An insightful look into police use of digital technology – Big thanks to Susan Crawford for allowing me to be a part of it!
A father and NYC policeman says incredible resolve of Americans on 9/11 and beyond will vanquish all enemies
September 11, 2016
When I entered the New York City Police Academy with hundreds of other recruits on a hot summer day in July of 2001, I had no idea what to expect.
I was thrilled to become a cop in the nation’s largest city — but it was nothing like where I grew up more than 100 miles away on the east end of Long Island. I questioned my decision to join several times on the morning of my swearing-in. That same day, an academy instructor entered the auditorium and, with a bit of a smirk that suggested he was speaking from experience, promised everyone in the room that being a New York City cop was akin to having a front row seat to the greatest show on earth.
I had no idea that three months later — and long before my academy graduation — I would discover exactly what he meant. He was right about the front row seat — but the show wasn’t one I was interested in seeing.
I vividly recall Sept. 11 of 15 years ago. As a 22-year-old probationary police officer in the country’s largest police department, I witnessed this city’s greatest tragedy — and this city’s finest hours.
While it was impossible for me to fathom the magnitude of the attacks that Tuesday morning, the aftermath was not a blur. In the days that followed, I witnessed our mayor, Rudy Guiliani, implore New Yorkers to go about their lives for the sake of not letting terrorists defeat us. I saw President George W. Bush stand atop a pile of rubble at Ground Zero and assure Americans that we would confront our enemies head on. And I watched David Letterman return to the air just days after the attacks to provide some needed humor in spite of the tragedy, poignantly telling Americans why he believed New York City is the greatest city in the world.
I also witnessed how admirably members of our community responded to the attacks that day — quickly understanding that we will not bow to terrorists. Americans refuse to cower despite such personal losses.
Author Paul Grattan, one of NYC’s finest for 15 years, wants his kids to know about 9/11.
In the years since, I have rarely reflected on that day. I graduated from the academy and went on to work the evening shift patrolling Brooklyn’s 72nd Precinct, “chasing the radio,” as we say. I was soon assigned as a neighborhood beat cop, pounding the pavement with my partner. Eventually I was promoted to sergeant and transferred to lead a transit patrol squad — and later, to a plainclothes team that combed the subways for pickpockets and perverts.
Lately my duties have me missing the streets at times, as most days I carry out administrative tasks. All the while, I never paid much mind to the events that marked the very start of my career.
That is, until this year. In the 15 years I have been a New York City cop, I have been surrounded by officers who were there on that day or on the days that followed. As the years passed, I began to realize that many have left the force. Cops move on — many retire, some change careers, and sadly, too many have succumbed to illnesses born from their rescue and recovery work. Other young officers have taken their place, following a career of service to others.
And now, a decade-and-a-half later, I realize we have reached a tipping point. NYPD officers who were actively serving during 9/11 are now outnumbered by those who had yet to join the NYPD by nearly two to one. That’s right: Almost two thirds of our uniformed force were not yet with our department in 2001 — and some of our finest women and men were as young as seven years old at the time.
There is no difference between us. Newer cops will witness tragedy and heroism just the same. They will see firsthand the strength of the communities they patrol in times of trouble, and they will unhesitatingly run toward what others run away from. I have, however, grown worried about a loss of perspective in our fight against terrorism and how we will handle the future inevitable attacks.
This is about my children.
The officer in his rookie days. On 9/11, there was “no place I would rather be,” he said, “helping evacuate people safely from lower Manhattan.”
As post-9/11 generations come after us, we must be prepared to move from remembrance to understanding. My kids have will have no recollection of the life-saving rescue operations at the Pentagon, or of regular Americans who heroically attempted to take back a hijacked plane over the grassy fields of Pennsylvania, saving countless lives on the ground in the process. History books will tell part of the tale, but my children deserve to truly understand how and why we refuse to be defeated by our enemies.
This year, I have encouraged my fellow officers to take a moment to read about or listen to someone’s story from that September day 15 years ago — from a first responder, a survivor, a volunteer, or a family member who lost a loved one. As the years go on, I will encourage my children to do the same. I hope that each of our children learn that while our enemies can take away many things from us, they can never take away the reasons why our friends, family, and neighbors rise up to the challenges that confront them. It’s simply what we do.
