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INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC SAFETY ASSOCIATION
Together we are stronger



IPSA's Public Safety Column

The articles we publish are not necessarily the views of the IPSA, rather they are opinions shared by each contributor. Contact us at info@joinipsa.org if you're interested in contributing or reaching out to an author. 


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  • 04 Dec 2017 12:14 PM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    Sgt (Ret) Charles Kean MA, EMT-P, IPSA TEMS & RTF Committee Member

    In 2016, a cooperative training program was developed and introduced in Springfield, Illinois with the goal of providing basic life-saving skills and equipment to officers. This program was established because SPD officers received little, if any, medical training after they left the academy. While the initial concept was limited to the Springfield Police Department, it has since flourished far beyond that one agency.

    SPD’s Emergency Response Team is essentially the same as other agencies’ SWAT teams. The ERT includes an active TEMS program, and as a sworn officer and paramedic, I was the TEMS leader and trainer. I was supplemented with eight emergency medical responders, who were also sworn officers. In addition, four emergency medicine physicians participated in training and supported SPD’s ERT.

    Many officers on the ERT have a military background and several are combat veterans. A lot of officers were comfortable equipping themselves with tourniquets and other first aid equipment. However, there was no consistency in what they were acquiring, supply-wise, or the training they were getting.

    In early 2016, I was introduced to Kari Jerge, MD (also a member of the IPSA’s TEMS Committee). Dr. Jerge was brought in as the Trauma Medical Director for HSHS St. John’s Hospital. She brought a wealth of trauma care knowledge including holding certification as a Tactical Combat Casualty Care instructor. I was fortunate to work with Dr. Jerge to design a comprehensive program using TCCC principles coupled with established law enforcement methods.

    Training, costs, time and buy-in

    Establishing the training program took nearly a year. In that time, every aspect of the training was analyzed. What became clear almost immediately was that this could not be a program built exclusively by the medical providers. As a police officer and paramedic, I could provide information related to what police are looking at and what EMS or medical personnel would see.

    Financial considerations must be weighed. There are costs for instructors and equipment. Law enforcement, much like other public safety entities, is in a constant tug-of-war in the fiscal arena.

    Another challenge we faced was time. SPD runs an in-house, in-service training program with five sessions annually. During that 40 hours per year, the Training Coordinator must squeeze in three shooting course and training required by the Illinois Training and Standards Board.

    The third hurdle, and the most troublesome, was officer buy-in. Having been an officer for over 20 years and involved in department training for more than 10 years, I was aware that police officers are wary when ‘outsiders’ come into their training domain. Convincing officers that the program was paramount to their training, was challenging, on-going and necessary for it to be successful.

    Tourniquets, wound packing and lifts/carries

    To stay in line with recognized and proven training, SPD modified the training presented in the TCCC All Combatants (TCCC-AC) course. Acknowledging the many tenets in TCCC do not translate directly into civilian law enforcement and EMS care protocols, the decision was made to focus on the greatest pay-off for line officers. The training focused on the use of hemostatic agents, tourniquets and lifts/carries.

    While recognizing the importance of bleeding control and the relative ease in training these skills, we needed something to drive the lessons home for the officers and the command staff. What evolved was a two-prong training approach.

    The first portion of the training laid the groundwork for why they should care, both at the user level and why commanders and chiefs should care from a liability mitigation standpoint. The second part of the training was getting the students to apply the skills in practice.

    Tourniquet use was demonstrated by the instructors applying the tourniquet to themselves and using a Doppler to demonstrate the occlusion of the distal arterial blood flow. Students were then evaluated on putting the tourniquet on themselves and then a putting a tourniquet on a partner with the instructors evaluating each application.

    Wound packing was demonstrated using as near a live tissue model as possible. Bone-in pork shoulders were obtained and then were shot with duty ammunition of both the department issued Glock 17 9mm pistol and M-4 rifle. Students were use training Combat Gauze© to pack the wounds in the pork shoulder.

    Lifts/carries were demonstrated and applied by the officers in the training. An important aspect to this is to make sure the officers are in body armor and duty belts to replicate the difficulties and issues that may be encountered by officers in the field.

    Overcoming programmatic challenges

    Costs were the first issue we addressed. HSHS Trauma Service approached the HSHS St. John’s Hospital Foundation and secured a grant to purchase equipment for SPD officers. The hospital further supports the program by resupplying officers when they used their equipment.

    In addition, all the instructors involved in the initial training declined payment. This was a labor of love and collectively the instructors felt it was more important to get the information to responders than to be paid.

    When I approached the Training Coordinator, I believed that I would be asking for time the upcoming year. As it were, there was a four-hour block of uncommitted time during the October 2016 in-service session. That provided the team with a target window for structuring the training for the officers. Since that initial training each successive group of new officers joining the SPD attend the 4-hour training and are then equipped.

    Officer buy-in was initially my greatest concern. That turned out to be the least problematic issue. At the time of the training, SPD had approximately 240 officers from Chief to rookie patrol officers. As of today, 230 officers received the training. Usually the Criminal Investigations Division conducts a separate training program separate from patrol. In this instance, CID wanted to be involved in this training. In my mind that is a testament to the officers understanding the importance of the training.

    The program’s future

    Since SPD completed the training, the program has taken on a life of its own. Through the work of HSHS Trauma Service, the program has expanded beyond the officers of the SPD. Through the outreach of the HSHS Trauma Service combined with those who have attended the training, the program has grown much faster than anticipated.

