PHONE SCAMMERS PRETENDING TO BE FBI AGENTS TO GRAB CASH

Phone scammers pretending to be FBI agents to grab cash

By: Robert Foreman

Phone scams are nothing new and the criminals that perpetrate them are always looking for new ways to get money from unsuspecting people. However, the latest scam has definitely caught the attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigations since it involves them. Scammers are spoofing the phone numbers from multiple FBI Field Offices in an effort to extort money from unsuspecting people. The scam is simple. The caller pretends that they are with the FBI and attempts to intimidate the person into making an overdue payment to the government. In some instances, the scammer will try to convince the person that there is a federal warrant for their arrest, which will magically disappear if they pay the scammer some money.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I had no idea that this scam was going on until I recently got a voicemail from this scammer. The beginning of the message was in the middle of a sentence that mentioned ‘a judge, grand jury or magistrate for a federal criminal offense’ and then stated that ‘this is the final attempt to reach you’ and then provided a callback number so that I could ‘resolve this situation immediately’.  Naturally, I didn’t call back because my B.S. meter told me that something was shady. I immediately started to do a Google search for FBI phone scams and discovered that this has been happening for months,

Part of the reason why I didn’t bother to return the call was because I knew that I hadn’t committed a crime. Plus, I also knew that the FBI isn’t going to leave a friendly voicemail to resolve the matter if they believe that you committed a crime. They will just show up in full gear. However, there are a lot of people who won’t immediately come to the conclusion that I did and will become easy prey for the scammers. That is why it is important that people remain vigilant when it comes to both phone and Internet schemes. The criminals are counting on law-abiding citizens being afraid that they may have inadvertently done something wrong and they will use that vulnerability to their advantage.

According to the FBI’s website, the caller will often know the name, background and personal number of the intended victim. The victims may be told that their social security number has been compromised and linked to money laundering. They will also be told that their social security number has been used to open bank accounts and that the government would seize those accounts. The unsuspecting victims will then be told that they should transfer their money to protected bank accounts that have been set up by the government and that the funds will be returned when the situation is resolved. Failure to transfer the money could lead to a loss of those funds and possible arrest. The target of the scam is then informed that they should meet with a Social Security Administration Agent to receive a new SSN to open up a new bank account.

To avoid becoming a victim to the scammers, everyone should remember that the FBI does not randomly call private citizens to threaten arrest or ask for money. The FBI warns the public to be mindful of the personal information that they share online, including on social media sites. Criminals have multiple ways to obtain a victim’s name, phone numbers and other personal information, so people should be vigilant about how they dispense that information and to whom. That is why the FBI warns people to be suspicious of unsolicited phone calls and to never give money or personal information to people that you do not have personal ties to. Additionally, you should always be wary of those unknown callers who initiate contact with you and begin asking for money.

Additionally, the FBI warns people that before signing up for contests or email distribution lists that they should check to see that the business has a policy against sharing or selling your information to a third party. At the end of the day, scammers will count on people’s lack of knowledge, or trusting nature, in an attempt to take advantage of them. Never be afraid to hang up on an unknown caller, or avoid a voicemail from an unknown caller, if your instincts tell you that something doesn’t add up. I was born and raised in Paterson, New Jersey, so being on the lookout for shady people and scams is pretty much embedded in my DNA at this point.

The FBI advises anyone who is contacted by someone claiming to be with the FBI to verify the information with one of their local FBI Field Office. Information for the 56 FBI Field Offices can be found at www.fbi.gov. However, people should remember that when a unsolicited call does not feel right then trust your gut and either ignore it or take the necessary steps to verify whether it is legitimate or a scam. That is the best way to keep the scammers from being successful with their criminal activities.

ANOTHER OFFICER SUICIDE ROCKS CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT

Another officer suicide rocks Chicago Police Department
By Robert Foreman

Suicides among law enforcement personnel continue to be a growing problem in departments around the country. Some cities have seen more officers take their own lives than others. In Chicago, Officer Paul O. Escamilla, 40, recently took his own life with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Escamilla, who was off-duty, was found dead in a forest preserve. Escamilla’s death is the fourth officer suicide in the city in 2019 and the eighth since 2018. He was a 17-year-veteran of the force.

“No one should feel they are alone, or think they have nowhere to turn, especially our first responders. From the moment they put on their uniform, they answer a call that at any second may put their lives in danger or inflict trauma. That is why we, as a city, have an obligation to constantly strengthen the support network they have, and strive to end any negative perception of reaching out for help. Chicago’s first responders deserve nothing less,” said Mayor Lori Lightfoot in a statement

The issue of ‘Blue Suicide’ continues to become an epidemic despite numerous attempts to provide more resources for counseling and treatment. However, those who work in law enforcement tend to find it hard to ask for help. Often times, they do not want to seem weak for admitting that they are struggling with depression, trauma, addiction or other issues. Yet, what many do not understand is that sharing your pain is not weakness. It actually shows a great deal of strength to acknowledge that you cannot carry the weight of the world on your shoulders and that you need help.

Multiple departments and organizations continue to work tirelessly to educate law enforcement personnel on how to reach out for help as well as how to prevent officer suicides. The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the largest professional organization for police leaders in the world, is also tackling the issue of suicide prevention. According to their website, the IACP will be leading the national conversation around the issues of suicide and mental health issues impacting law enforcement personnel. They will be doing this through the National Consortium of Preventing Law Enforcement Suicide, which will spearhead the development of more suicide awareness and prevention tools. This will entail making policy updates, recommendations and other points of interest for the mental health of officers.

