussion, we decided to restart the long-dormant peer support program at our P.D. We began by having the officers on each shift nominate who they would feel comfortable sharing their problems with. Once we had nine members (six police officers and three sergeants) named by majority, we approached those officers and asked if they would be willing to become peer support team members. We relaunched our peer support team in early 2013.

A few departments near us began expressing interest in establishing peer teams as well, and while we assisted them, we also heard concerns from some of the smaller agencies; the concerns centered on the “beauty shop” mentality. The concern, real or imagined, is that an officer will share something with a peer supporter, who will then tell someone else, and that person will tell another, ad infinitum, until the chief finds out and takes disciplinary action. This concern led us to think of creative ways to form a peer support task force.

Task forces in law enforcement are nothing new; there were task forces formed to take down Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde, and even Al Capone. This would be different. We looked at how we could utilize our existing Major Case Assistance Team callout framework and apply it to the peer supporters. Any way we looked at it, it was going to be a daunting challenge to ensure the right people were on the call-out list every day. Enter VJ.

Victoria met the owner of Velan Technologies, a young brilliant web developer named VJ Harikrishna, through a mutual friend. Victoria started explaining what we were trying to do, and he offered to help. Through his selfless dedication and IT wizardry, VJ met with us and demonstrated which platform could best be utilized for this web-based peer support program.

What had started as an attempt to provide a method to make peers available to officers 24-7/365 had grown into a much larger venture. WeNeverWalkAlone.org was launched on May 13, 2019, from our P.D.’s Emergency Operations Center.

The simple idea now offers:

  • An interactive listing of peer support officers, both active and retired, from a variety of local, county, state and federal agencies, available to active and retired officers and their families
  • Over 50 vetted mental health professionals who are dedicated to giving scheduling priority to LEOs and their families
  • A list of external resources from financial counsel​​ors to white papers
  • A list of peer support coordinators

Departments can join WNWA for the low cost of $2 per officer per month; WNWA is in the process of applying for grant funding in order to make the system free to any agency that wants it.​

A​nyone interested in more information on WeNeverWalkAlone.org ​can email wkushner@sbcglobal.net.​

​By ​William Kushner ​| American Police Beat

About the Author
William Kushner ​is the chief of police in the city of Des Plaines.

Why We Cannot Leave Our Safety to Luck

In late 1992 I was a young E-3 deployed to Mogadishu, Somalia, as part of the U.S. led Unified Task Force (UNITAF), in support of Operation Restore Hope. One day, I was searching for an access point to the roof of what remained of our embassy. I was in a hurry, frustrated, fatigued and focused on what was important to me at the moment.

After searching and not finding an access point for the roof of the embassy, I abruptly walked into the first office I saw, approached a group of men wearing brown T-shirts and asked: “Can you please tell me how to get to the roof.” It was the wrong decision.

The red flags were all there for me to process: the presence of distinguished-looking men who clearly held high rank, hanging maps and planning materials consistent with a command post, and the big one, a white paper affixed to the wall stating, “UNITAF/CC.”

In hindsight, it was likely my self-induced time pressure, frustration and myopic focus of attention that led to the words spoken to me by one of those men in brown t-shirts. That man, USMC Lt. General Robert B. Johnston, said, “Airman, let me educate you on situational awareness.”

What followed was a memorable one-way conversation that I remember with clarity almost 30 years later. I was informed that situational awareness is a person’s perception and understanding of the environment. I was also informed that a failure to maintain situational awareness leads to adverse outcomes. Lesson learned, sir.

A Georgia police officer responded to a burglary call. The officer’s body-worn camera records him locating the suspect as he walks on a set of railroad tracks. The officer is engaged in multi-tasking by simultaneously focusing his attention on the suspect, giving commands and talking to dispatch. In the same 20 seconds, the officer’s bodycam records the alarming sound of a rapidly approaching locomotive. The bodycam video appears to show the officer stepping just to the left side of the tracks before he is violently struck by the train.

The officer doesn’t remember much of the event, but after watching his BWC video stated, “I’m lucky to be alive.