    A significant step forward was made when the team was invited in February 2017 to present the training to the Lincoln Land Chapter of the FBI National Academy Alumni Association. This organization is made up of command staff personnel of state, county, local and tribal law enforcement agencies. By presenting to the FBINAA, we gained another level of respectability. We have achieved that rare accolade of acceptance by line-level and command-level personnel.

    As of October 2017, the team has trained 700+ responders. Agencies include the Sangamon County Sheriff’s Department, the Illinois Department of Conservation Police and numerous smaller agencies. The program was accepted by the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board as a certified course for Illinois law enforcement officers.

    To date officers and deputies trained and equipped through this program have been credited with saving at least three lives with tourniquet applications.

    This training has progressed into the greater responder community. Numerous fire departments and EMS agencies, both paid and volunteer, have been trained. This was a welcome, yet unintended benefit, of the program. Since the skill sets translate across public safety disciplines and they often work together, it is intuitive to provide the training to them.

    It’s important, regardless of the discipline we come from, that we do what is necessary to bridge those gaps and collaborate on solutions to common problems and situations. This program is a testament to cross-disciplinary training. It’s a program that started with a law enforcement agency collaborating with a healthcare provider to benefit both disciplines and, ultimately, those in need of emergent care in an unstable environment.

    About the Author

    Charles Kean is a member of the ISPA TEMS and RTF Committees and retired from the Springfield (IL) Police Department after 21 ½ years of service. He has been involved in EMS since 1984 getting his start in the US Army as a Medical Specialist. He established the SPD Emergency Response Team (ERT) TEMS program in 2005 and served as the leader and educator. He continues to serve the TEMS element with training and support. He is an instructor in the EMS Program at Lincoln Land Community College as well as a TCCC/TECC instructor. He holds a Master’s Degree in Crisis Management and Emergency Response.


  • 04 Dec 2017 11:08 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Joseph “Paul” Manley, Lieutenant, Nahant Police Department

    Certain words or phrases can be verbal indicators of deception. The presence of one or two of these indicators is not necessarily a sign of deception, but a good interviewer should treat them as cues to probe further. Investigators must always look for clusters of verbal indicators and treat them as markers for where to insert more probing questions.

    Stalling

    Stalling tactics, such as asking the investigator to repeat the question, provides additional time for deceivers to think of an appropriate answer. Some stalling phrases include:

    1. “It depends on what you mean by that.”
    2. “Where did you hear that?”
    3. “Where’s this information coming from?”
    4. “Could you be more specific?”
    5. “How dare you ask me something like that?”
    6. “Well, it’s not as simple as yes or no.”
    7. “That’s an excellent question.”

    Deceivers typically ask investigators to repeat questions without realizing that honest conversations do not require the restatement of questions.

    Distractions

    Distraction techniques can be easy to spot and are crucial to note. These can take place in a variety of forms. For example, asking for directions in the middle of questioning, asking for advice on places to stay in the area, showing great interest in your work as well as complimenting you on your uniform and profession. It’s important to be aware of distraction techniques that can divert your attention from your original purpose.

    Trust anchors

    Trust anchors are statements or expressions offered by the potential deceiver to try to convince you that they are worthy of trust. They may even seem out of place or offered for no reason. It is typically because they don’t believe they have convinced you yet. Below are some commonly used statements:

    1. “I swear.”
    2. “Believe me when I tell you.”
    3. “To tell you the truth.”
    4. “To the best of my knowledge.”

    These types of statements are often used as part of an effort to deceive.

    Pitch changes or mumbling

    Pay close attention to the rise and fall in pitch or tone of someone’s voice if you suspect they are telling you a lie. It is common for a liar’s voice pitch to change when they are speaking something deceitful. There are a few reasons for this change in pitch. For example, anxiety and nervousness cause a change in voice pitch. A change in voice pitch may be used to add emphasis on certain words to make it sound more believable. Voice pitch changes can be used as a distracting method.

    Discrepancies

    One of the best ways to detect untruthfulness is to discover when what someone is saying and doing doesn’t match up. For example, a person may state, “Yes, everything is fine,” but they are shaking their head no. It is normal to forget or morph certain aspects of a story when it is retold, but obvious consistent changes are a red flag that the story may be fabricated.

    Just having read this article, your behavioral awareness has increased. This means that your chances of spotting these warning signs have improved. Use this information wisely and be vigilant for those who may seek to manipulate you or do you harm.  

    About the Author

    Lt. Manley is a 30+ year law enforcement professional and adjunct faculty member at North Shore Community College in Danvers, MA. Paul is the Founder of Risk Mitigation Technologies, LLC and currently serves as the Executive Officer for the Nahant Massachusetts Police Department. Paul has a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice Administration from Anna Maria College, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from American International College. Paul is proud and honored to serve on the IPSA Memorial Committee. 


  • 04 Dec 2017 10:34 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Rick Bates, retired police lieutenant and Professional Services Representative with Lexipol, an Official IPSA Corporate Supporter

    “Congress shall make no law … abridging freedom of speech.”

    This quotation is from the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights. And while it seems straightforward, consider the words of Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, thought by many to be one of the finest jurists of all time. In the 1892 case of McAuliffe v. City of New Bedford, Holmes wrote that with regard to a police officer’s First Amendment rights, he “may have a constitutional right to talk politics, but he has no constitutional right to be a policeman.”

    How do we reconcile these two statements? The answer lies in the dichotomy of the government as a sovereign versus the government as an employer. The sovereign’s ability to regulate content is subject to the highest level of judicial scrutiny, requiring a compelling government interest to regulate the speech (which is rarely found). The government as employer, however, may regulate the time, place and manner of speech, and thus be subject to a lower level of judicial scrutiny. In such cases, the forum is a factor. As you will see, the judicial pendulum has swung back and forth based upon our social norms at the time.

