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Public Safety Column

The IPSA's Public Safety Column is an opportunity for our members and corporate sponsors to provide thought leadership articles about all topics facing public safety. 

The articles we publish are not necessarily the views of the IPSA, rather they are opinions shared by each contributor.

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  • 30 Oct 2017 1:20 PM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Gregory L. Walterhouse, Bowling Green State University, IPSA Member

    There is no universally accepted definition of school violence. Black’s Law Dictionary defines violence as “the use of physical force usually accompanied by fury, vehemence, or outrage; especially physical force unlawfully exercised with the intent to harm.” Arrowood however advocates for an expanded definition to include any acts which might harm an individual physically, psychological or emotionally.

    The Safe School Initiative Final Report found that there is no accurate or useful “profile” of students who engage in targeted school violence. And, psychologist James Garbarino of Loyola University says there is no single cause that is deterministic of criminal violence, but an accumulation of risk factors. There have been numerous studies conducted on the risk factors for individuals who have a potential to commit school violence. The purpose of this research is to synthesize the findings of these various studies in an attempt to draw an inference as to whether troubled family relationships are the genesis for these risk factors.

    An overview of violence

    A number of factors have been identified for individuals most at risk for committing violence. Studies have shown that males are more prone to violent behavior than females with 90 percent of deaths on school campuses the result of male perpetrators. And, shootings are frequently perpetrated by white males according to Muschert. Age is also a factor with PBS reporting the average age of school avengers being 16.  

    Youth Violence: A Report of the Surgeon General classifies violent behavior that begins before puberty as early trajectory and violent behavior that begins during adolescence as late trajectory. The report indicates that children who display violent behavior before the age of 13 typically commit a greater number of crimes, commit crime for a longer period of time, and commit more violent crimes. This is consistent with the developmental pathway reported by Verlinden, et. al. where progression from minor delinquent acts progress to more serious ones with serious interpersonal violent acts being the final set of behaviors.

    The Surgeon General’s report identifies a number of risk factors for violent behavior. The most powerful early risk factors are involvement in general criminal offenses and abuse of drugs, alcohol and tobacco before the age of 12. Other individual risk factors that have smaller effects are psychological conditions including hyperactivity, low attention and impulsiveness though some researchers have questioned the effect of attention-deficit hyperactivity activity disorder on violent behavior. However, Verlinden, et. al. report that overall there appears to be a positive relationship between hyperactivity, concentration and attention problems, impulsivity and risk taking with violent behavior. 

    Though the Surgeon General’s report indicates there are no strong risk factors from the family domain, low socio-economic status/poverty, and anti-social parents are moderate risk factors.  Other studies indicate family neglect or abuse may be a factor according to Muschert. And, lack of parental supervision and troubled family relationships have been found to be strong predictors of violence in children. This is not surprising as unsupervised children have a tendency to associate with deviant peers resulting in antisocial activities including violence and substance abuse. Verlinden et. al report that several studies have found a positive relationship between associations with a deviant peer group in adolescence and later violence. This is particularly relevant as some case studies reveal involvement by pairs of individuals.

    Mass violence

    According to Louis Schlesinger, professor of forensic psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice mass killers tend to be aggrieved, hurt, clinically depressed, socially isolated and paranoid. The paranoia is a special kind with the tendency to blame everyone else for their troubles and believe that life is unfair and the world is against them. This is consistent with a study reported by Muschert that perpetrator motivation for mass shootings is to exact revenge on the community with perpetrators equating their target schools as an attack on the community. In other words, according to Rocque, it is the statement made with violence and not exacting revenge on particular people.

    As reported by Muschert, perpetrators are often the subject of bullying, romantic rejection and social marginalization. And, Rocque indicates mental illness is also a characteristic of school rampage shooters but these characteristics are similar to common characteristics of other violent juvenile offenders. Perpetrators are mostly male and feel victimized.

    Studies indicate that perhaps most perpetrators of mass violence suffer from severe depression. In their study of nine incidents of multi-victim homicide, Verlinden et. al.  found that most subjects of their study had displayed uncontrolled anger, depression, threats of violence and blamed others for their problems. Though studies have revealed that mental illness is rarely recognized prior to shootings, Rocque reports that many are diagnosed after the fact. These diagnoses and findings are instructive.

    Perpetrators are often suicidal. The Safe School Initiative Report examined 31 cases with 41 shooters and found that 75 percent of the perpetrators were suicidal.  The report also found that most attackers had difficulty coping with significant losses or personal failures, and many attackers felt bullied, persecuted or injured by others which is consistent with the findings of Professor Schlesinger. Davis reports that many school shooters underwent prior counseling for depression, impulsivity and anti-social behavior. In a study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health researchers found that childhood abuse increased the lifetime risk for depression. Researchers also found that neglect, which accounts for nearly two-thirds of the substantiated cases of child maltreatment, increased the risk for current depression. 

    As reported by Cincinnati Children’s, depression, anxiety, substance abuse and prolonged stressful life events such as bullying and relationship issues are all risk factors for suicide.  The Center for Disease Control also report research findings that youth who are victims of bullying or who have bullied others are at the highest risk of anxiety, depression and thinking about suicide. Though many perpetrators of mass violence are suicidal, they often cannot bring themselves to commit suicide or desire to make a spectacle of the event. Anthony Preti has labeled this “suicide with hostile intent”.