How could he not realize what was about to occur? I turn back to what Lt. General Johnston taught me all those years ago. Maintaining situational awareness is key to better decision-making, which in turn leads to better outcomes. Like my incident, the Georgia officer likely had some excitement or frustration as a stressor. Also, his limited attentional focus was more on the suspect and talking to dispatch than the approaching train.

In hindsight, we could reasonably say that prioritizing his attention on the train, even for a moment, might have changed the outcome. For instance, he might have seen the oversized plow attached to the front of the train, as well as the train’s approach speed. The resulting increase in situational awareness might have affected his decision to step just off the tracks instead of quickly stepping several feet away.

The Georgia officer survived, thankfully, and I wish him a speedy recovery. What happened to him could happen to anyone of us under similar circumstances. It doesn’t matter if you wear an EMS, fire, corrections or police uniform – we are all human beings with a limited capacity to process information. That limited capacity is stretched to the maximum when we operate in fast-paced, ambiguous environments. For our safety and the safety of the public, we should recognize these limitations and work hard toward maintaining situational awareness.  

PRINCIPLES OF SITUATIONAL AWARENESS

Situational awareness has a significant history of study and application to a multitude of fields. There are many influences on situational awareness that range from individual capabilities, organizational influences, training, experience and teamwork. However, there is a real need to focus on how first responders maintain situational awareness from the perspective of individual field personnel, teams and organizations. Here are important considerations for each.

1. Situational awareness for the individual

Realize your limitations. Recognize when the incident or situation is moving too rapidly for you to perceive the changes. When faced with situations that are or becoming unmanageable: back out, ask for resources and re-engage when appropriate.

Do not become overly fixated upon one aspect of the environment. Attempt to keep up a degree of global awareness. If unavoidable, ensure you have adequate resources to watch for changes you may not perceive.
Use caution when engaging. Be mentally primed to look for changes in the environment. Seek out new information, assess that information, look for potential contradictory evidence and then act according to protocol.

2. Situational awareness for the team

Communicate, coordinate and confirm. The recommendations for individuals remain active for teamwork but require significant coordination and communication between team members. Confirmation of group understanding is vital when moving forward in more ambiguous and time-compressed environments.

Leadership is critical in a group environment. A single point of command and control helps to ensure vital oversight to ensure the team is functioning within the vision and mission of the organization.

3. Situational awareness for the organization

Clear direction. Establish a vision and mission that guides individual, team and organizational priorities. This will aid teams and individuals during in-the-field decision-making.

Real-world training. Provide adequate training for real-world situations that operationalize situational awareness at both the individual and team levels.
Culture guides decisions and actions. Create a culture that guides field decision making and ensure accountability. The culture includes proper risk assessment and prioritization of objectives.

By David Blake | Police1

About the author

David Blake, Ph.D., is a retired California peace officer and a court-certified expert on human factors psychology and the use of force. He has significant experience teaching use of force and human factors psychology to law enforcement officers in several states. David has undergraduate and graduate degrees in criminal justice and psychology. He has authored over 30 professional and peer-reviewed journal articles on the application of human factors psychology to first responders and their operational environments. David continues to conduct research on police deadly force and human factors psychology. He is the lead consultant at Blake Consulting and Training.

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:
https://nicic.gov/series/becoming-trauma-informed-essential-element-justice-settings

Register for Promoting Wellness and Resiliency in Correctional Staff Webinar

Do you want to see what some of the latest data and promising practices are revealing about staff wellness for corrections officers and staff? Would you like to learn how to apply a holistic approach to your workplace along the continuum of preventive to reactive responses?

If you answered “Yes” to either of these questions, plan to participate in the one-hour-long Promoting Wellness and Resiliency in Correctional Staff Webinar, set for ​1 p.m. February 2.

Correctional staff face significant stress and challenges in maintaining wellness and resiliency in the workplace. There is emerging evidence that effective strategies and programs exist; however, they often occur in a piecemeal or sporadic fashion. This webinar provides academic insight into the current research on officer wellness and references emerging areas of innovative practices.

It includes practitioner expertise on valuable resources and support for correctional officers and staff. We will move from preventive to reactive strategies and build on new approaches to increase resiliency.