    You might be asking yourself, how does the “speech” of a public-sector employee become an issue that winds its way all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court? The quotations are added because speech can take on many forms, from oral assertions to written words to political and other associations, all as ferreted out by voluminous case law.

    The answer to how speech makes its way to the Supreme Court starts when a public-sector employee—a police officer, firefighter, corrections officer or a teacher, for example—speaks in a manner that offends his/her employer. As a result, the employer takes an adverse employment decision, usually some form of discipline (a suspension, termination, demotion or lack of promotion). And the employee sues, averring that the employer abridged his/her constitutional right to free speech.

    For over a half-century, Justice Holmes’ assertion that public-sector employees had no First Amendment rights was classic authority in the United States. This analysis lent itself to the master/servant relationship that prevailed at the time: Public employment was a privilege bestowed by the sovereign, and therefore not a right protected by the Bill of Rights.

    The U.S. Supreme Court followed Justice Holmes’ lead in 1947 in United Public Workers of America v. Mitchell, upholding the terminating of a federal employee for violation of the Hatch Act, which regulated political activity by federal employees. The pendulum then, starts at the right.

    Due process and the Pickering Test

    Things began to change with the emergence of the Due Process Era of the 1960s. Courts began to see the First Amendment as affording limited constitutional protection to certain speech by public-sector employees. In Pickering v. Board of Education (1968), the U.S. Supreme Court decided that public-sector employees did not totally relinquish their First Amendment rights at the door. The pendulum swung to the left.

    However, while Pickering recognized that public-sector employees had First Amendment rights, it did not rule that such rights were absolute. Rather, it adopted the rather nebulous “Pickering Test.” The test has two parts:

    1. When a speech case makes its way into a court of the law, the first question to be asked is, “Is the speech on a matter of public concern?” However, the court failed to accurately define what was in fact a matter of public concern, and several Supreme Court rulings that followed struggled to clarify. Initially, public concern was defined as “any matter of political, social or other concern to the community.” Eventually, the definition narrowed to focus on the question, is the speech a “subject of general interest and of value and concern to the public at the time of the publication?” As you can see, this definition is quite broad, and therefore, not a difficult test to hurdle.

    2. The second prong of the Pickering test requires the court to balance the interests of the employee in commenting on matters of public interest versus the government employer in regulating the speech. Remember the dichotomy here, as we are talking about the government as an employer, not as the sovereign. As such, this becomes a forum analysis, and not just a content analysis. Context is key.

    The government interests often espoused in these cases fall into two broad categories:

    • Internal interests, such as detrimental impact on working relationships, impediment to the employee’s ability to perform his/her job, impairment of discipline by supervisors, impairment of harmony among co-workers and interference with the regular operation of the enterprise
    • External interests, such as the disruptive consequences on police activities, intense media coverage and the impact on recruitment effects

    The pendulum swings again: Garcetti v. Ceballos

    After this paradigm had been established for public employee speech, the pendulum swung back again in the 2006 seminal case of Garcetti v. Ceballos. A supervising District Attorney had drafted an internal memorandum questioning the veracity of an affidavit in support of a search warrant. When his concerns were not taken seriously, he testified for the defense. And when he was subsequently transferred and passed up for promotion, the DA sued, avowing his First Amendment rights had been violated.

    The court decided the Pickering test was inapplicable to “on-duty” speech and ruled, “When public employees make statements pursuant to their official duties, they are not speaking as citizens for First Amendment purposes, and the Constitution does not insulate their communications from employer discipline.” The Court stated that the public employees’ rights can be adequately protected by whistleblower statutes. However, those statutes vary widely across the country and can be limited in their protection.

    Courts have since struggled with this onerous decision and a few cases have begun to whittle away at the black-letter ruling espoused in Garcetti, but it is still the law today.

    On or off-duty

    The result of Garcetti is that the public employment free speech analysis must be bifurcated: Was the speech on-duty or off-duty? If the speech owes its existence to the public employee’s employment, then Garcetti controls and the employee is afforded no constitutional protection (aside from the limited protections afforded in any applicable whistleblower statutes). If the speech is off-duty, and not made pursuant to the employee’s official duties, then the two-pronged Pickering Test applies. In such cases, the ruling normally balances the employee’s interest in public speech versus the government employer’s interest in regulating that speech.

    It is in this off-duty arena where litigation often arises. We’ve already established that public-sector employees are afforded limited constitutional protection if they’re speaking on a matter of public concern. However, the courts have continually recognized that the effectiveness of government entities may be undermined even when the speech touches on a matter of public concern. This is even more prevalent in law enforcement. In Breuer v. Hart, the court ruled law enforcement employers have a heightened interest in maintaining discipline and harmony in the workplace and in fostering a positive relationship with other agencies and the public, stating that there is an “urgent need for close teamwork among those involved in the ‘high stakes’ field of law enforcement.”

    And that brings us to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals 2002 case of Pappas v. Giuliani. The court upheld the termination of a police officer for anonymously disseminating racially offensive material, citing McAuliffe in its opinion. The Court wrote:

    “The effectiveness of a city’s police department depends importantly on the respect and trust of the community and on the perception in the community that it enforces the law fairly, even-handedly, and without bias … If the police department treats a segment of the population of any race, religion, gender, national origin, or sexual preference, etc., with contempt, so that the particular minority comes to regard the police as oppressor rather than protector, respect for law enforcement is eroded and the ability of the police to do its work in that community is impaired. Members of the minority will be less likely to report crimes, to offer testimony as witnesses, and to rely on the police for their protection. When the police make arrests in that community, its members are likely to assume that the arrests are the product of bias, rather than well-founded, protective law enforcement. And the department’s ability to recruit and train personnel from the community will be damaged.”