    Langman examined ten shooters and categorized the youths as traumatized (3), psychotic (5), and psychopathic (2). However, Langman states that most youths who are traumatized, psychotic or psychopathic do not commit murder. The three traumatized youth shooters all came from broken homes with parental substance abuse and criminal behavior. Broken homes have been identified as a risk factor for delinquency. They were all physically abused and two were sexually abused. Langman found two characteristics among the traumatized youth shooters that standout. First, all three had father figures who engaged in criminal behavior using firearms and second each had peer influence to commit the attack.

    The five psychotic youth shooters all suffered from schizophrenia-spectrum disorder and all came from intact families with no history of abuse. None of the subjects had been prescribe anti-psychotic medication which has been identified as a risk factor. Among the psychotic subjects’ paranoia was the most common psychotic symptom. This correlates with the findings of Schlesinger. Langman also found that the psychotic subjects possessed some level of paranoid thinking including grandiose delusions, auditory hallucinations, and disorganized thoughts. The subjects also had higher functioning siblings making them feel like failures within their families. All of the psychotic shooters were the youngest siblings in their families and were misfits with obvious difference between themselves and their siblings, parents and teachers.

    The two psychopathic youths were neither abused nor psychotic but exhibited narcissism, poor self-esteem, a lack of empathy and conscious as well as sadistic behavior. Verlinden reports that some studies have found a connection between narcissism, negative interpersonal feed-back and aggression.  Langman reports that sadism is not a typical trait of psychopaths. Of interest, both psychopathic youth shooters had a fascination with guns, lacked empathy and were successful in recruiting followers to join them in the attacks. Psychopathic shooters in general feel no emotional connection to other humans and are unable to feel guilt or remorse according to Rocque.


    Several risk factors have been identified by researchers that are suggestive that an individual may commit violence including mass violence in schools. However, no accurate or useful profile or single cause has been discovered by current research. Many of the identified strong predicators do relate to troubled family relationships including neglect, abuse, broken homes, lack of parental supervision, anti-social parents (moderate risk) and other similar troubled family relationships.  

    These risk factors in turn lead to other risk factors such as early trajectory consisting of violent or minor criminal behavior and substance abuse. Early trajectory most likely occurs as a result of parental neglect or a lack of parental supervision. Certain individuals may also feel inferior, persecuted or as misfits resulting from abuse and other troubled family relationships. When parental neglect is present attachment between parent and child does not develop. John Bowlby discovered through his research that a high proportion of juvenile thieves had “affectionless” characters which he believed resulted from maternal deprivation and separation and a failure to form normal attachments in childhood. This failure results in disorders of mood, behaviors and social relationships. Bowlby’s Attachment Theory may explain why many of those who commit violence often have feelings of isolation, persecution, being a misfit, lack empathy for others and are unable to feel guilt or remorse.

    Researcher William Damon found that respect for rules and authority, learning to follow the social order, and developing the ability to feel empathy and guilt begins early with socialization by parents and is closely related to Attachment Theory. Neglectful and anti-social parents do not fill this need and may explain why many of those who commit violence have histories of anti-social and anti-authoritarian behavior. This may also explain those who exact revenge on the community instead of specific individuals.

    Research has found that childhood abuse and neglect often lead to depression which is a condition from which many individuals who have committed school violence suffer. Depression is also closely associated with anxiety. Other research has found that depression, anxiety, substance abuse and prolonged stressful life events such as bullying and troubled relationships are all risk factors for suicide a condition found in many who have committed school violence.

    Ultimately these factors can lead to an identity crisis for these individuals. Erik Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development tells us that young adults who have identity crisis tend to be isolated, afraid to have relationships with others and see others as dangerous. This could explain the feelings of rejection, marginalization, inferiority and paranoia that many of those who commit violence experience. According to Marcia these individuals are in a state of identity moratorium which is an acute state of crisis where he or she is exploring and actively searching for values to eventually call his or her own.

    So, where do these individuals turn? In some cases to peers, evidenced by some acts of violence having been committed by pairs of individuals. Erikson’s Theory of Identity Crises tells us that identity confusion can lead to unhealthy and dangerous lifestyles and susceptibility to negative peer pressures. Lev Vygotsky also advocated that children learn from interaction with peers, though Vygotsky’s research focused on positive peer learning a reasonable inference can be drawn that bad behavior can be learned or reinforced by negative peer influence.

    In conclusion, evidence strongly supports the hypothesis that predictors of violent behavior have their origin in troubled family relationships beginning in infancy into adolescence. These troubled relationships consisting of neglect, abuse, and lack of supervision; may result in the failure of children to form attachment, identity and development of morals consistent with social norms; resulting in isolation, anxiety, depression, suicidal tendency and violent behavior. Future research is needed to determine the extent that troubled family relationships have on those who commit school violence.  