Of course, all of the resources in the world will not prevent a suicide if the person does not wish to ask for help. That is why it is so important that people be aware of the signs of someone who may be contemplating suicide. This can often be seen as a sudden change in their behavior or job performance, which may come on the heels of a traumatic loss or experience. While there is no one cause of suicide, depression is often the most common reason. That is why it is so important that people who are dealing with clinical depression get the help that they need.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention breaks down the warning signs of suicide into three categories; talk, behavior and mood. A person contemplating suicide will talk about killing themselves due to feeling hopeless or trapped and believing that they are a burden to others. Increased alcohol or drug use, researching ways to end their lives, suddenly giving away possessions and isolating themselves are some key behavioral changes that indicate a risk of suicide. As mentioned earlier, depression is often the most common reason behind suicide, but other changes in mood can be key indicators as well. This includes anxiety, loss of interest and shifting from agitation and anger to relief and improvement.

However, just knowing the potential warning signals will not help if you do not take action. Sometimes, it may be hard to accept that a friend, family member or colleague may be contemplating suicide even if you recognize the potential red flags. Often times, we may feel that we are intruding on that person and may not want to ask what may be some uncomfortable questions. Or we may just believe that whatever they are going through is temporary and none of our business. Yet, that kind of thinking does nothing to help the person in question. They may be waiting for someone to care enough to reach out and see how they are doing.  By choosing not to offer support we may find ourselves dealing with that person’s private pain in a very real way if they take their own life.

On a daily basis, officers find themselves dealing with high-stress situations in which their lives can end at a moment’s notice. While many officers are able to successfully navigate those stresses there are some who find themselves struggling to cope. That does not make them weak or inferior, and they should not be treated as if they are. So, if you see anyone exhibiting the warning signals that may indicate that they are trouble don’t be afraid to step in and try to help. Now, that doesn’t mean you should attempt to become their therapist. Sometimes, just listening to their concerns without judgement, or directing them to a professional resource, can make all of the difference in the world.

If you are currently in crisis, or you know someone who is, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. For those who are more comfortable using text you can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting START to 741741. Remember, there is no shame in asking for help when you need it. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help for either yourself or for a fellow brother and sister in blue. You can help save a life, be it your own or someone else’s.

N.Y GIANTS FINALLY PULL THE PLUG ON 'THE ELI MANNING ERA'

 N.Y. Giants finally pull the plug on ‘The Eli Manning Era’
By: Robert Foreman

After another 0-2 start, the New York Giants finally decided to bench veteran quarterback Eli Manning. Following an ugly loss to the Buffalo Bills, head coach Pat Shurmur assured the media, and New York Giants’ fans, that Manning, 38, was still going to remain the starting quarterback. However, less than 24 hours later, Shurmur backpedaled and made it clear that the starting job was up in the air. The following day, the Giants made it official that Manning was being benched in favor of rookie quarterback Daniel Jones. One can only assume that Shurmur’s head-turning position on the starting quarterback job was influenced by team owner John Mara and general manager Dave Gettleman.

However, few people should be surprised that the Giants finally made a quarterback change. The handwriting was on the wall from the moment the team selected Jones with the No. 6 overall pick in this year’s draft. Additionally, Manning was entering the final year of his contract and the Giants made no move to offer him another extension. While Mara made it clear over the summer that he hoped that Jones would never see the field this year, it was obvious that Manning was likely going to be on a short leash in 2019. That leash turned out to be shorter than anyone suspected with the team benching the veteran quarterback after only two games.

Simply put, the Giants, one of the NFL’s most storied franchises, have been a hot mess in recent years. Since 2013, the team has only had a winning record once and that was in 2016 when they went 11-5. They’ve only made the playoffs once during that same time period and that was in 2016, as well. The numerous losing seasons have seen the Giants force out head coach Tom Coughlin, who helped them win two Super Bowls, fire head coach Ben McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese, and rotate out other coaching staff and players.

However, the one person that seemed virtually immune to the changes was Manning. In 2017, the Giants benched Manning for one game in favor of former Jets’ quarterback Geno Smith and to say that it was a disaster would be an understatement. Not only did the benching end Manning’s 13-year consecutive start streak at 210, but benching him in favor of Smith was seen as a smack in the face to the 2-time Super Bowl MVP. The public backlash was so severe that it forced the team to reinstate Manning and fire McAdoo and Reese before the end of the 2017 season.

Now, while Manning is by no means the only reason for the Giants’ issues, he has been a part of the problem. The Giants had been holding coaches, front office personnel and other players accountable for the team’s woes in recent years, but not Manning. While the Giants had often failed to surround Manning with good personnel, especially on the offensive line, the veteran quarterback’s play had been showing signs of some decline. Yet, the Giants continued to try and build their offense around him despite limited returns. Perhaps, they hoped that Manning had one more magical Super Bowl run left in him. Or maybe they just didn’t want to acknowledge that Manning’s best days were behind him out of loyalty. Whatever the reasons were they obviously don’t apply anymore.