    (Firefighters and other public-sector employees, don’t think you’re off the hook because this decision pertained to law enforcement. Pappas was cited in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals case of Locurto v. Giuliani in upholding the termination of firefighters who had been riding on a racially offensive float in a city parade.)

    Furthermore, in Phillips v. Pamplico the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, citing the U.S. Supreme Court in Rankin v. McPherson, upheld the termination of a police chief for criticizing his town council, writing that “a public employee who has a confidential, policy making, or public contact role and speaks out in a manner that interferes with or undermines the operation of the agency, its mission, or its public confidence, enjoys substantially less First Amendment protection than does a lower level employee.”

    Free speech meets social media

    So why is the public sector free speech analysis so important and relevant today? Because of the social media explosion! From Facebook to Twitter to Instagram—and in whatever forum going forward—off-duty public sector employees have a false sense of security that they can hide behind their keyboards and will be afforded constitutional protection from adverse employment action when they post offensive content.

    The country is littered with ex-public-sector employees who thought they could post whatever content they wanted on the internet without ramification, only to find out their employer did not feel the same way. These employees then run the First Amendment protection up the flagpole, only to find it is not there to protect them—because the government’s interest (as an employer) in regulating their speech outweighed their interests in that free speech.

    Did Justice Holmes have a crystal ball? In 1892 he declared public-sector employees had little, if any, constitutional protection for their “speech.” Today, social media and the internet have vastly complicated the forms of speech we engage in. But in terms of constitutional protection for that speech, the pendulum has swung right back to where it started.


    About the Author

    Rick Bates is a Professional Services Representative for Lexipol. He retired as a lieutenant after a 32-year career with the Worcester (MA) Police Department, serving as a risk manager, accreditation manager, academy director, legal advisor, internal investigator, detective and patrol officer during his time with the department. Rick lectures frequently on risk management for law enforcement, police supervisory liability, and First Amendment and free speech issues for police. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Anna Maria College and his Juris Doctor from New England School of Law. Rick is a 2012 graduate of the FBI National Academy Session 249 and graduated from the Massachusetts Police Leadership Institute.


  • 04 Dec 2017 10:28 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Tom Joyce with Vigilant Solutions, an Official IPSA Corporate Supporter

    Whether it’s Pew or Gallup, there are reports of anywhere from 270 to 310 million guns in the U.S. And with the recent massacre in Las Vegas, the worst shooting in U.S. history, gun ownership and gun access have become main topics of conversation again.

    When it comes to gun violence, Chicago bears the brunt of it. It seems that every Monday, the Windy City’s weekend violence stats make national news. Chicago’s raw numbers are the largest in the country for violence. But, where is the mention of the 17 other cities, that have a higher per capita homicide rate or the 10 other cities that have higher per capita non-fatal shootings?

    CDC statistics

    The violence in this U.S. is disturbing. Having worked as a police officer and ultimately as a homicide investigator from the 1980s until the 2000s, I was constantly dismayed at the senseless loss of life. New York City has done a remarkable job of not only keeping violence under control, but continuously driving the violent crime statistics to incredible lows. So, what can these other cities learn from NYPD? 

    The Centers for Disease Control reports that seven children (under the age of 19) die every day from gun violence. With these statistics by the CDC, that means that in any given week, 49 children die from gun violence. In a month, the number increases to 196, and in a year, we lose an average of 2,352 children to gun violence.

    Something, needs to be done to save innocent lives. And, it starts when you have the right strategies and tools at your disposal.

    Increase vigilance

    Cities need better strategies to support the men and women who attempt to prevent and ultimately investigate violent crimes. And for tools, technology is a necessary complement to smart people and processes. Staying vigilant is important when keeping communities safe.

    At the recent International Association of Crime Analysts annual conference, keynote speaker NYPD Chief Dermot Shea spoke about precision policing, a concept which focuses on the small amount of people responsible for the disproportionately high amount of crime.

    Chief Shea also spoke of targeting organized narcotics gangs and violent serial offenders, and how in those investigations, you shouldn’t leave any stone unturned. That includes the highly valuable practice of connecting gun crimes based on forensic evidence left behind in the form of ballistic evidence. He begged the attendees to not “kick shell casings down the sewer,” and to focus on connecting the shots.

    About the Author

    Tom is a retired member of the NYPD in the rank of Lieutenant Commander of Detectives. He commanded the NYPD Cold Case Squad upon his retirement and additionally held many other roles within the detective and organized crime bureaus. Prior to working with Vigilant Solutions, Tom was the Director of Law Enforcement Market Planning for LexisNexis Government Services. Tom often lectures on various subject matters relating to Homicide Investigations and has published numerous articles on criminal investigations. Tom is currently a member of the International Homicide Investigators Association’s Advisory Board.

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  • 24 Nov 2017 8:21 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Kassondra O’Hara, Communications Training Officer, Troy Police Department

    One area that often receives little attention in the communications field is that of recruiting new employees. The 911 communications center profession is often overlooked and misunderstood by the general public, and recruitment is a powerful tool that can be leveraged to explain what the job entails.  

    Due to the number of specialized skills that communications center employees are required to have by the completion of their training period, it is almost impossible to find the needed number of applicants when you are reliant on them finding you and your agency. Implementing a realistic recruitment campaign will ensure that all applicants get an accurate picture of what the daily life is like in the communications center.