    About the Author

    Greg Walterhouse is a full time faculty member in the Fire Administration and Masters in Public Administration programs at Bowling Green State University. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Management from Oakland University, a Master’s degree in Legal Studies from the University of Illinois and a Master’s degree in Management from Central Michigan University. Before joining BGSU he had over 35 years of experience in fire/rescue and emergency management with 18 years in upper management, including Manager of Emergency Services and Chief of the Rochester Hills (MI) Fire Department and Chief of the Mt. Pleasant (MI) Fire Department. Greg can be contacted at

  • 19 Oct 2017 11:20 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Group Mobile, an Official IPSA Supporter

    It is hard to remember a time without the ability to access the Internet from our phones, not to mention a time without portable devices. While modern technology has unquestionably influenced how we do just about everything, from interacting with one another to purchasing goods, one of the biggest impacts it has made is in law enforcement. Advancements in technology have enabled law enforcement to perform their duties at a higher capacity.

    Opportunities for reliable and seamless communication, and technologies such as license plate and fingerprint authentication readers, all aid law enforcement in improving their ability to serve their communities. However, some fragile technology devices do not last long in the field given the dynamic aspects and demands of law enforcement. Given this, many manufacturers have developed rugged devices, like tablets, laptops and video cameras. Rugged equipment is generally preferred by law enforcement for because they are more durable.

    Rugged printers, scanners

    There are a few uneasy words that typically come to mind when thinking of printers and scanners: clunky, slow, confusing. Whereas this is an irritant for civilians, printing and scanning functionalities play an integral role for law enforcement. Rugged printers and scanners solve a lot of these common issues conventional devices ensue.

    A few benefits of rugged printers and scanners include a smaller design, meaning officers don’t have to add another bulky piece of technology in their cars and increased speed and quality. Scanning identification and printing tickets just got that much easier. But ultimately, the most promising aspect of these rugged devices is that they’re built to last.  

    Rugged laptops, tablets

    While there has been large debate regarding the benefits of rugged laptops versus rugged tablets for law enforcement, it’s non-negotiable that enforcement is armed with at least one of these two devices. Similarly, to how civilians rely on laptops and tablets, they are also two of the most used devices in the field. Given the durability of rugged laptops and tablets, money is saved in that devices aren’t constantly needing replacement due to damage from handling or weather.

    Deciding to choose a laptop or tablet is dependent upon where officers are at a given moment, whether that be a patrol car or walking on foot. Rugged laptops are small, making them suitable for cars. Tablets offer more mobility, making them more convenient for those who need to take and use their device outdoors.

    Mobile Routers

    A secure and dependable mobile router may be one of the most important devices for law enforcement officers in the field. Ensuring officers have quick access to imperative data via their various mobile devices can be the difference between life and death. Common issues with unreliable routers include frequent loss of connectivity or vulnerability to being accessed by unauthorized individuals. Because of these susceptibilities, it’s important for law enforcement to choose routers they can rely on.

    Things to consider when choosing a secure router include:

    ●        Finding a vendor that has a dedicated department for coordinating security efforts

    ●        Checking if they employ experts driving company-wide initiatives for security

    ●        Determining if the process for identifying and addressing issues is standardized and reliable

    Modern technology serves an essential role in how law enforcement operates today, and rugged mobile devices provide the advantage of durability and consistent reliability. The mobile solutions experts at Group Mobile work with police departments nationwide and can assist you in determining the best equipment for your application and budget.

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  • 08 Oct 2017 7:07 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By  Jim Dundas, Chair, IPSA Memorial Committee

    This weekend is the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial remembrance event. Ninety-five fallen firefighters will be honored. In their honor, 95 American flags that were flown over the US Capital building will be displayed and raised over the course of the weekend. The event takes place at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland. It is an honorable thing to do, to remember those who sacrificed their life in the service of others.

    Firefighters knowingly venture into harm’s way to save others. It is an honorable calling, and our dependency on their services is immeasurable. Charging into a raging fire or entering a known hazardous area to rescue someone goes against human instinct to survive – but it is because of the bravery, courage and selflessness of firefighters that many lives are saved every day. 

    “Firefighters possess an extraordinary blend of courage and compassion which allows them to willingly face tremendous risks to help those in need. “The National Fallen Firefighters Memorial is a testament to the ultimate sacrifice made by these brave men and women. All who visit the memorial throughout the year pause to honor these firefighters and reflect on the courage, sacrifice and strength of their survivors.” - Chief Dennis Compton, Chair of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Board of Directors.

    IPSA Memorial Committee

    The IPSA Memorial Committee is charged with monitoring line of duty deaths for all public safety officials (human and K9) in the U.S. and Canada. In calendar year 2017, nearly 200 public safety officials have sacrificed their lives in the line of duty.

    The list of causes is not long, vehicle crashes, gunshots, critical injuries sustained on the emergency scene, heart attacks, strokes and exposure to toxins. But the toll is significant, lost husbands, lost wives, lost parents, lost children and lost friends and colleagues.

    While law enforcement and fire/EMS have their own memorials, it’s important to remember that in the emergency services discipline, we are all dedicated to the same mission, the same goals and the same outcomes – the safety of those we are sworn to protect. While we pray for the welfare of all public safety practitioners, this weekend we focus our attentions, sympathies and gratitude toward firefighters who have paid the ultimate sacrifice and their families.