Participants will learn what research and practice tell us about the short and long-term effects that working in corrections can have and how to promote staff wellness and manage trauma in response to what they experience.

Learning Objectives : During this one-hour interactive webinar, participants will

1) develop an understanding of the current research on correctional staff wellness and resiliency,

2) learn how to apply a holistic approach to their workplace, and

3) gain knowledge on promising real-world practices that can assist and promote both wellness and resiliency.

Speakers

Dr. Hayden Smith is an Associate Professor of Criminology & Criminal Justice at the University of South Carolina. His principal focus of study is the intersection of the criminal justice and public health systems. Core areas include self-injurious and suicidal behaviors in incarcerated populations, physical and mental health needs in correctional settings, jail diversion, reentry initiatives, and correctional staff well-being and safety. Dr. Smith has expertise in program evaluation and policy analysis and has worked with numerous correctional and health systems.

Ms. Karin Ho is the Director for Victim Services with the South Carolina Department of Corrections. She has more than 30 years of victim advocacy experience and over 25 years in corrections. Recognizing how correctional staff were affected by traumatic events, she implemented the Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) Peer Team and Post Critical Incident Seminars for employees with ongoing trauma-related issues. As part of the CISM Team, Karin is the handler for a specially trained trauma dog who responds to correctional staff throughout the state.

The presenters have engaged in several academic-practitioner partnerships that address correctional officer and staff well-being.

Who Should Attend ?

Any employee of a state, federal or local correctional jurisdiction.

How Do I Register ?

Follow this link to register in NIC’s WebEx Event Center: 
https://nicmeetings.webex.com/nicmeetings/onstage/g.php?MTID=e0f972cfffb0d108afe22ad03ebacadfc

For content and technical information, contact Scott W. Richards, Correctional Program Specialist, NIC Prison’s Division at s1richards@bop.gov

How Do I Participate Effectively In a WebEx Event Center Webinar? How Do I Get Ready ?

  • For the best experience in your next NIC WebEx Event Center webinar, you’ll need a hands-free telephone, headset or earbuds, and an internet-enabled computer.
  • For optimum learning, be in a quiet place, free from distractions/interruptions, sight-and-sound separated from others, where you can concentrate on what is happening during the webinar. A separate office space with a door to close is an ideal setting.
  • Connect to the webinar audio bridge via a hands-free telephone, using earbuds/headset connected to your phone/cell phone, so your hands are free to interact with your keyboard.
  • While tablets and smartphones are also compatible with WebEx Events Center, several of the features are limited, and most devices require the installation of the Cisco WebEx app.
  • Regardless of which device you plan to use, test its compatibility here. The link provides a quick test, and we strongly encourage you to do this before the webinar.
  • If your browser does not pass the test, contact Webex Technical Support at 1-877-669-1782 and tell them you will be attending an NIC webinar on NIC’s Webex site at http://nicmeetings.webex.com . They can help you troubleshoot connectivity issues.
  • NIC strongly recommends consulting with your agency/local IT , as you may encounter pop-up blocking and/or firewall issues that block the NIC Webex webinar url.


Click https://nicic.gov/webinar-vilt-readiness for further information on NIC’s live webinars, including (cost = free!), how to obtain training credit from your agency, and much more.

Blue Help to Honor All Emergency Responders

Over the years, we have had submissions from the families of all #firstresponders, not just law enforcement. In an effort to honor all first responders we have lost to suicide, Blue H.E.L.P. will now collect the information for all suicides, any duty status, any year. What does this mean?

It means that we will place the photo and memorial of any #firefighters, #policeofficers, #correctionsofficer, #emergencyservices personnel and #dispatchers on our memorial wall forever remembering their service.

It means that we will track any and all first responder suicides that are submitted to us, we will no longer restrict our honor wall to #lawenforcement.

All information will continue to remain confidential unless we have permission to share from the families. We believe it is important for you to see the number of verified suicides, whether you know their identities is up to the family; we only post personal information with their permission. We do not contact or “cold call” families, we wa​​it for them to reach out to us. Their privacy and ability to grieve properly is of the utmost importance to us, we are counting every death, but we are only sharing the personal details if the family’s request it, matter how public the death.