Now, all eyes will turn to Jones to potentially add a spark to a listless Giants’ team.  From the moment he was drafted, it seemed as if the Giants were hoping to groom the rookie into Eli’s eventual successor. Perhaps, knowing that Jones was being drafted to eventually replace Manning is what inspired many fans to boo him. However, Jones managed to silence many of his critics with his impressive play during the preseason. Ideally, the best scenario for Jones, 22, would have been to sit on the sidelines his first year and learn behind Manning. Fate clearly had other ideas and now he finds himself set to make his debut as the Giants’ new starting quarterback in a road game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Personally, I believe the Giants made the right move by benching Manning. After yet another 0-2 start, which has become par for the course for the Giants, it was time to make a change. Now, the Giants could have avoided the fiasco of having to bench Manning after only two games if they had chosen to have an open QB competition during the preseason and let the best player win the job. Yet, the Giants opted to go into the season with Manning as the anointed starter and that move has now blown up in their faces. But what’s done is done, and now ‘The Daniel Jones Era’ officially begins.

But as a new era dawns, we can’t forget to acknowledge the era that is ending with Manning. The son of former quarterback Archie Manning, and the brother of future Hall of Famer, Peyton, Manning helped the Giants make an improbable Super Bowl run in 2007 that ended the New England Patriots’ quest for a perfect season. Four years later, Manning and the Giants returned to the Super Bowl and thwarted the Patriots again. Yet, those two title runs have become a distant memory in recent years as the Giants have continued to flounder.

Now, it remains a mystery whether we will ever see Manning on the field playing quarterback for the Giants again. However, if his time in New York is truly over there should be no doubt that he has more than earned his place in Giants’ history and lore. Regardless of whether he was winning championships, enduring losing seasons or being benched, Manning has always carried himself with class and grace. So, whatever the future holds for him, Manning will always be a Giant in every way that matters.

9/11: THE DAY THAT MADE AMERICA BEND, BUT NOT BREAK

9/11: The day that made America bend, but not break
By: Robert Foreman

On September 11, 2001, the world as we all knew it changed forever when terrorists launched the single worst terrorist attack in human history on American soil. The shock waves from the 9/11 attacks continue to reverberate 18 years later. How could they not?  Nearly 3,000 people were killed and over 6,000 were injured that day. First responders were among the hardest hit with 343 firefighters and 72 law enforcement officers being killed, which made it the single deadliest incident for both professions.

Sadly, many of the firefighters and law enforcement personnel who survived the attacks have either lost their lives to 9/11-related health issues or they are continuing to fight the physical and psychological issues stemming from that day. This is what made it all the more frustrating watching these brave men and women fight Congress to receive the financial help they needed to battle their health issues. However, Congress finally got around to doing the right thing by first responders when they recently voted to fund the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund through 2092.

For those of us who were old enough to be fully-aware of what was happening on September 11th it is seared into our minds forever. I distinctly remember going outside and seeing the shell-shocked looks on people’s faces that clearly reflected my own shock. How could this be happening in America? We ultimately learned that it was 19 al-Qaeda terrorists who had pulled off the four coordinated attacks by using our own passenger planes against us. However, the entire experience just seemed incomprehensible. These were the kinds of attacks that happened in other parts of the world, but not here. Yet, it was happening here and we were watching it unfold on live television.

The four airplanes that were used by the hijackers belonged to both United Airlines and American Airlines. American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 were deliberately flown into the Twin Towers in New York while American Airlines Flight 77 was flown directly into the Pentagon in Virginia. The remaining plane, United Airlines Flight 93, was hijacked and being flown toward Washington. It is suspected that the hijackers intended to fly the plane into the White House. However, the plane crash landed in Pennsylvania after some of the passengers fought back against the terrorists. Who knows how many more lives could have been lost that day if not for the actions of those brave souls.

While watching passenger planes being flown into the Twin Towers was horrific enough for Americans to see, little did any of us know that we would watch our fellow citizens choosing to jump to their deaths to escape the burning buildings. The horror only intensified as we watched the two 110-story towers collapse one after the other, which impacted the other buildings in the World Trade Center complex. Watching people on the streets, civilians and first responders alike, attempting to outrun collapsing buildings, as debris rained down upon them and a massive cloud of toxic dust followed, was bone-chilling.

Yet this all played out while the Pentagon, the symbol of America’s military strength, was partially in flames from the plane that crashed into it. The entire day seemed like a nightmare that would not end and that was just for those of us who were at a safe distance. Imagine what thoughts were going through the minds of those people on the airplanes as they flew toward their intended targets. Or what were the last moments like for those civilians and first responders who were trapped inside the burning Twin Towers as the buildings began collapsing on top of them? None of us can ever truly know. But the reality is that no one deserves to die the way the victims of 9/11 did.

It is hard to imagine that all of the death and misery that occurred on 9/11 was orchestrated by one man: al-Queda leader Osama bin Laden. Following 9/11, the U.S. began the ‘War on Terror’ and invaded Afghanistan due to the Taliban providing safe haven for al-Queda and bin Laden to plan the attacks. However, bin Laden managed to elude capture for nearly a decade. Yet, his reign of terror ended when the U.S. located him in Pakistan and he was killed by Seal Team Six in 2011. I remember the night that the news broke that he had been killed. It seemed as if the entire country had a moment to exhale and celebrate the fact the boogeyman was dead and rotting in Hell.

Yet, bin Laden’s death could not undo the damage that he had wrought. Those who had lost their lives on 9/11 were not going to return from the dead. The people suffering from medical conditions as a result of 9/11 were not going to suddenly be healed by his death. But what his death did give many people was some sense of closure. At least we knew that he would never be able to take another innocent life. I remember when bin Laden died some people that I knew were trying to say that celebrating his death was in poor taste. My response was, and still is, a mass murderer got the inglorious death that he deserved and I’m perfectly fine with that.