  • 06 Oct 2017 2:42 PM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Tom Scott, SC Cyber Executive Director

    This October marks the 14th year that National Cyber Security Awareness Month has been recognized and celebrated. We are fortunate to witness each year a coming together of cyber security professionals and a marked emphasis on spreading the cyber message. 

    The NCSAM campaign provides the chance to remind the public safety community that since we lead digital and Internet-connected lives, it is our shared responsibility to protect and safeguard our information and data. Indeed, it is believed that the cyber ecosystem will be a primary driver of the economy over the next 20-50 years since it maximizes our ability to grow commerce, communications and community in our connected world.

    This yearly emphasis is an opportunity to put out the latest messaging on how to protect yourself, your home and family and departments. NCSAM reminds us to conduct a periodic review of our systems and our personal habits. Be honest, when was the last time you changed all of your personal and professional passwords? It also reminds us to review current infrastructure as technology is constantly changing and new cyber threats are emerging.  

    Cyber risks are ever evolving and it is imperative to change and adapt the messaging to mitigate the changing risks. 

    Cyberattack recovery – who’s responsible?

    Government leaders are on the hot seat and being held accountable for cyberattacks and breaches. It used to be that cyberattacks and the organization’s response was the sole responsibility of the IT department. But, as it has become clear that the consequences of a cyberattack can threaten an enterprise’s very existence, leaders (e.g. chiefs, sheriffs, directors) are now being held more accountable. Leaders must be aware that a serious incident could result in several negative consequences for their enterprise, such as reputational damage or regulatory fines.

    Learning from cyber terminology

    What we’ve learned is that we must constantly adapt to the changing threats. We have seen various terms used for basically the same idea and concept—protect what is valuable. We protect what is valuable by securing it from loss or theft. In a physical world we use the term security and in an electronic world we use the term security as well.

    Specifically, we use terms like information security, data security and network security. In a federal and Department of Defense world, we see the term information assurance used interchangeably with those noted above.

    Another change and evolution occurred as the word cyber and cybersecurity have become the common lexicon and terms used in daily life. 

    Cyber resiliency

    The transformation has already occurred and it is entirely possible that cybersecurity is already a term of yesterday. The reality is, that with the constantly changing threats and the constant need to create a perfect combination of people, process and technology, we will never be secure any more than we can reduce risk to zero. 

    Instead, the evolution from cybersecurity to cyber resilience is already occurring in industry, academia and government. 

    It is no longer the goal to be secure. The new goal is to be able to recover from a cyberattack and to be cyber resilient. 

    Cybersecurity professionals will tell you it’s a matter of when you are breached not a matter of if.  If that is truly the case, then it will take the entire organization and dedicated employees to implement resilience strategies to ensure survival. For public safety, this is more and important to ensuring the continuity of providing services to the public.

    Everyone must do their part to raise cyber awareness, implement stronger security practices and educate their staff and communities to build a safer digital society that will be resistant to cyberattacks and more resilient when that cyberattack occurs.

    About the Author

    Thomas Scott is the Executive Director of SC Cyber. With over 25 years of State Government experience in both Florida and South Carolina, Tom has developed a wealth of knowledge and experience in protecting State critical infrastructure and cyber assets. He currently holds certifications in information security, information auditing, security leadership, and project management – he is also recognized a FEMA Continuity of Operations Planning (COOP) Practitioner.

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  • 06 Oct 2017 1:16 PM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Todd Drake, Founder of MangeURiD, an official IPSA Supporter

    The Internet can be a terrifying place, especially for those in public safety. For every funny animal picture or friendly post by family on social media, there seems to be a fresh cyberattack, data breach, vigilante or protestor aiming to utilize the Internet for their own illicit gains.

    Literally anyone such as an ill-intended individual, gang member, escapee, former arrestee or protestor, can follow the provided link to acquire a home address, phone number, email address and much more. These kinds of acts essentially put the individual involved and their family at immediate risk. Every aspect of our day is now interfaced, in one way or another, with both the benefits and the threats of internet- and with the way that technology continues to rapidly move forward, it is only going to become more and more entwined in every aspect of daily life. This is why it is imperative that we take all the action we can to minimize, or outright neutralize, all the threats to our new way of life. The first step? Minimize the ability for a stranger to find out where you live.

    The current trend we are seeing in targeting public safety professionals is mainly focused on confrontational interactions in high profile cases. It is often a situation where an individual is videotaping an incident and there is a specific interest in capturing the public safety individual as much as possible. You will often see that the individual recording the video will interact with public safety personnel to get a name. Once they have that name, they can quickly find your home address. 

    Public safety officials’ identities are out there

    Unfortunately, the reality is that this information is already out there and readily available for the taking. Some of the companies doing this vast collection of public record information and selling it are names you have probably never heard of before such as; Intelius, BeenVerified, and PeopleFinder. These people finder websites gather information from a wide arrange of sources and make that information available for purchase to anyone.

    While there are over 200 companies out there doing this kind of activity, you need to be mostly concerned with 20 to 30 of them. I say this because there are plenty of companies that collect this detailed information for the sole purpose of sending you a coupon in the mail or displaying a pop-up advertisement on your pc screen. You could argue that this is creepy, but the good news is that these companies do not sell this information to individuals.