We encourage you to let us know what you know so we can continue to raise #suicideawareness

Our History

Blue H.E.L.P. began in 2015 after The Price They Pay was written by two of it’s founders; Karen Solomon and Jeffrey McGill. It became clear to Karen, Jeff and Steve Hough that suicide prevention and care for the families afterward was not offered in law enforcement; compassion and understanding took a backseat to stigma and shame. In 2017, they incorporated and received their 501(c)3 designation and are now the only organization in the country that collects law enforcement suicide data and regularly supports families in the aftermath.

To submit a name or for more information visit https://bluehelp.org/honor-wall/submit/

New St. Louis Program to Divert Mental Health Calls Away From 911

Volunteer community health worker Ryan Smith heads out with a goodbye to St. Louis police officer Gary Ruffin as their shift ends December 9. As part of a pilot program ​in north St. Louis to get social services to crime victims, seven volunteers are riding with policer officers on their shifts. They respond to calls where people are facing traumatic events. Photo by Robert Cohen.

 

If all goes according to plan, thousands of 911 calls beginning this month will not reach St. Louis police or fire personnel.

Calls involving pe​​ople with mental health issues, or in a mental crisis, may instead be diverted to specially trained behavioral health professionals.

Tiffany Lacy Clark, COO of the contractor involved in the program, Behavioral Health Response, said the broader goals of the program are to relieve police and EMS workers from responding to many mental health crises, to prevent people undergoing a crisis from going to jail or the hospital, and to help people obtain behavioral health services when needed.

Lacy Clark called the program “cutting edge” and a “tremendous positive collaboration” among the city, police, mental health providers and others.

St. Louis will be the first city in the U.S. to divert such calls outside the 911 system, officials said.

“We’re very excited about it,” St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said last month.

The new initiative will have two parts: 911 diversion and a co-responder program.

911 diversion

911 calls involving a mental health concern typically end up with a response by police or an ambulance, and often “neither is really the appropriate place,” said Lacy Clark.

In the 911 diversion program, dispatchers will be trained to send calls that don’t involve imminent health or safety concerns to Behavioral Health, which already offers telephone counseling and mobile outreach services.

Wilford Pinkney Jr., Krewson’s director of Children, Youth and Families, said as many as 5,000 calls could be diverted this way a year.

Krewson said the city handles roughly 700,000 calls to 911 per year, although only about a third result in someone being dispatched, due to the number of duplicate calls that are received for some incidents, and other factors.

The program could save money but Krewson said that is not the primary aim. “The goal is to have a better, more appropriate person responding,” she said, and allow emergency responders to do “what they’re most trained for.”

Both Krewson and Lacy Clark said police were looking forward to the program. Calls involving mental health problems are difficult, take considerable time and place officers in situations they’re not trained for, they said.

Pinkney, a former New York City police officer, said officers are generally young and “don’t have the life experience to deal with many of these issues.” Calls for a mental disorder or breakdown can be traumatic for officers and victims as well, he said.

Lacy Clark said those with mental health issues sometimes don’t respond well to authority figures or people in uniforms. Often they are contending with paranoia or have had trauma in the past that they associate with police, she said. People who are having those kinds of episodes have typically fallen away from available social services or have stopped taking their medication, she said.

“We have essentially made the criminal justice system and law enforcement officers mental health providers without the training and resources to do that successfully,” Lacy Clark said.

Krewson said not every call with a mental health concern will be diverted, and authorities may not know what is needed until they arrive at the scene. If there is a safety or public health issue, police and EMS would respond, perhaps with a co-responder showing up with them, or later.

Co-responders

The rollout of the co-responder program follows years of work.

Lacy Clark said she and others, including a staffer from the mayor’s office, began working in 2017 on ways to better provide mental health services and keep those suffering a mental crisis out of the criminal justice system. Pinkney, she said, “was the catalyst we really needed” to pull all the people together, and his police background allowed him to “speak the same language” as officers.