Ultimately, the terrorists hoped that the 9/11 attacks would weaken the U.S. and have us trembling in fear. True, in the days following the attacks it felt, at times, that as a country our backs were against the ropes. But it didn’t remain that way for long. What the terrorists failed to realize is that regardless of our race, creed, religion or political ideologies, Americans are tough and resilient. We mourned our dead, picked ourselves back up and we fought back. We also went about rebuilding after the physical and emotional devastation that 9/11 caused. So, as we mark another anniversary of the day that made America bend we should remember that we did not break. As Americans we can, and do, rise to face any challenge thrown our way and we don’t back down. Ever. Never Forget!

HURRICANE DORIAN LEAVES BEHIND DEATH AND DESTRUCTION

Hurricane Dorian leaves behind death and destruction
By: Robert Foreman

Hurricane Dorian proved to be a slow-moving and unpredictable storm yet still left death and destruction in its wake. The southern states that were in the path of the storm, such as Florida, the Carolinas, Georgia and Virginia all declared states of emergency prior to landfall. This included mandatory evacuations in numerous communities that were along the coast. Many people watched with both fear and awe as the storm gradually morphed from a Category 1 hurricane into the much-feared Category 5. Unfortunately for the Bahamas, the storm made landfall there as a Category 5 hurricane with wind speeds reaching 185 mph along with massive rainfall and heavy storm surges.

To compound matters, the storm stalled over the Bahamas and battered the islands for a day. This only magnified the destruction, which some estimate will carry a price tag of $7 billion. At present, there are over 40 recorded deaths, but that number is expected to rise dramatically as the search and rescue efforts continue. Over 70,000 people have been left homeless on the islands and they are now going about the grim task of searching for missing loved ones and assessing how they are going to rebuild their lives.

After bashing the Bahamas, Hurricane Dorian made landfall on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. While no longer a Category 5 storm, it still brought 150 mph winds, heavy rains, flooding and power outages to the Carolinas, Virginia and Georgia. Additionally, the storm created multiple tornadoes in some areas that only increased the swath of destruction and misery. Living in North Carolina, I did what many did and prepared for the worst. Even though I live inland, there was heavy rain, high winds and nearby areas that were hit with tornadoes. Thankfully, everyone I care about weathered the storm with no real issues. However, there are plenty of people who were not as lucky and it will take them months, if not years, to return to a sense of normalcy.

One such person is Adrian Farrington of the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas. During the storm, he placed his 5-year-old son on the roof of their home for safety. Unfortunately, the boy was swept away into shark-infested waters despite his father’s best efforts to save him. Sadly, Farrington, like many other victims of the storm in the Bahamas, may never recover the bodies of their loved ones due to the storm surge that likely washed them out to sea.

While the storm brought many indelible images, one that quickly made the rounds on social media was that of a red SUV that had been abandoned on the beach in South Carolina. It turned out that the owner did not realize his vehicle had been abandoned by the family member that he had loaned it to until he was contacted by law enforcement. While the owner of the vehicle has chosen to remain anonymous, the numerous social media memes created by his abandoned red Jeep will be a rare moment of levity in the wide-spread tragedy that will be Hurricane Dorian’s final legacy.

Of course, whenever there is a natural disaster we must always remember the true heroes and that would be the first responders. As with any major crisis, the first responders have worked tirelessly for long hours to save lives. What many people tend to forget is that these first responders also have homes and families that are impacted by these natural disasters yet they still head out to save the lives of perfect strangers. These first responders are not just limited to police officers, fire fighters and EMTs. This includes the numerous public and private contractors and workers who restore power during outages, who work to clear fallen trees and debris and perform the many other duties that help communities rebuild after a massive disaster. No one should ever take the sacrifice that these brave men and women are making for granted. While others are rushing to avoid the disasters, they are rushing toward the disasters never knowing if it will cost them their lives.

After wreaking havoc in the Bahamas and in some of the southern states, Hurricane Dorian moved up the Eastern Seaboard as it headed toward Canada. Still an unpredictable system, it seems to lose and then regain strength. I think it would be fair to say that everyone will be happy when Hurricane Dorian is gone for good and is unable to cause any more harm. For those wishing to offer assistance to those impacted by the storm, there are numerous charities that you may contact including the Salvation Army and the National Association of the Bahamas. People can also make donations via the Red Cross at RedCross.org or by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS.

AMAZON RAINFOREST FIRES BECOMING A GLOBAL & POLITICAL CRISIS

Amazon rainforest fires becoming a global & political crisis

By Robert Foreman

The fires that have been raging across the Amazon rainforest for over a month have only recently captured the world’s attention. Many people have been calling on Brazilian President, Jair Bolsonaro, as well as other world leaders, to take imminent action to tackle the fires before they decimate the rainforest. At the recent G-7 Summit, many world leaders pledged upwards of $20 million dollars in aid to help tackle the crisis. However, President Bolsonaro initially balked at accepting the aid unless he received an apology from French President Emmanuel Macron.

Now, at first glance one would think that no sane world leader would turn down aid to deal with a crisis that is stretching the resources of their country. However, President Bolsonaro took offense to President Macron’s criticisms of how he is handling the fires and he initially demanded an apology before he took international assistance. Now, President Bolsonaro has gotten criticism from multiple sources, but he seems to have taken the most offense to President Macron’s comments.