We will never prevent every attack, nor rid the world of those that despise our freedoms — but if an understanding of the incredible resolve of Americans lives on for future generations, then the goals of terrorism will always fail.
I began my career uncertain if this was the right path for me. Three months later, on a Tuesday morning in September, I knew there was no place I would rather be than on a bridge over the East River helping evacuate people safely from lower Manhattan. I would do it again in a heartbeat. But more significantly, I know the men and women who were not yet on the front lines during 9/11 — and each of my amazing children — would do it in a heartbeat, too.
Paul Grattan Jr. is a sergeant and a 15-year veteran of the New York City Police Department. A graduate of the 254th session of the FBI National Academy, he currently oversees executive communications and social media for the NYPD’s Transit Bureau.
Note: This article was written for and originally published in LifeZette on September 11, 2016.
It starts at home, practically from the time they can toddle
July 14, 2016 – by LifeZette’s Deidre ReillyParents shaking their heads over the current climate of distrust and disrespect toward law enforcement in America need to ask themselves a critical question: How respectful are my kids to police?
“I have teens routinely yell at me out car windows and treat me disrespectfully during traffic stops,” one police officer on the north shore of Massachusetts told LifeZette. “These are kids who have had all the advantages in life.”
“Why should we write a card for cops? All they do is kill us,” fifth-graders said to their teacher. Other kids then joined in — an example of the bandwagon mentality.
He added that it’s discouraging to be “disrespected by a kid decked out in Abercrombie & Fitch with the latest iPhone plastered to his ear. We are just working hard to keep them safe. But you can tell that many of them view us as the enemy.”
In today’s culture, nowhere is the need for respect across all relationships more important than with America’s kids. Immersed in their own lives (and their mobile devices), they often see a police officer as trouble — or at least aggravation and annoyance.
Exceptions, of course, to that attitude do exist among those who give law officers a fair chance and see them as fellow human beings.
“I had a strong friendship with a police officer all though my growing-up years,” one Murfreesboro, Tennessee, millennial said. “No matter what, he was always kind to me, and shared details with me about his profession. I always looked up to him. I am glad I had his steady influence in my life.”
Paul Grattan Jr., a police sergeant and 15-year veteran of the NYPD, believes good things begin at home. Parents play an enormous role in developing respect in youth for law enforcement officials, and Grattan is concerned about the level of distrust and disrespect many young people have for police.
“Over the last 16 years, it’s grown steadily, and it’s worse now than it ever has been,” he said. “That said, I do still find that the majority of people hold us in reasonably high regard. Negativity spreads so quickly, though — this feeling of police being the enemy.”
“People tend to focus on the small percentage of negative stories.”
The Volunteer State millennial agrees. “In this age of social media, people tend to focus on the small percentage of negative stories. That takes away from our ability to see all the good police do out there.”
“Disrespect spreads like wildfire,” said Grattan. “When any bandwagon rolls up, many young people jump on. There’s a big family problem in the U.S. — strong homes and families make a huge difference in relationships with law enforcement. When you don’t have the proper support and guidance in your environment, you are more likely to hold officials in contempt.”
Grattan said that in America’s larger urban areas, single-parent families and the complex issues that often come with lower incomes create a lack of the personal accountability that is central to all good relationships.
“At the core of this problem is the ability to take responsibility for your own actions. I can’t stress how huge that is,” he said. “It has to be taught by example in the home, and there’s just no way around that. Now everyone blames others — institutions, the government, the police — and they don’t look to themselves for fault.”
RJ Beam, a Wisconsin police officer and author of the popular website RescueHumor.com, said our smallest actions have big consequences with children.
“Almost every other time I go for lunch at Subway, I will hear a variation of the same thing,” he told LifeZette. “Some child, usually under the age of eight, will be whining in the parking lot. The parent will see me walking by, point at me and then say to their kid, ‘You better start behaving right now or that policeman will come arrest you and take you away from Mommy and Daddy forever.’ That makes me the boogeyman — something for this kid to fear.”
“We often live in the communities we serve, so it benefits everyone to have healthy relationships,” said a police sergeant.
Good instruction from parents about the role of law enforcement has to be repetitive, said Grattan. “It has to be in all you do — there are tons of teachable moments that parents are not capitalizing on. When an event occurs, break it down with the kids. React based on some level of fact, not just what others are saying. There’s no more powerful educational tool than your own example. If parents go out of their way to demonstrate how approachable police are, that will go an incredibly long way.”