Pinkney said they looked at other programs around the country including in Houston, Phoenix and Charleston, South Carolina. There have also been two pilot programs run in the police department’s Sixth District in north St. Louis. The pilots, originally called “cops and clinicians,” paired police with volunteer mental health workers, substance abuse counselors and others who helped connect victims of crime with social services.

Krewson said that after the trials, officials decided, “We really need to make this a part of the system … to fund it.”

At Krewson’s request in June, the Board of Estimate and Apportionment shifted $860,000 to the program from the budget for the St. Louis Medium Security Institution, also known as the workhouse, amid a decline in the jail population.

In October, the board approved a contract with Behavioral Health Response.

Co-responders will be trained behavioral health professionals who will work in partnership with officers, Lacy Clark said, and will cover the entire city. Their primary focus is behavioral health support and referral, but they will also respond to domestic violence calls and other traumatic situations to “make sure the people on the scene are OK and connected to additional support.”

Krewson said that when someone is in a mental health crisis, it means “all the social systems have failed. That ends up in a 911 call.”

She said the city needs more money for mental health services, crisis services and substance abuse treatment.

“When you’re in the middle of so much trauma … and a pandemic and so many people out of work,” Krewson said, “there’s a lot of stress out there and we’re seeing this come out in so many ways.”

In 2019, a mentally ill man had an encounter with police and EMS at a St. Louis bus stop that led to his hospitalization and, later, his death. He was a former client of Lacy Clark’s when she worked for Places for People, a provider of mental health services.

The Post-Dispatch examined the man’s medical and treatment records after his death, with the permission of his father, and wrote about Julius Graves last September.

“The situation with Julius was exactly why we wanted to do this,” Lacy Clark said, so that police dispatchers can recognize a situation and officials can respond differently, “to save someone in that circumstance so they don’t get tased or arrested and (instead) end up in clinical services where they’re supposed to be.”

 

By Robert Patrick | St. Louis Today

Department of Justice Establishes Community of Practice for Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness

The Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) has established the first-ever Community of Practice for state, local and tribal grantees  to connect, learn, share experiences, and network in an effort to continue the growth of law enforcement mental health and wellness work. Good mental and psychological health is just as essential as good physical health for law enforcement to be effective in keeping our country and our communities safe from crime and violence. The Community of Practice recently launched its work with a virtual meeting establishing short and medium term goals.

“Supporting the health and well-being of the nation’s front-line law enforcement as they ensure public safety is paramount to the Department of Justice,” said COPS Office Director Phil Keith. “The Department has dedicated resources to critical areas of concern for officers including resilience; officer suicides; felonious and other assaults on officers; and mental health peer support networks. Establishing this new Community of Practice will provide the guidance, assistance, resources and support needed to further develop solutions to keep law enforcement safe and well, as they keep our communities safe and well.”

Working with the National Police Foundation, the COPS Office will convene the law enforcement grantees and others to host a series of ongoing webinars each quarter that will provide insight on a number of topics including:

  • How to start a wellness program for small, medium and large agencies;
  • Understanding the critical considerations and benefits;
  • Identifying needed resources, including staffing, and scoping a program consistent with the available resources;
  • Gaining support and resources from local, state, federal, tribal, and elected officials, as well as private and public business and community sources;
  • Building trust and confidence between governmental leadership and law enforcement members;
  • Identifying promising practices related to implementing and maintaining confidentiality and compliance with confidentiality requirements;
  • Identifying and exploring multi-jurisdictional approaches;
  • Extending mental health and wellness to family members;
    Developing program administration promising practices; and
  • Identifying the training and technical assistance needed to develop and implement programs.


The COPS Office is the federal component of the Department of Justice responsible for advancing community policing nationwide. The only Department of Justice agency with policing in its name, the COPS Office was established in 1994 and has been the cornerstone of the nation’s crime fighting strategy with grants, a variety of knowledge resource products, ​​and training and technical assistance. Through the years, the COPS Office has become the go-to agency for law enforcement agencies across the country and continues to listen to the field and provide the resources that are needed to reduce crime and build trust between law enforcement and the communities served. The COPS Office has invested more than $14 billion to advance community policing, including grants awarded to more than 13,000 state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to fund the hiring and redeployment of more than 134,000 officers.

The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice. Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.