One of the reasons that President Bolsonaro has come under fire, no pun intended, is because he has allowed industries to have easier access to protected lands. Brazil often uses coordinated fires to help clear the land for farming, mining and ranching. This has enraged environmentalists who believe that the rainforest should be protected at all costs. Globally, there is an ongoing battle between those who want to leave some lands untouched and those who want to develop that same land for other uses, and Brazil is no different. The raging fires in the Amazon are only deepening those battle lines.

The rainforest stretches 2.1 million miles and stretches through many South American countries, including Brazil, Peru and Colombia. However, 60% of the rainforest is in Brazil, which is why President Bolsonaro has found himself the subject of much criticism. The pressure to preserve the rainforest continues to mount due to it being home to a wide-range of indigenous peoples and diverse species of wildlife. The Amazon rainforest is also the largest forest on the planet and it produces over 20 percent of the planet’s oxygen, which is why it is often called ‘The Lungs of the World.’ The fires that are currently ripping through the rainforest have spurred many to want to pitch in before there is irreversible damage.

Brazil is currently under a state of emergency and the military has been sent in to help battle the more than 26,000 forest fires raging in the Amazon. Of course, after initially rejecting the funds that were promised at the G-7, Brazil is now willing to accept the aid on the condition that it is allowed to oversee how the funds are used. Now, while President Bolsonaro has been the key focus there are others in Brazil who have taken offense with other nations telling them how they should handle the rainforest when it comes to development and environmental protection.

President Bolsonaro has stated that he believes that Brazil would be treated like “a colony or a no man’s land” if an international coalition was created to save the Amazon. While President Bolsonaro has every right to protect the interests of his own country he also has to balance that with accepting help from the international community when it is offered. It is possible to freely accept international aid while protecting the individuality of your country at the same time. Containing the fires that are threatening the lives of humans and wildlife in the Amazon rainforest should be the top priority. Once the danger has passed then everyone can let their political egos and social agendas take center stage again. 

PBA's Lynch blasts city for firing officer over Garner death

PBA's Lynch blasts city for firing officer over Garner death

By: The Blue Magazine Staff Writer

Five years ago, the names of NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo and Eric Garner became forever entwined after Garner died while being placed in Pantaleo’s perceived chokehold while resisting arrest. The incident was captured on video and drew massive media and online attention. Despite mounting public pressure, Pantaleo was not indicted by a grand jury and the Justice Department declined to press charges over Garner’s death.

Pantaleo was suspended yet kept his job, and the city reached a settlement with Garner’s family. Many assumed that the matter was essentially resolved, but that was not the case. Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill opted to dismiss Pantaleo after it was determined that he had violated a department ban on the use of chokeholds. As expected, the decision to terminate Pantaleo, and strip him of his pension, was a cause of celebration for his detractors.

However, for many of his fellow brothers and sisters in blue the dismissal was a miscarriage of justice and a slap in the face to law enforcement personnel everywhere. The most vocal critic of Pantaleo’s dismissal was the head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association of the City of New York, President Patrick J. Lynch.  Lynch accused the city of not supporting its officers when they are simply doing their jobs.

“Police Commissioner O'Neill has made his choice: he has chosen politics and his own self-interest over the police officers he claims to lead. He has chosen to cringe in fear of the anti-police extremists, rather than standing up for New Yorkers who want a functioning police department, with cops who are empowered to protect them and their families. With this decision, Commissioner O'Neill has opened the door for politicians to dictate the outcome of every single NYPD disciplinary proceeding, without any regard for the facts of the case or police officers' due process rights,” said Lynch in a statement.

“He will wake up tomorrow to discover that the cop-haters are still not satisfied, but it will be too late. The damage is already done. The NYPD will remain rudderless and frozen, and Commissioner O'Neill will never be able to bring it back. Now it is time for every police officer in this city to make their own choice. We are urging all New York City police officers to proceed with the utmost caution in this new reality, in which they may be deemed 'reckless' just for doing their job. We will uphold our oath, but we cannot and will not do so by needlessly jeopardizing our careers or personal safety.”

Many in law enforcement no doubt echo Lynch’s concerns since they know that they are relying on their training while in the course of doing their jobs. They know that due to an increased focus on police misconduct that they are being scrutinized even more. So, believing that they may be thrown to the wolves in the name of politics or public relations is just another layer of stress they must deal with.

One must wonder how many officers are looking at Pantaleo’s firing and wondering if they could find themselves in the crosshairs if they are required to use force during an arrest. Should they back off and put themselves, or others, at risk by avoiding the use of any level of force? Or should they still use necessary force and potentially roll the dice with their careers if it is deemed as controversial? When officers are often called upon to make split second decisions in the line of duty they should not have to ponder whether the use of any type of force will cost them their jobs. Simply put, those doubts could cost them, or innocent civilians, their lives.

Upon the news that Pantaleo was fired, a GoFundMe page that had been set up on August 2nd reported that they it had received almost $60.000 in donations in one day. The goal of the page is to raise $150,000 to aid both Pantaleo and his family. To date, the page has received over $103,000 in donations. Anyone seeking further information on the page, or to make a donation, can go to: https://uk.gofundme.com/f/officer-daniel-pantaleos-family-legal-fund

Congress finally gives first responders a new lifeline

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CONGRESS FINALLY GIVES FIRST RESPONDERS A NEW LIFELINE
By: Robert Foreman

After what has seemed like endless political debate, the Senate voted 97-2 to fund the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund through 2092. The House had already passed the funding bill weeks earlier after former Daily Show host Jon Stewart and numerous first responders essentially shamed Congress into finally taking action. Stewart, and many of the first responders, were on hand when the bill passed the final hurdle to ensure that the victims of 9/11 would finally get the permanent lifeline that they needed.