Those in charge looked immediately toward positive change. “My boss saw it as an opportunity — what can we do to improve that?” said Grattan. “Is it possible we’re not touching these kids’ lives as early as we could be? Now, precinct commanders are interacting with teachers and students. With greater interaction, kids can come to understand that they can be comfortable with police.”
“There are always ideas to be explored,” Grattan continued. “We must lead by example, and we must maintain professionalism. We often live right in the communities we serve, so it benefits everyone to have healthy relationships.”
He added, “A lot of parents don’t operate that way, however — they’re not teaching children to be respectful. This will only lead to more of what we’re seeing today.”
Via LifeZette, July 14, 2016 – Thank you Deidre Reilly
The minions asked me what I want for Father’s Day. It’s simple:
I want to spray Roundup on the driveway weeds. Since my first born, the cracks have come to life. I want to deforest.
Without anyone bothering me.
I want to do a full forensic analysis – a genuine crime scene – and figure out which of my spawn put their mits all over the LED flat screen.
Without anyone bothering me.
I want to cut wood things with saws. Even if for no reason. Tree limbs and boards. Then nail and screw them back together.
Without anyone bothering me.
I want to patch the hole in the wall. Hahahahahaha I have three kids – I mean patch the holeS in the wallS.
Without anyone bothering me.
I want to have a beer. Just to kill some time until my second beer.
Without anyone bothering me.
I want to mow the lawn. Mow the lawn? Yup, mow the lawn.
Without anyone bothering me.
And I want to poop. And remain upon the perch in pooping position for an extended period of time even after pooping.
And without anyone bothering me.
During a week of emergency management training in Texas last year I was reminded of a key principle of preparedness: In all aspects of life there are things that you know, things you simply don’t know, and there are things that you don’t yet know that you don’t know.
The below report and interview with Redding, Connecticut Police Chief Doug Fuchs reminds us that we struggle most with the things we don’t know that we don’t know.
New Report on Officer Wellness: What it Means for Your Agency
By IACP Guest Blogger Laura Usher, Manager, Criminal Justice and Advocacy, The National Alliance on Mental Illness, Arlington, Virginia
This week, the COPS Office and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) released a major report on officer mental health after mass casualty incidents. The report, which draws on the experiences of chiefs involved in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting (Newtown, Connecticut), the Aurora Theater shooting (Aurora, Colorado), the Sikh Temple shooting (Oak Creek, Wisconsin) and many others, provides guidance for chiefs on the unique role they play in safeguarding officer wellness while managing the aftermath of these incidents.
To help us understand the importance of this report, I talked to Redding, Connecticut, Police Chief Doug Fuchs. Chief Fuchs is a resident of Newtown, Connecticut, site of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting and was on-scene shortly after the incident supporting Newtown Police Chief Michael Kehoe. He saw and felt firsthand the impact of the event on officers and the wider community.
Laura Usher: After the Sandy Hook incident, you and other Connecticut chiefs called for a guide to dealing with these incidents. Why?
Chief Doug Fuchs: We did not know what we did not know. And we know that there are so many other chiefs, especially in medium-to-smaller agencies who also do not know what they do not know. For example, it was so important to have one person to stand up and become the incident commander for all first responders’ mental well-being, and it was challenging to make that happen in short order.
Very early on, we received many offers of help from around the country. People just showed up and said, “We are law enforcement mental health providers and we are here to help.” We dismissed them because we had no way of knowing what their background was, whether they were legitimate, and what their expertise was. It took us a few days to identify someone for that role – someone we knew and trusted to tell us what we didn’t know.
Those of us who have experienced this want to make sure people are able to learn from our experiences. Even though you might be impacted by an event, maybe you won’t be impacted in the same way in which we have been.
Usher:Can you tell me about some of the negative impact on officers who responded to the Sandy Hook shooting?
Fuchs: It was unfathomable. Going in, many responders had no idea of the impact the event to which they were responding was having on the outside world. Once that was realized, the impact it had on individual responders was exacerbated. It never goes way. When you deal with one of the smaller and not heavily covered events, it impacts the officer or the agency, but there’s not constant media attention. The fact that this guidebook is coming out three years later – like so many other triggers ─ means these emotions will come back. Don’t get me wrong – everything about this guide is positive – but know that those of us who have contributed to it will feel differently than most every time we look at it. Each time there’s a mass shooting, the two words “Sandy Hook” get mentioned as a benchmark and it brings it all back again. It’s hard to explain, it’s difficult to imagine, and tough to figure out exactly where to “put” it. But we all do – and we do it to keep it a part of our world and not a part of those whom we serve. And for that, we should all be extremely proud.