    Transparency during recruitment

    Issues such as stress, overtime, shift work and the physical effects of the job should be described thoroughly and honestly so that the potential recruit can make a sound decision on whether this is truly the career they wish to pursue. Communications centers are often guilty of sugar-coating the stressors in front of new employees and this can back-fire when they eventually realize that this is not what they signed up for. Prospective employees are more likely to be receptive to training and will be better mentally prepared if they are given the full description up front. 

    All recruiting campaigns should include the center’s current employees one way or another. Let current employees know the center is actively recruiting, ask them to refer candidates and tell them that potential applicants may want to meet with them and also observe them in action. In addition to allowing potential employees to be able to meet and speak to current employees, giving them a better idea of what to expect, this also helps to improve morale within the center.

    Employees enjoy the opportunity to help in making decisions and being a part of the progression of their center. Recruitment can take place at job fairs, open houses, community events, social media, college and high school campuses, and even from current employees’ everyday contact with people who may be interested in our line of work.

    Dedicating extra time to finding quality employees will pay off in the long run as there is less of a chance that that time will be spent later in replacing an employee who was a poor hiring position.

    Scheduling new, current employees

    Depending on the extent of unfilled positions in any given communications center, scheduling may have to be reevaluated to make sure that all shifts are covered with the mandatory amount of people. Just keep in mind that while overtime is expected in our profession, employees need days off, scheduled and for emergencies. This may require a change in shift hours such as eight-hour shifts to 10-hour shifts. Or it may include rotating shifts, changes in off days, rotating off days or transferring of shifts.

    Before making any changes in scheduling, the pros and cons need to be assessed and the communications center supervisor needs to be prepared for some push-back or dissatisfaction among employees. Making scheduling changes is often something that causes employees to be discouraged as some may be on their preferred shift or have their preferred days off. It may also affect an individual’s family life (e.g. child care options) and even cause short-term physical stress (e.g. shift in sleep patterns).

    Unfortunately, any significant scheduling changes will disappoint employees. Therefore, all communications center supervisors must keep each employee’s preferences in mind and communicate the reasons and expected time frames for the change. The more communication that takes place and the more opinions that current employees can express will increase the chances of a smooth transition to a more conducive schedule.

    Overall, communications center supervisors must realize that while they are in overall control of how a center operates, that they must work with their current employees as an inclusive team to ensure that operations run smoothly.

    Without the cooperation and respect of those that they oversee, everything that a manager attempts to accomplish will be in vain. As more attention is brought to the emotional, mental and physical health of those in the emergency communications field, hopefully we will soon be on the road to making the constant understaffing of centers a thing of the past.

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    About the Author

    Kassondra O’Hara is an Emergency Communications Operator at the Troy Police Department in Troy, AL and has served since 2006. She has functioned as a Communications Training Officer since 2010. She has recently become certified to train regionally through APCO and is currently serving on the IPSA Communications Committee.


  • 24 Nov 2017 7:50 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Kassondra O’Hara, Communications Training Officer, Troy Police Department

    For anyone who has worked in an emergency communications center for any length of time, it is generally understood that overtime, shift work, working holidays and weekends and dealing with periods of short staffing is a way of life. Even during the rare moments that a center is fully staffed, the long hours, call-ins and time away from family can be stressful to even the most dedicated of employees. This stress often results in low morale, burnout and health problems.

    What about when the dreaded term “understaffed” is being used to describe your agency? In an age where it seems like communication centers across the country are continuously understaffed, the need for trainable personnel who meet the high standards of the job and the retention of current employees is on the top of every center manager’s list. What can communication center supervisors do to effectively operate a center that does not have the needed personnel in an already stressful environment?

    Preventing burnout

    Communication center supervisors need to make it a priority to prevent burnout. Preventing burnout will improve morale and ultimately deter more unfilled positions in the future.

    The first step in preventing burnout is examining and recognizing the causes. Burnout is a physical and emotional breakdown of an employee that over time can result in pessimism and detachment. Common indicators include:

    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Exhaustion
    • Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
    • Anger
    • Loss of appetite
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Headaches
    • Gastrointestinal issues
    • Difficulty breathing
    Recognizing these signs and acting before employees are completely overwhelmed is one of the most important roles that a supervisor can take on.

    Educating employees on what they can do personally to prevent overstress and burnout is extremely important. Giving each dispatcher or call-taker the power to take control of their own professional path is one of the most ideal ways that a manager can help their employees.

    Simple things such as reminding them that each call is different and that citizens may be concerned over things that we do not deem as important is one way to help them to continue to identify with callers and prevent emotional numbness. Allowing employees to put forth ideas and opinions that includes them in the center’s decision-making processes often gives them a feeling of being included and needed.

    Over time, this will essentially boost the morale of the center. Including all levels of dispatch staff is generally the most effective. Committing time, necessary resources and encouraging positivity throughout the center are significant steps in decreasing burnout and increasing morale.

    Raise morale

    Speaking of raising morale throughout the communications center, this is honestly the easiest way to reduce turnover and increase employee retention and productivity. Being short staffed is enough to discourage current employees as they realize that it will at least temporarily increase their already overwhelming hours and duties. Managers need to keep in mind that bad attitudes and low morale are highly contagious.

    The first step is self-reflection and improvement if necessary. A positive attitude starts at the top and will hopefully spread center-wide. By starting with themselves, communications center supervisors can positively influence and become role models for those under their command. Encouraging employees to take an active role in rediscovering their passion for the job is one of the most imperative aspects of being a communications center supervisor.   

    The second step is to identify the reasons for low morale. Employees are the best people to shed light on these as they are the ones being affected. What are some of their ideas that would help to increase positivity in their center? Increases in pay, incentive programs, predictable fairness, activities outside the center, access to relevant training and progressive, expected discipline are often complaints heard by many managers. Active listening, communication, and preparedness and willingness to lead are also traits that inspire employees. 