While Stewart has been considered by many to be the public face in the fight for the 9/11 Fund, John Feal has also been on the front lines of the battle from the start. Feal, a former construction worker, has worked tirelessly to get justice for himself and others impacted by 9/11. Just as Stewart shamed the House of Representatives into taking action, Feal took up a public campaign to finally force the Senate to take action and both he and Stewart did not mince words when it came to the senators who refused to support the funding bill. Feal was injured when a steel beam fell on his foot at Ground Zero and ultimately forced a partial amputation. He was denied compensation for his injury since it happened outside of a 96-hour window of the terrorist attacks. 

Feal turned his anger into action and founded the FealGood Foundation in an effort to lobby Congress to provide more funding for 9/11 first responders. The foundation is dedicated to assisting all emergency personnel workers, including volunteers, sanitation workers and construction workers, in the United States who were injured, or face serious injury, due to action or omission while performing their duties or in their daily lives. Additionally, the foundation seeks to educate lawmakers and private entities about the various problems, issues and concerns that first responders deal with on a daily basis.

While it is great news that Congress has finally done the right thing by the first responders who were impacted by 9/11, in reality it never should have taken this long. Taking care of the first responders who survived 9/11, and who have spent the ensuing years battling health issues, should have been priority number one. It’s one thing to say on TV and at campaign rallies that you honor the sacrifices that these brave men and women made. Yet, making them come hat in hand to Congress, more than once, just to get the proper compensation for their multitude of health issues is just inexcusable. Actions speak much louder than words ever could.

When the fund was initially established it paid out over $7 billion dollars in compensation for victims and their families. After much political wrangling, Congress reactivated the fund and set aside $7.4 billion dollars which was set to run through 2020. However, the onslaught of claims has strained the fund and advocates have been pushing for a more permanent lifeline. Sadly, hundreds of first responders have already lost their lives due to the health complications that resulted from Ground Zero as Congress dithered over money. If not for Stewart, Feal and the other first responders continually holding lawmakers’ feet to the fire who knows if the struggling survivors would have gotten the long-awaited justice that they deserved. Thankfully, that is a reality that we won’t have to imagine any longer. 

The new funding bill is named in honor of Luis Alvarez, James Zadroga and Ray Pfeifer, who all died from health complications that arose from their work at Ground Zero. While the three first responders did not live to see the final passage of the extension, their family, friends and former colleagues may take some small comfort in knowing that their memories and sacrifices are now immortalized in a bill that will benefit other 9/11 first responders for decades to come. Anyone wishing further information about the FealGood Foundation can visit their website: https://fealgoodfoundation.com/

Judge denies bail for registered sex offender Jeffrey Epstein

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Judge denies bail for registered sex offender Jeffrey Epstein
By: Robert Foreman

Wealthy money manager Jeffrey Epstein has become a household name in recent weeks after he was arrested on federal charges for the sex-trafficking of minors in New York and Florida. Epstein, 66, had hoped to be free on bail, but the judge has forced him to cool his heels behind bars until his trial begins. The judge wisely believed that Epstein would be a flight risk and a threat to young women if he was given bail. However, this isn’t the first time that Epstein has come under scrutiny for his actions with underage females. In 2008, Epstein entered into a non-prosecution agreement in Florida after previously being accused of sexually abusing young women.

Under the terms of the Florida deal, Epstein avoided federal prosecution and served only 13 months in a private wing of a Palm Beach county jail under what was considered ‘custody with work release’. The light deal was hammered out by Alexander Acosta, who was the US Attorney for Miami at the time. Acosta eventually became the US Labor Secretary. However, after Epstein’s latest arrest more people began to question the sweetheart deal that he had gotten from Acosta. While Acosta insisted that the agreement was the best option to get Epstein registered as a sex offender, the growing backlash ultimately forced him to step down as Labor Secretary.

Personally, I had never heard of Epstein until I read the book ‘Filthy Rich’ a few years ago. The book was written by James Patterson along with reporter, and former NYPD officer, John Connolly and journalist Tim Malloy. To say that the book is an eye-opener is an understatement. Anyone looking to delve deeper into the Epstein story should definitely read it. Most people tend to think that the wealthy play by their own rules and that justice is often blind when it comes to those with money and power. That appears to be what has happened with Epstein for far too long.

Born in Brooklyn, Epstein came from humble beginnings and turned himself into the epitome of a ‘self-made man’ with all of the trappings of success. With multiple homes, a private plane and his own island, he is rumored to be worth over $500 million dollars. He has traveled in social circles that include some of the richest and most powerful people in the world. Yet, his dangerous obsession with underage girls is what has led to his downfall. In fact, the judge who denied his bail wrote, “Mr. Epstein’s alleged excessive attraction to sexual conduct with or in the presence of minor girls, which is said to include his soliciting and receiving massages from young girls and young women perhaps as many as four times a day, appears likely to be uncontrollable.”