Usher: What is the most important message chiefs should take from this guide?
Fuchs: So many things! Understand the importance of caring for your officers and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Know your neighboring chiefs and know them well enough to be able to show up without thinking you need to ask. Identify who in a crisis is going to be your point person for mental health. You can’t be building relationships during the incident; you need to be building them beforehand.
Usher: If the likelihood of these incidents is rare, why should chiefs focus on officer wellness?
Fuchs: Unfortunately, the likelihood of these incidents is not so rare anymore. And it doesn’t need to be a big event that gets media attention to have an impact on your officers. Officers are dealing with difficult calls and other peoples’ sorrow that impact them every day. As we now know, those types of calls build up and weigh on officers. Learning how to deal with that on a daily basis will help you if you are ever confronted with your own mass casualty event – you’ll have figured this out already.
Usher: Do you think chiefs have a special role to play when a neighboring agency experiences a mass shooting?
Fuchs: We have a huge role because we control resources outside of that community. It’s our job to make sure that the affected police department has what they need, manpower-wise, equipment-wise and that officer-to-officer, supervisor-to-supervisor, chief-to-chief, everyone has what they need emotionally to get them through to the other side. I think in part it is because of our role in society; we are not the most trusting of others who are not also law enforcement. So having a brother or sister law enforcement officer show up and say “I got this” is far more significant than one could ever imagine.
Credit: IACP Blog / Laura Usher
1stAlliance seeks to ensure those who need care get they care they need
By Karen Solomon
More than 240 million calls are placed to 911 each year in the United States alone: 240 million instances in which a first responder can be emotionally and/or physically injured. It happens more often than people realize. Once a first responder is traumatized by what he or she experiences, where do they turn to heal their wounds? Should they be burned in a fire or struck by a bullet or knife, what happens next? It’s a question they often ask themselves.
In my experience too many of injured and traumatized first responders will sit alone in front of a computer looking for someone to help them. They will seek someone who understands and won’t look upon them as if they are weak, who knows how to get them what they need without broadcasting it over the radio. It’s not an easy task. When they are in crisis, it becomes frustrating to the point that some will give up. Some will commit suicide.
Firefighters, peace officers, emergency medical technicians, corrections officers and dispatchers too often find themselves standing over an abyss of turmoil from which they can’t walk away. We’re going to change that. We’re going to find them the help they need. It’s a simple concept: A central database that doesn’t store any of their information and can point each and every one in the right direction.
What We’re Doing
Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Deputies Steven Hough and Jeffrey McGill know what it’s like to experience a critical incident and find themselves without the proper assistance to recover. They longed for a collaboration of the first responder resources scattered around their country, and a way to reach the people who need those resources. I joined them to form 1stAlliance, and from there a database was born.
Thanks to a collaboration with another injured officer, Bourne Massachusetts Officer Jared P. MacDonald, 1stAlliance is a 501(c)3 charitable organization whose sole mission is to provide a way for first responders to find their way out of the darkness.
On June 1 of this year 1stHelp.net will be launched: a free, confidential way for first responders to find emotional, financial and spiritual assistance. If they’re in immediate crisis, they’ll be provided with a 24/7 resource to call. If they’re not in immediate crisis, they’ll be able to enter some basic criteria and be matched with resources that match their needs. They can take their time selecting the best fit. But, most importantly, they’ll have a starting point.
This endeavor is not a short-term bandage. We have partnered with Avatar Computing and plan to develop this into a free, downloadable app over the next six months. Avatar has been incredibly generous and will be redesigning both sites, logos and assisting with the long-term development of the organization. We’re also collecting suicide statistics, and we have a five-year plan to provide baseline data that can tell us a story about what’s happening to our first responders.
We also want to hear about the PTSD experiences of first responders. Those stories help us understand where we should focus our efforts. Our goal is to find out what first responders need most, identify those resources, and present them in a simple, confidential manner. No judgement. No fear of reprisal.