    At the moment, cyber bullies and numerous online hate groups can spread their messages with unchecked impunity, as they are extremely unlikely to face any real-world consequences. For the sake of those who will be their future victims, this must change.

    The important take away from this article is that virtually anyone can find just about everything they might want to know about you on the internet for any purpose – targeting, stalking, bullying, revenge, embarrassment, identity theft and much more.

    No end in sight

    Activities such as online targeting or Doxxing are not going away. If anything, the problem is getting worse. From solo criminals to organized gangs, the data vigilantes are everywhere, operating throughout the world. The best way to deal with this growing problem is to protect yourself by removing your information online either manually or through a service like ManageURiD, a data privacy company.

    If online cyber security experts are taking steps to protect their private data, why are we not taking the most obvious step to protect this same information? If we removed personal information from the internet, we would see increased security for ourselves and our families, while simultaneously striking a major blow against all of the darker, more malicious actors of the internet.

    Protecting your private data online is the best move we can make for you and your family.

    About the Author

    Todd Drake is the founder of ManageURiD, a personal privacy protection company with decades of information security and proper management of sensitive consumer data experience. He has more than 25 years’ experience building and running technology companies in the advanced analytics and data mining software industry and extensive data privacy experience. In the past, Todd provided the government investigative solutions that enabled agencies to locate people, detect fraud, uncover Confidential Report assets, verify identity, perform due diligence and visualize complex relationships – solutions that were used by more than 3,000 agencies to help enforce laws and regulations, fight fraud, waste and abuse and provide essential citizen services.

    Todd also worked in senior capacities with organizations and major federal agencies with data intensive mandates in areas such as intelligence, security, finance, health care, homeland security, crime and fraud prevention. And he served as a senior systems consultant for the Department of Defense and the U.S. Navy, with deployments to the Persian Gulf in support of intelligence analysis operations.

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  • 06 Oct 2017 11:31 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Allison G. S. Knox, IPSA TEMS Committee Member

    There are numerous social science theories surrounding the notion that society affects policy and policy affects society. An important theory that highlights some of the key factors of policy development is that of Multiple Streams Framework. John Kingdon's arguments in his book, Agendas, Alternatives and Public Policies highlight some of the ways policies emerge in the American government system in response to the needs of society. Kingdon's ideas also potentially explain how public safety agencies may have an opportunity to further promote the development of more Tactical Emergency Medical Support departments throughout the United States.

    Society, policy and active shooter

    Numerous political scientists argue that society impacts policy and policy subsequently impacts society. We have seen this in recent times, particularly as different social issues become major problems requiring some sort of intervention on behalf of the government. Recently, one of these issues has become a global concern: handling active shooter events and preventing them from ever taking place.

    These tragic events are creating all sorts of policy problems that politicians are desperate to fix. The situation is dire, and public safety agencies are also working tremendously hard to create realistic protocols and procedures to prevent as much loss of life as possible.

    Opportunity for change

    Kingdon argued that three streams would come together creating a window of opportunity for a new policy to emerge: politics, problems and policies. These streams are essentially major issues in society that emerge creating a window of opportunity to change policy for the better. Active shooter events have put tremendous pressure on local governments to develop new concepts for handling these special circumstance emergencies.

    This crisis has created a window of opportunity, as Kingdon would suggest, for new policies to emerge in response to the active shooter events in our society.  

    Protecting the loss of life becomes particularly important as active shooter events continue to evolve. It becomes more important, too, for local jurisdictions to work to save lives and to rethink how they handle such situations. This is one of the reasons why TEMS may have a window of opportunity, as Kingdon may have argued, because there needs to be new measures to handle active shooter events.

    A paradigm shift

    One of the most important things that emergency medical support can do is understand the important pieces of how the paradigm is changing. Of course, local jurisdictions are going to want to change how they handle active shooter events - particularly if they know they can increase the likelihood of survival for victims of the incident.

    The window of opportunity may have arrived for such support as it is now up to department heads to push through the various policies they’ll need to create their own TEMS units.

    Policies are created out of society’s wants and needs. Lawmakers will understand the wants and needs for a society based on a variety of different factors. Conversely, it can be difficult for some agencies to gain the traction for creating extra departments that local government officials may not see a need for. Budgetary constraints only complicate these matters making it harder to justify the creation of specialty agencies. 

    Active shooter events, however, have created a window of opportunity for local governments to rethink how they may handle such special circumstance emergencies. As a result, there may be an opportunity for TEMS agencies to be created.

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  • 06 Oct 2017 6:45 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Stop.Think.Connect.TM Campaign

    Every day, police officers, firefighters, paramedics, transit operators, utility workers, and other public safety workers rely on computer systems to do their jobs, but these essential systems are increasingly vulnerable to attacks from cyber criminals.

    According to the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center, the ransomware strain WannaCry affected “tens of thousands of computers in dozens of countries” in May. This included technologies within hospitals, banks, railways, colleges, and telecommunications companies. The massive scale and severity of this attack demonstrated the devastating impact ransomware can have on businesses and organizations of every type, including public institutions.