According to published reports, the FBI had already prepared a 53-page sex crimes indictment against Epstein back in 2007. Yet it seems that Epstein’s attraction to underage girls was an open secret among many who knew him. If that is the case, then why weren’t those people sounding the alarm bells to get him locked up? Then again, it makes you wonder if the reason why some of Epstein’s rich and powerful friends didn’t turn him in was because they would find themselves implicated if they did. Before it’s all said and done, we may find a lot of dirty apples falling out of the tainted tree that is Epstein’s life.

However, Epstein is just the latest high-profile man to be brought down due to sexual misconduct during what has been dubbed the ‘Me Too Movement'. He joins the likes of Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein and R. Kelly. Hopefully, Epstein will get the justice he deserves and will be locked away where he can’t prey on anyone else. Of course, if he somehow manages to avoid prison again for the sex trafficking of minors, some as young as 14-years-old, then it really does confirm that justice can be purchased for the right price...even if you’re already a registered sex offender.

INTERVIEW WITH P.B.A PRESIDENT PATRICK COLLIGAN

Featured Interview with New Jersey State P.B.A. President Patrick Colligan
By: Daniel Del Valle, John Welsh, George Beck, and Joseph Uliano

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NJ Blue Now Magazine: What was your major goal when you first became PBA President and has that goal been accomplished?

Colligan: The major goal was re-establishing relationships with politicians. Tony Wieners at the time, and correctly so, shut the books on politicians after Chapter 78. We were let down by not only Republicans but Democrats also. But, unfortunately, you know there’s a point where you have to reestablish those relationships. So part of that was the Political Action Committee starting with the PAC fund and literally meeting every senator and assembly member over six months and Marc (Kovar) and I hit the road. I came back months later and said it is going to take a year to accomplish this, because it’s a pretty big state.

What is your major goal right now, where you sit currently in your position?

I think what’s been lacking not only in the New Jersey state PBA but almost every national law enforcement group is re-engaging the membership. I think in 2017, not only in the police field but in any organization there just seems to be less involvement and I get the people have big schedules and are dealing with families, but you know my joke is call “CrossFit” when you get in trouble, because if you can’t make it to a PBA meeting, I’ve said it and Marc has said it, everybody is the PBA, it’s not just Marc and I. We can’t vote for you, we can’t get involved locally for you. So there’s no magic bullet. What we are trying to do is education for the locals. We’re doing the Quick Book seminars. We are doing things to help the locals be successful locals. If you don’t have a successful local, you are not going to successfully negotiate a contract or deal with your administration.

What goal has been established by the PBA moving forward with a new governor in office?

Well, we have the club called Chapter 78, they hit us all over the head. My goal with the new governor and the reason we came out so early is being realistic with the 2% cap, not the arbitration cap, but the 2% property tax cap. It’s virtually impossible to reset Chapter 78 and I don’t think any politician really has that appetite, but we can get pieces of that back and that’s really the goal that I set with Phil Murphy and it’s the reason that we came out so early for him.

What can be done to make law enforcement a powerhouse player in New Jersey politics in the years to come?

You nailed the question. It’s New Jersey politics. We started the PAC, $18 per person per year. There was a point just a few months ago, where we ended up with over $800,000 in that PAC account. That PAC account was designed for this election cycle where you have every assembly person every senator and the gubernatorial race; there are only two gubernatorial races in the country this year. So that from its inception put us in play. I’d love to see a Super PAC established. It’s something we’ve been working on now for a little over a year. A Super PAC dedicated to law enforcement.

Is there a goal or a timeframe to establish the Super PAC?

The requirements to run a Super PAC are very stringent and pretty difficult to work around, so we of course want everything done legally. So we are probably within a few weeks. I was hoping to get it set for this election cycle, which is still a possibility, but it’s going to probably be too tight.

In November of 2016, there was a pro-law enforcement push created by the Trump campaign that has really taken off since being sworn in as the 45th President of the United States, which was evident at the National Law Enforcement Memorial. We were there in the crowd; you were on the stage, so you saw the rally. Why should a conservative police officer cross the lines and vote for Murphy?

Well, we have a lieutenant governor, who I have said and I will say it to her face, a great woman, a nice woman and past law enforcement, I know she was an F.O.P. member, to me, I understand she was working under Chris Christie and I get that. I understand that may not be the easiest place to work, but if you are going to be a law enforcement officer, you need to stand up for law enforcement and there should have been a period, especially in the beginning when Chapter 78 was being formed. There should have been a period that she said, look the men and women of law enforcement are different, because I’ve said that in the very beginning and I’ve believed that since I put my hand on the Bible in 1992. We are different, and I don’t have to tell any of you in this room why we are different. There had to be a point where she should have stood up and said, stop, don’t hurt our men and women in law enforcement. She didn’t and to come in now in the 11th hour of the 7th and 1/2 year and say hey, I’m standing with law enforcement, I just think is disingenuous.

Again nice woman, but if you look at her website the answer should be evident to anybody in law enforcement. I’m not sure what it takes for the men and women of law enforcement in New Jersey to stand up and say stop. She wants to give us our pension, but she wants us to take the liabilities too. We have a Constitutional Right to our pensions. Why would anybody want to give that up? She talks about consolidation. It’s obvious how she feels about the 2% arbitration cap, which has literally put a belt around our necks. We have a permanent 2% cap on our salaries, we have the recruitment problem that’s evident nationwide and we’re starting to see it in New Jersey. We have additional one and half percent towards our pensions and when does it stop? She can say she’s pro-law enforcement, but her actions haven’t brought that out.