    Recognize performance

    Recognition for a job well done is inherently craved by most humans, professional or otherwise. Focusing only on discipline and corrections when something is done incorrectly is the number one way to lower morale amongst employees and create a negative atmosphere in your center.

    Picking out incidents that are handled very well, recognizing those employees who consistently go above and beyond their normal duties and/or commending that call-taker or dispatcher who did a phenomenal job on that major call that came in yesterday are ways to make sure that the majority of your employees strive for excellence rather than just doing what they have to in order to avoid reprimand.

    Improving morale is one issue while sustaining that morale is a whole other beast. A good manager must strive to continuously take notice of their employees, recognize trends within the center that may indicate a lack of motivation, and most of all, listen.

    Listening to current employees’ concerns and opinions and working to compromise or adjust when a problem presents itself is not only a manager’s responsibility, but should be their desire if they wish to be a manager of a center with a consistently high morale and productive work ethic.

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    About the Author

    Kassondra O’Hara is an Emergency Communications Operator at the Troy Police Department in Troy, AL and has served since 2006. She has functioned as a Communications Training Officer since 2010. She has recently become certified to train regionally through APCO and is currently serving on the IPSA Communications Committee.


  • 21 Nov 2017 7:44 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Group Mobile, an Official IPSA Supporter

    First responders rely on today’s technologies. The latest hardware and software are allowing them to do their jobs more efficiently than in previous years, however, this efficiency is becoming a dependency. It is ingrained in civilians to call on first responders when crisis occurs. They're the first line of defense. Often unaware of what's going on behind the scenes, civilians expect responders to arrive quickly, take charge and work seamlessly together to resolve the situation.

    When public safety systems are brought into the Internet of Things, sensors and signals push relevant information to dispatchers and fellow mobile responders so that everyone in the field can respond quickly and appropriately. To harness the power of IoT, in-vehicle connectivity is crucial. In-vehicle connectivity enables the functionality for a wide variety of first response-specific applications on multiple wireless devices. Rugged routers and mobile gateways achieve this connectivity by supporting machine-to-machine communications and connected devices.

    Though agencies can expect to see extensive benefits from these devices, here is a run-down of applications most commonly used in the field. Here’s what to expect from rugged mobile gateways and routers.

    Consolidated, reliable connectivity

    Harsh mobile environments, where first responders are often needed, are a breeding ground for lost connectivity. Not only are obstacles like this potentially life threatening, but there usually isn't a quick fix for handling them. For instance, with consumer grade routers, the management platforms make it impossible to locate the source of the issue remotely. This means emergency vehicles are forced to go back to the station to resolve the error.

    Mobile gateways and routers address this problem by providing a multi-network solution, connecting to multiple networks, switching between them in sub-second timeframes. This also leads to less modems and antennas, providing connectivity for wired ethernet, USB, and serial in-vehicle devices. Various configurations are often available for different application environments.

    Safe, fast communication

    The consolidated connectivity from gateways and routers also delivers secure and fast communication for dispatchers, IT teams and first responders. The 3G network often available with consumer routers causes in-vehicle application to function poorly. This increases downtime and reduces productivity. The number of networks suitable for rugged mobile gateways and routers, however, utilize IoT to also enable scalability. Not only does this improve communication in ways impossible without, but it also dramatically increases downlink speed, meaning teams have fast access to real-time data and mission critical applications, like federal criminal records and pertinent incident location data.

    This improved communication is at the core of empowering first response teams to make the best decisions based off real-time information.

    Reporting, alerting

    First responders leverage an assortment of technologies to improve functionality and efficiency, such as body-worn cameras, license plate recognition and Bluetooth that provide geolocation capabilities. When all these technologies run through one source of connectivity, triggers send messages to nearby responders and dispatchers, ultimately creating a clear timeline of events.

    Such connectivity makes it possible for dispatchers and team leads to manage rather than just track. If a police officer pulls over a speeding car, for instance, the Bluetooth in his badge will send a message to dispatchers when the officer leaves the patrol vehicle and approaches the pulled over car. Such messages put nearby responders on alert for potential triggers prompting back up. This allows emergency personnel to assist one another without the officer in need of assistance stopping what they're doing and verbally alerting those nearby.

    Durability

    In-vehicle mobile gateways and routers require ruggedness. They need to be built and designed to endure temperature changes, exposure to dust and sand, as well as shaking and vibrations. Improved connectivity can only perform as well as the hardware enabling it. Rugged mobile gateways and routers ensure the durability to withstand hazardous environments commonly associated with locations experiencing crisis.

    Utilizing rugged mobile gateways, routers

    Agencies can install routers and gateways in emergency vehicles to provide new tools for their teams to focus on the situation at hand, know when to aide nearby responders and reflect on a clear timeline after the fact. Increased connectivity, advanced communication, access to real-time data and the durability to withstand hazardous environments set rugged mobile gateways and routers apart from commercial routers.

    About the Author

    Group Mobile works closely with Sierra Wireless to offer the world a comprehensive offering of hardware, software and services for connected devices and machine-to-machine communications. Together, Group Mobile and Sierra Wireless provide innovative, reliable and high performing solutions. Group Mobile’s team of industry experts can assist you in selecting, designing and implementing a multi-network environment for mission-critical fleets, request a free personalized quote. Group Mobile is an official IPSA Supporter.

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  • 12 Nov 2017 7:44 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Columbia Southern University, an Official IPSA Supporter

    The importance of earning a university degree, whether it is an associate, bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate, cannot be underestimated. Aside from looking great on a resume, a degree enhances a person’s life on so many levels. Particularly when the degree is in a field that an individual seeks a career in or wants for advancement.