    What is ransomware?

    Ransomware is a malicious software (malware) that infects a computer system and blocks access to it until a ransom is paid. Ransomware typically spreads through phishing emails or infected websites.

    Once a computer system is infected, it will display a message saying that the computer has been locked and its files encrypted. To unlock the computer, the attacker will demand a ransom, which usually keeps increasing until it is paid.

    How ransomware threatens public institutions

    Public institutions – including fire stations, emergency medical service providers, police stations, and hospitals – are prime targets for ransomware attacks because they hold valuable data, such as medical records, social security numbers, home addresses, and bank account numbers. Cyber criminals are highly motivated to attack these types of sensitive data because they can extort higher ransoms for them.

    Ransomware can be especially damaging to police stations, hospitals, and fire stations because they cannot continue operating without irreplaceable data and systems, such as medical information, dispatch centers, and investigative documents. Cyber criminals are also fully aware that these institutions and their systems often lack adequate cybersecurity to defend against ransomware attacks. 

    To keep computer systems and critical information safe, public safety leaders must know how to protect their organizations from ransomware. Here are five proactive steps for defending against and responding to ransomware attacks.

    5 steps for defending against ransomware

    1. Back up your data. Make sure all your essential data is backed up offline and that your backups are regularly tested and updated. Ransomware operates on the idea that you have just one copy of highly valuable information. If you have secure, offline copies, then the copy the hackers stole has less value. With up-to-date backups, your institution can quickly recover from an attack and resume operations.
    2. Have a contingency plan. Discuss what a ransomware infection would cost your institution and consider your response before an infection occurs. Keep in mind – even if you pay the ransom, you are not guaranteed to get your data back. Paying the ransom could also fund further criminal activity and encourage cyber criminals to continue generating ransomware attacks.
    3. Train your employees. Every person with access to your computer system has the potential to encounter ransomware, which is why training is so important. Make sure every user of your computer system understands the danger of ransomware attacks and knows to be cautious of this threat. Simple concepts – like flagging suspicious emails and not clicking on links from unfamiliar sources – are crucial for preventing ransomware infections. 
    4. Keep patches updated. A patch is a piece of software created to fix or update a computer system. Cyber criminals usually target out-of-date applications and operating systems in ransomware attacks, so it’s crucial to update your software and operating systems with the latest patches. Patching your computer system reduces the number of entry points an attacker can exploit.
    5. Test your system. Penetration testing of your system can help you identify vulnerabilities in your network protection and test the effectiveness of your response and recovery plan. It can also help you develop protocols for multiple ransomware scenarios and increase employee awareness of potential cyber threats.

    If your institution falls victim to a ransomware attack, be sure to disconnect the impacted devices from your network to prevent the infection from spreading. You should then report the attack to an FBI field office as well as the Internet Crime Complaint Center. You can find out more about current ransomware threats by visiting the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team’s website

    About the Author

    The Stop.Think.Connect.TM Campaign is a national public awareness effort aimed at helping the American public stay safe online. The campaign offers resources and tools to help Americans strengthen their cybersecurity practices and understand cyber threats. Learn more at

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  • 03 Oct 2017 5:48 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Shirl Tyner, Lexipol, an Official IPSA Supporter

     It’s 1702 on a Friday afternoon. Suddenly, the call of officer down blares across my police radio. I am several miles away from the incident, having dinner with some officers. We drop everything and run out the door.

    As a non-sworn employee, I know it’s not my place to respond immediately, but I also know I’ll be needed. I don’t want the scene jeopardized in any way. So my trainee and I drive as fast as we can to get there. Traffic is a nightmare. At one point, we drive on the sidewalk; it’s the only way to get through, and nothing is more important than getting there. I know the officer; he’s on my team. He’s a friend.

    Despite my lack of lights and siren, I arrive just after the officers from my group. The suspect is gone; he’s taken the officer’s gun and car. A manhunt is underway. The scene is secure and the officer has been transported. We lock down the crime scene and wait, knowing we will be spending the next 8 to 10 hours there. At first, I think the worst part is not knowing whether the officer has survived. But then word spreads that he has died, and I discover the worst part has just begun. For the next several hours we work the most difficult scene I have ever faced. The emotions are overwhelming. Many times, we have to stop to find a private place to cry before continuing.

    Well after midnight, we return to the station, exhausted mentally, physically and emotionally. We had been told peer support and the counseling team would be available for anyone who needed someone to talk to. But when we inquire, we’re told they have all gone home.

    How could we have been forgotten? Everyone was exhausted no doubt, but how could they forget those of us who just spent several hours at such a difficult crime scene? I wanted them to care about what I had just been through. I wanted someone to listen to what I was feeling about the things I’d seen, smelled and heard. I had touched his blood, seen the evidence of a struggle—I had visions I knew I would never forget. But instead, I had to go home, alone, with it all built up inside me.

    I’m sure my department did not intentionally forget about us. Perhaps it was the “out of sight, out of mind” perspective, or maybe everyone was so exhausted they just weren’t thinking clearly. I knew they cared about us, but I felt lost and very unattached. Unfortunately, my experience is repeated all too often in departments across the country. Even as law enforcement continues to improve critical incident stress management for sworn officers, we are in danger of letting all our other employees fall through the cracks.