It’s important to note that we aren’t competing with the established organizations. We are instead providing a vehicle for more people to find them. We have nearly 100 vetted resources in the United States, Canada, and Australia that are trained to assist first responders. What became a quiet national project is blossoming into a global endeavor. Through the chat forums that will be installed this summer, providers can collaborate best practices and ideas on a global scale, all with an eye to improving the quality of life of those that serve us.
If you’d like more information, please feel free to visit our website http://www.1alliance.org or contact me at email@example.com. This project has been funded to date through private donations and we continue to seek long-term corporate partners.
We are also providing free informational cards to any individual or department that would like to hand them out to their members. These cards bear our logo and the website and are a handy reminder that you are never alone. Simply visit our website and we’ll find you a safer outlook.
Do you provide services to first responders? Register for inclusion in the database here. If you’re a first responder, bookmark our site, share your PTSD story with us or let us know when someone completes suicide. Our success is your success.
How do you build a relationship with a community made up of millions on the move? For the past two years some of the members of the New York City Police Department’s Transit Bureau have set upon answering this question. Recognizing a community engagement opportunity, they responded creatively.
I’m talking about the millions throughout the country who use our urban transportation systems. Here in New York City, some 5.6 million people rely on the subway each day to get them where they need to be. Policing metropolitan railways and buses is no small task in itself – but as we have recognized in our traditional neighborhoods for years, the citizens who take to the rails deserve to have a worthwhile relationship with the women and men who help to see them safely on their way.
There are no well-defined communities in the hurried world that exists between point A and point B. The subways are a conveyance, with lines that traverse the neighborhoods that they carry riders through. For practical police response, our transit district borders are built around train lines and stations, not around the better known residential areas above or below the rails. Within minutes, our officers can find themselves working from Bayside to Bensonhurst, the Upper West Side to the Lower East Side, and between Brooklyn and The Bronx. This means the mission of engaging residents and commuters can be difficult.
But not impossible.
The fact is, we have no shortage of highly capable and engaging officers. A “hello” or polite nod of acknowledgement for a passing rider. Offering directions to a lost passenger. Sharing some restaurant recommendations with a tourist. Helping a mother bring a stroller up the stairs.
Nevertheless, there still exists a visible gap between subway riders and transit police. Our district station-houses, like many police facilities, are centrally located – most of them within subway stations. But as Lewiston, Maine, Police Officer Joe Philippon noted in a recent blog post, there are actual and perceived barriers at police facilities that too often prevent citizens from entering. An ingrained public apprehensiveness means few will visit unless they must.
So we brought the officers in our districts outside into the stations. Literally. From the commanding officer, to the community affairs, crime prevention, and patrol teams – setting up shop in the middle of a busy subway hub for a day. We invited not only other city agencies to introduce themselves and share what they have to offer, but other community partners as well, including youth organizations, local clergy members, non-profit organizations, and social services agencies.
The initiative, dubbed “Meet Your Police,” has attracted a lot of attention. Each of our twelve transit districts hosts several of these events each year – with district commanders often lightheartedly trying to out-do each other in producing highly visible events that bring their officers in contact with as many subway riders as possible. Few limitations are put on their approach, making each of the events unique to the particular district, its officers, and the neighborhoods they serve. They play music, have activities for the kids, serve food, provide information and giveaways, and most importantly they allow officers’ personalities to shine through. The hope is to show that our officers are approachable and that our police facilities are welcoming – staffed by real people. People who have kids. People who listen. People who chose careers of service.
The hope is that we garner trust, encourage crime reporting, and gain the public’s help in intelligence gathering and identifying crime conditions.
One such event recently, which took on the moniker “Function at the Junction,” was centered on several murals created by young artists whose seek to reduce gun violence in their neighborhoods by drawing grassroots attention to the cause. Joining together with this young talent provided a powerful platform, in the middle of a busy Brooklyn subway station, to feature a campaign that promotes safer neighborhoods for police and residents alike. What better way to build partnerships than to demonstrate that we each have a good number of common goals?
Hardly a cure-all, this initiative is just one of the many approaches that we have found to be worth advancing. By effectively turning a transit police district inside out and planting it squarely in the middle of a metropolitan rail station we hope to showcase the resources we provide, humanize our incredibly capable men and women, and build trust through mutual understanding.
Written by Paul Grattan, Jr., this post originally appeared on the iacpblog | March 24, 2016 at 9:13 am