    This applies directly to those seeking a position or advancement in emergency medical services administration. As a behind-the-scenes field for emergency medical services, EMSA is key to the management, planning, organizing and improving of emergency medical services. A degree in EMSA educates a student on the business aspects of emergency medical services and leadership skills to help direct and assign services, both in urgent and routine situations.

    Hera are five things an EMSA degree do for you.

    1. Expertise: Overall, the main benefit of earning a university degree is to help ensure a person’s knowledge and skills meet a certain standard of quality. Colleges and universities that offer EMSA degrees have criteria that students must meet in order to earn the degree. Those standards are meant to give a person a strong set of skills and formal training that can make them truly qualified to work in EMSA.

    2. Salary: Americans with four-year college degrees made 98 percent more an hour on average in 2013 than people without a degree. In fact, when comparing salaries, those with a high school diploma average about $35, 256 while those with a bachelor’s degree average $59,124, according to the Balance.

      According to the 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics data, EMTs and paramedics earn an average salary of $32, 670 with some postsecondary education and no degree.

      However, a bachelor’s degree in EMSA adds to an individual’s earning potential. For example, a degree in EMSA allows a paramedic or EMT to become an EMS coordinator and earn an average salary around $52,000, according to Payscale. As a manager, this puts the individual on track for positions such as an EMS director who average about $69,158, as indicated by Payscale.

    3. Academic learning: Whether you are a rookie or veteran in the EMS world, there is always a need to learn more to improve your skills and knowledge. Not to mention, the industry is always seeing change in equipment, operational methods, life-saving techniques and more. These updates and trends are vital for EMSA students to be aware of so they can stay ahead of the learning curve in the industry. A strong EMSA degree program should provide this information so that students receive current and relevant information about the degree topic.

      In addition to the subject matter, students taking EMSA courses are exposed to a formal level of writing and reading through academic work. As Entrepreneur magazine points out, “academic assignments develop skills that are in high demand among top employers.” From communication to collaboration to research to writing, a university education gives a student valuable skills for interaction and prosperity in the work environment.

    4. Career opportunities: Those interested in pursuing a career in EMSA have various options in the fields of fire and rescue, emergency management and EMS. In addition, a degree in EMSA can lead to careers at the federal, state and local government levels and the private sector, particularly in health care.  Some administrative jobs include: EMS Coordinator, EMS Supervisor, EMS Director and Federal Emergency Management Agency Employee.

      While these are key positions linked to an EMSA degree, it is important to note that these are not all that are available to an enterprising student seeking administrative training in EMS.

      For example, paramedicine continues to grow as EMS facilities and private health care companies combine services to meet the urgent care needs of their communities. Jobs in paramedicine and related areas can be filled or created by those with an EMSA education. Enrolling in EMSA programs can gain a distinctive advantage for jobs that will be created to meet the demands of paramedicine as it expands to more cities.

    5. Provide a reputable education: Reputation carries a weight in higher education, particularly when it comes to the field or industry pertaining to the degree. As mentioned above, industry recognition also plays a role in how the degree is regarded.

      Columbia Southern University features a staff of distinguished emergency medical professionals and EMS experts. CSU’s multidisciplinary approach in its EMSA degree program considers the administration of EMS settings and organizations to provide students with a challenging and comprehensive learning experience.

      To learn more about Columbia Southern University’s EMSA degree, visit ColumbiaSouthern.edu/EMSA.


    About the Author

    Columbia Southern University is one of the nation’s pioneer online universities. It was established in 1993 to provide an alternative to the traditional university experience. CSU offers online associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees such as business administration, criminal justice, fire administration and occupational safety and health. Visit ColumbiaSouthern.edu or call (877) 347-6050 to learn more.


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  • 10 Nov 2017 5:22 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Jennifer Brust, Senior Product Manager, Lexipol, an Official IPSA Corporate Supporter

    In September 2017, fire service leaders came together for what could arguably be called the most important conference of the year. And yet, it had no hands-on training, no huge exhibit area where companies advertised their wares, and there were no bands marching through the streets.

    But what was discussed over those two days has the potential to save many firefighter lives.

    If you haven’t guessed it already, the event was the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Symposium in Phoenix. Sponsored by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, the event featured dedicated men and women from the fire service, academia and allied organizations sharing their expertise, research and personal stories for the common mission to reduce firefighter risk of occupational cancer.

    Reducing the risk of cancer

    As one of over 500 attendees, I was anxious to hear the latest research and how it could be applied to create definitive risk-reduction solutions. What did I learn? There is tremendous research going on to get to some solutions, but there are a lot of unknowns and no silver bullet. There are, however, real actions that firefighters and fire departments can take now to reduce their risk. Below are 10 key takeaways:

    1. Don’t use tobacco—it’s still the #1 risk factor.
    2. Stay on air through overhaul (and put fire inspectors on air).
    3. Everyone in the hazard zone must be on air (think engineers). Research shows everyone in the hazard zone is exposed, not just the interior attack team.
    4. Rehab all crews. One research study demonstrated that the roof ventilation team had higher core body temperature increase than the interior attack team.
    5. Wash your hands before eating or using the bathroom on scene and shower after a fire.
    6. Wash your PPE, including hoods, helmets, boots and gloves.
    7. Keep anything from the fire scene out of the cab.
    8. Get an annual physical.
    9. Preplan for the day someone walks in with a diagnosis. Get connected with the Firefighter Cancer Support Network.
    10. Establish cancer prevention policies and procedures. Communicate the expectations and enforce them in training, on the fireground and at the station.