    Trauma affects everyone

    It's easy to understand why peer support responds after an officer-involved shooting, a serious firefighter injury or a fatal collision.

    • But what about the effects on members who were not on scene but knew the personnel involved?
    • What about those unsung heroes who wait on the sidelines doing whatever they can to help, but feel helpless just the same?
    • What of the dispatcher who is trying desperately to get assistance to an officer struggling with an assailant?
    • Or the evidence technician who is processing the scene in which an officer she knows was critically injured or killed?
    • What of the clerk or custodian who was a close friend of the firefighter killed in a fire?
    • Or the records clerk who must process reports and photos of a child abuse victim or department employee?
    • Or the volunteers pressed into service to direct traffic at a grizzly crime scene involving an officer they know?

    These and many other incidents occur all too frequently. And just as frequently, many non-sworn personnel are left out of the peer support process as well as the incident debriefing.

    Sometimes, we create divisions between sworn and non-sworn that seem to make sense, but can have unintended painful repercussions. A few years after the incident that began this article, an officer at a neighboring city committed suicide. As a supervisor, I encouraged my team to attend the funeral if they wanted to, and I went with them. I had been through a police funeral and I knew all too well the feelings of loss and heartache at losing a fellow officer.

    In the church, I noticed the non-sworn members from the agency were not sitting with the sworn officers in the front row. When I asked one of them why, she told me they were not allowed to walk in with the other officers and sit with them because they were not sworn.

    My heart sank. The employee went on to tell me their department did not treat the non-sworn the same way; they were routinely left out. She expressed the feeling of being forgotten or not as important. The officer who had committed suicide was a friend of hers. She was devastated he had taken his own life and that even as a close friend she had been unaware he was so sad. The feelings of guilt and shame overwhelmed her—and here she was in the back of the room, feeling as though she didn’t matter.

    Although I had only met her a few moments earlier, I felt connected because I knew these emotions all too well. I told her how my department had grown so much in how they treated their non-sworn and I encouraged her to speak to someone to let them know how she felt. These situations are usually the product of leadership being oblivious, rather than intending to hurt someone. Until someone speaks up, things will never change.

    There is definitely a brotherhood among officers, firefighters, paramedics and the like. But those in a support role are part of that brotherhood because every day they are there beside them. Just because their role is different does not mean traumatic events don’t impact them in the same way. Non-sworn employees aren’t looking for recognition or special treatment; they just want to belong because they are part of the team.

    A call to action

    What can your agency do to ensure all affected personnel are taken care of following a tragic event? Here are a few practical suggestions:

    • Ensure your critical incident checklists include identifying non-sworn employees involved in the incident. Critical incidents are chaotic and complex; it’s easy to overlook those who are not first responders or who were not directly involved. Providing incident commanders with a simple checklist to jog their memory can go a long way to ensuring non-sworn employees have access to the same post-incident resources as sworn employees.
    • Include a non-sworn employee on your peer support team. Diversity of perspective is important in peer support. Incorporating a civilian employee on the team will help you better address the mental health needs of both sworn and non-sworn members.
    • Ensure non-sworn employees know how to contact peer support and mental health resources. Reach out to employees who can’t attend debriefings or support sessions to let them know how to access hotlines and other resources. Better yet, consider all employees when planning such sessions, and hold multiple sessions until everyone is reached.
    • Follow up with chaplains and peer support team members. Helping your colleagues deal with mental and emotional stress takes a tremendous toll. Who cares for the caregivers?

    We are becoming much better at taking care of our civilian employees and volunteers, but we still have a long way to go. We need to look out for one another. Critical incidents affect us all. If we value our co-workers and we are serious about the investment we have made in their lives, we need to be serious about providing them care following trauma. Let us commit to leave no one behind.

    The Lexipol Law Enforcement Policy Manual and Daily Training Bulletin Service provides essential policies that support all officers and members of the department. Departments can use it to add policies and procedures specific to their agency. Contact us today to find out more.

    About the Author

    Shirl Tyner is a Management Services Representative for Lexipol and has 25 years of law enforcement experience as a civilian (non-sworn) employee, serving with the Oceanside (CA) Police Department and the Tustin (CA) Police Department. Her tenure included positions as front desk officer, field officer, report writer, field evidence technician, crime scene investigator and fraud investigator. In many of these areas she held supervisory positions, and she served as a field training officer for 20 years. Shirl has experience as a Trauma Intervention Volunteer and has been heavily involved in peer support, with a special focus on PTSD. A graduate of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Deputy Leadership Institute, she has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Graduate Certificate in Forensics and Crime Scene Investigations and is currently working on a master’s degree in Forensic Science. Shirl teaches Criminal Justice and Forensic courses at both the high school and college levels.

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  • 02 Oct 2017 3:08 PM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Tom Joyce, Vigilant Solutions, an official IPSA Supporter

    I can’t believe it has been more than a decade since September 11, 2001. I was a first responder that day, and I wanted to share some stories about the ancillary events of 9/11 and the detectives of the NYPD 79th Detective Squad.