    Continuing research on safety

    In the next few years, as more research is conducted, we can expect to see more information regarding firefighter cancer statistics, PPE cleaning procedures, effectiveness of intervention methods and more.

    Just as important is the need for real compassion and support for those affected with cancer. The event highlighted ways departments can provide support and resources that individuals, families and departments can draw on.

    Firefighting is a job that calls the brave and big-hearted. Now that bravery is needed to be a change agent in your organization. Have the courage to stay on air and be proud of a clean helmet. It’s not just about making it home at the end of a shift—it’s about making it home at the end of your career.

    Additional information

    For more information about the research that was presented at the NFFF Fire Service Occupational Cancer Symposium, feel free to contact me or the NFFF. Lexipol’s Fire Policy Solutions and Daily Training Bulletin Service provides essential policies the support firefighter health and safety, including comprehensive PPE and respiratory protection policiesContact us today for more information or to request a free demo.

    About the Author

    Jen Brust is Lexipol’s Senior Product Manager for the Fire & EMS markets. Before joining Lexipol, she served as Senior Product Marketing Manager for Honeywell’s First Responder Products (formerly Morning Pride). Jen has a bachelor’s degrees in Chemistry from Albion College and a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from Michigan Technological University.


  • 30 Oct 2017 2:51 PM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By M.K. Palmore, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Cyber Branch, FBI San Francisco

    As an executive and someone responsible for outreach on behalf of my organization, I do a ton of talking on information security matters. I also get to see a fair amount in the post-mortem analysis of some fairly interesting technical exploits. Time and again information security practitioners and the executives they work for want to know what they should be doing to protect their enterprises.

    What are cyber threat actors trying to accomplish? They are trying to get to the data and information that your agency has behind a “wall” of protection that has value to you and, therefore, can be monetized by most cyber threat actors. So, all your agency has to do is protect your enterprise from attackers, right?  Yes, in the simplest answer ever given, but there is more to it than that. 

    Back to the basics

    Start with the basics to protect your agency’s enterprises – at least as a starting point. I recognize this can be misleading, as the basics or fundamentals require steady adherence to principles which require qualified teams to take a systematic approach to keeping an enterprise safe from would be attackers. But, if you are great at the basics or fundamentals your agency will be in better shape than most.

    In today’s market, there’s no shortage of vendor tools promising the end to your security nightmares. Some of those tools are great and likely will do some of what they promise, while others can be a fancy visual showing of an already confusing landscape.

    Understanding risk management

    The problem is that some practitioners and most executives have no idea what enterprise protection looks and feels like. Let’s assume your agency just approved an increase in the InfoSec budget and the CISO has promised the implementation of several controls and solutions and maybe even an event management tool to protect your enterprise. That’s all you need to do, right? While most business operations have straightforward metrics taught at every business school that shows you exactly how to calculate ROI for an investment, information security managers have various tools and templates that show a similar value; however, the problem arises in communicating these results to the c-suite.

    Information security is about enterprise risk management. Most organizations have hundreds, or even thousands, of security events and probably tens/hundreds of actual security incidents all of which require some level of adherence to the incident response model (prepare, identify, contain, eradicate, recovery and lessons learned). But how much effort needs to be applied all depends on where those risk fall on your overall enterprise risk management register. 

    Using proven risk methodologies, you can begin to “rack and stack” information security risks among all of your other enterprise risk issues. Your limited resources are then used to target the issues potentially causing the greatest impact and likelihood of occurrence. 

    Effectively communicating risk assessments

    The chasm exists when security professionals are unable to effectively communicate this delta to business leaders who then provide either a complete blanket approach to addressing InfoSec issues (expecting absolute system integrity) or they tend to guard the business treasure with angst exercising the least engagement necessary hoping upon hope that nothing happens on their watch. Happiness and effectiveness lies somewhere in between. 

    The InfoSec triad of Confidentiality – Integrity – Availability is the foundation of all instruction in the security realm. From this triad flows security frameworks, system controls and every other fancy high-level control, approach and protocol in the security world. If you have a highly capable and mature security apparatus you are likely following the tenets of the triad and using a viable template, like the NIST framework, to structure your approach to InfoSec. If you are winging it, well you are probably doing a lot of things, some of which is helpful while other aspects are not. 

    When I talk about the fundamentals, I’m speaking of these five areas when engaged and practiced allow you the greatest ROI (not an exhaustive list):

    1. Effective patch management
    2. Access and identity management
    3. Effective password management – along with the use of 2FA,
    4. Effective use of encryption of data at rest and in transit
    5. Implementation and effective use of the commonly referenced SANS 20 security controls only to name a few  

    Let’s encapsulate this in a relatively decent understanding of the cyber threat landscape and you are off to the races. If you can get to a point where these fundamentals become second nature, you will be better situated than most.

    Back to the premise of this piece, I believe practitioners lose sight of the fundamentals because there’s too much noise and not enough signal on the landscape. Because of the sheer increase in our reliance on tech and all things it brings; frankly there’s just too much information coming at those expected to protect these environments. We must learn to focus on the fundamentals because it’s a darn good starting point.

    About the Author

    M.K. Palmore, CISSP, is a Senior Federal Law Enforcement Executive and has strong leadership and mentoring skills responsible for cybersecurity, risk management and strategic-vision creation and implementation. His skilled competencies and areas of excellence include Cybersecurity, Enterprise Risk Management, Governance & Compliance, Information Security Program Development, Digital Forensics, InfoSec Incident Response & Management, Physical Security, Executive-Protection, Crisis Response & Management, Business Continuity and Disaster Response Planning.

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