    Crime doesn’t stop

    Like many members of the NYPD, the detectives of the NYPD 79th Pct. Detective Squad, where I was the “Whip,” responded to the events at the World Trade Center. We were critical in helping people evacuate Manhattan, getting them to modes of travel such as buses and trains (subway and commuter) in Brooklyn. During the terror attacks at the WTC and the massive evacuation, the detectives were also tasked with three unrelated homicides that same day. One case occurred the night of 9/11, when Henryk Siwiak was shot and killed while walking to work. The second case was a double murder that occurred a month earlier when a mother and her infant baby boy were stabbed to death by her husband and left behind in their apartment.

    Additional homicides in NYC on 9/11

    Henryk Siwiak, a Polish immigrant was heading to his first day at a new job when he found himself at the wrong subway station. Unfortunately, Henryk became the victim of a robbery shooting in which he sustained fatal injuries. He spoke no English and was most likely disoriented, as he was approximately two miles away from the Pathmark supermarket where he was due to work. Sadly, Henryk’s case didn’t get the normal crime scene response to gather information, collect evidence and memorialize the scene due to strained resources from the events that had occurred earlier in the day. Still to this day, Henryk’s case remains unsolved. However, because of the dogged determination of my former esteemed colleague Detective Mike Prate, the case was never forgotten; just like the victims at the WTC.

    In addition to Henryk’s case, the squad was also tasked with investigating a double murder, which occurred in early August within the confines of the 79th Precinct. The offender was in the hospital after receiving severe injuries from being hit by a car. Due to to the skillful interview techniques of the assigned detective Chris Scandole, he was apprehended. In the middle of our response to the WTC attacks and the evacuation of NYC, I am proud to say the squad investigated this incident thoroughly; processed the arrest that night and the offender was ultimately convicted and sent to prison.

    First responders’ jobs never stop

    So, while NYC and the country had come to a complete stop and the world was processing the horrific events of 9/11, Bed-Stuy Brooklyn was still business as usual. From being tasked to evacuate the city to canvassing and solving homicide cases, the events of 9/11 helped every member of the NYPD who ever worked that job know they are the finest. And I am proud to say that in the midst of the chaos of 9/11, I also saw “the Greatest Detectives in the World” do what they do best – get it done.

    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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  • 11 Sep 2017 12:02 PM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Columbia Southern University, an Official IPSA Supporter

    Human trafficking is perhaps one of the most insidious crimes that targets thousands of men, women and children—young and old, rich and poor—in the U.S. and abroad. Some may think this crime only exists outside their communities, but the reality is that the U.S. deals with trafficking just as much as other nations.

    Statistical reality

    Human trafficking, as defined by federal law, includes sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Human trafficking of either type does not require movement, either within the U.S. or across a border. And its prevalence can be seen in these statistics:

    • In 2016, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children estimated that 1 in 6 endangered runaways reported to them were likely sex trafficking victims.
    • According to the Office of Justice Programs under the U.S. Department of Justice, 82 percent of reported human trafficking incidents in the United States between January 2008 and June 2010 involved allegations of sex trafficking: labor trafficking accounted for 11 percent of incidents; and other or unknown forms of human trafficking made up the remaining 7 percent.
    • In 2016, human trafficking in the United States rose 35.7 percent from the previous year, according to data from the National Human Trafficking Hotline, which fielded 26,727 calls in 2016. California was the No.1 state with 1,323 cases followed by Texas with 670 and Florida with 550. All three states reported an increase in trafficking crimes.

    While these statistics are grim, there is hope as more private and public agencies, companies and government law enforcement offices work to combat the exploitation and slavery of individuals in the U.S.

    Accepting the unfortunate reality to build awareness

    One of the key weapons used to fight human trafficking is awareness. The U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons offers many tips on what citizens can do including 15 ways to fight trafficking. They also denote the indicators you should look for in someone who may be a victim of human trafficking:

    • Answers appear to be scripted and rehearsed
    • Employer is holding identity documents
    • Inability to speak to individual alone
    • Living with employer
    • Multiple people in cramped space
    • Poor living conditions
    • Signs of physical abuse
    • Submissive or fearful
    • Under 18 and in prostitution
    • Unpaid or paid very little

    Educational opportunities

    For those in law enforcement, social services or a related field, there are courses to help you gain more insight and awareness on human trafficking. These classes can be vital to clearing up misconceptions and lack of understanding, as well as teach students how to recognize and mitigate human trafficking.  Such training initiatives can help improve law enforcements’ ability to detect and respond to such activity.

    Columbia Southern University, through a partnership with the Human Trafficking Investigations and Training Institute, offers education for law enforcement professionals to help them combat human trafficking with continuing education. The courses educate students on recognizing human trafficking issues, freeing victims and bringing traffickers to justice.

    Overseeing the program is CSU professor Barry Goodson, a military veteran and former member of the CAC Investigation Task Force, which handles human trafficking cases. The three courses within the program will address human trafficking awareness, the U.S. response to trafficking and a class on law enforcement investigations of human trafficking crimes.

    To learn more, visit, email or call 800-313-1992.

    About Columbia Southern University

    One of the nation’s pioneer online universities, Columbia Southern University 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 or call (877) 347-6050 to learn more.

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