Many officers express concern for Phil Murphy’s pick for lieutenant governor, believing that Sheila Oliver doesn’t have the best interest of law enforcement in her heart. How does the P.B.A. plan to address these concerns?

We met with Phil Murphy the night he announced that and we addressed our concerns prior to that announcement. Quite frankly, it was disappointing. It was one of those things that you look back and say that that’s not where we wanted him to go. We now know from the meeting with him that it’s part of the bigger picture and I said it in my article in New Jersey Cops this month and I hate going back. I feel like it’s arguing with your wife. Your wife always brings up the past but I hate to keep bringing this up, but if we hadn’t voted as a block--law enforcement and teachers for Chris Christie--nobody would know who Sheila Oliver was. So you know, I’m not in love with the pick, but I now know the reasons why and we’re going to move forward. The lieutenant governor as we saw with the governor now, is not a position that really generates much policy and procedure. That was probably in place before she was picked, and as I also said, there is no perfect politician. We are not going to be in love with everything Murphy did or does. We’re not going to be in love with everything Trump does. Trump is going to have a major impact on the Supreme Court and those Supreme Court picks are not going to be helpful to law enforcement, so you have to take the good with the bad. If anybody is looking at these candidates and saying, oh this is the perfect pick, sorry I have some oceanfront property in Ohio to sell you.

Going back, do you believe that if you were president at the time when Christie took over that you would have a different relationship with him?

I would probably have a relationship with him, but being perfectly blunt, this was in the makings and in the works long before he took his hand off the Bible. He knew how to take out the Public Employment Relations Commission and make it the disgrace that it is and the Civil Service Commission. I think that this was a plan that was a well-established plan and I don’t know, as much and as hard as I work and as passionate as I know I am, I’m not sure if there was anybody in this seat that wouldn’t be able to stop that tidal wave what happen when Christie was elected.

You mentioned and just to go back to the super PAC and I just quoted you with the perfect pick, do you think that the intent and the objective to build a Super PAC is to at some point have the perfect pick or close to the perfect pick as we can?

You know a PAC doesn’t develop a candidate, the candidates develop themselves. So, can we look in the future at a candidate and help push them? Yeah, at some point we probably could, but I don’t want to sound like a defeatist because I’m certainly not, but there is no perfect candidate out there. It’s kind of like your chief, you end up with a great chief and as much as you like him or her and as pro-union they are, he or she may be, they have to make a difficult decision at some point. We have a state that is almost in a financial meltdown. There’s no candidate that can come in and say, yeah we’re going to roll back Chapter 78 completely and we’re going to completely fund the pension. There’s going to be a give and take. When our economy improves, which you know is the answer to a lot of our questions, then we may end up with closer to the perfect pick, but I really don’t believe that we will. I said it, is there a perfect politician? I think your readers could answer that. We know they’re not out there, but sure I’d love for Phil Murphy to be right of center on some of those issues, but we will take the good with bad right now. We have two options in 2017, and it’s either Phil Murphy or Lieutenant Governor Guadagno.

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What good do you see coming out of New Jersey law enforcement today?

Well, if you look nationally, there’s been some incredibly bad press out of some areas. I’ve always said that we are better trained--that we attract a better candidate a more professional candidate--and I think that is why there’s been no major incident in New Jersey. This goes back to what I said before, as we’re starting to see a recruiting problem and my fear is with this permanent 2% cap and all the other issues surrounding New Jersey Law Enforcement. You know some Senate and Assembly people that just don’t embrace what we do and feel that we should have a 2% cap, then we’re going to get back to not attracting the best and the brightest New Jersey recruits at some point going back to what we had pervasive in the sixties, uneducated and I don’t want to say this is a blanket, because I don’t want to disrespect those that were doing a great job in the sixties, but generally we were a group that didn’t have advanced degrees and didn’t have advanced training. I think our academics are doing a great job with self-defense and less than lethal. My concern and to just get a little off topic, I see now you have the City of Camden is giving awards for not engaging some people and I hope that we’re not getting into a dangerous realm of handing out teddy bears to everybody, but we have a great group of law enforcement officers in New Jersey.

What needs to be improved upon not only in New Jersey but throughout the nation for law enforcement officers?

I think our officers have to realize that no matter whether they are on duty or off duty, in a pursuit, sitting in the car, they’re on video and we unfortunately, have been exposed to some embarrassing situations. It’s not an easy job. It’s a job that that those who aren’t in law enforcement don’t understand and unfortunately, there’s no other career on the planet where people can watch one episode of a police show and suddenly be experts on police policy and procedure. So I’d like to stay out of the press. That doesn’t help our profession. It doesn’t help moving our agenda forward. It’s difficult to see our people stealing money and you know, we just had a murder-suicide, tragically on the corrections side. I think our officers need to know that not only are they in the limelight, but they are in the limelight 24/7.

Where do you see our pension in four years and do our retired members get to see the return of COLA?

I’ve been very public about it and my number one priority is to get COLA back, because I know what it’s doing to guys and gals who retired 30 or 40 years ago. And I’ve said this to our retiree group, it’s not like I hide from the facts. Returning COLA back to the way it was will have a pretty profound and heavy hit on our pensions. I’ve said this in testimony and I’ve said this to our retirees, we need to figure out a responsible way to phase it back in. If we just turn it on, it drops the system significantly.

I never hide from my answers. I’m going to give you the answer, it may not be the answer that you like, and it’s very difficult for a retiree, whose COLA is greater than their pension, it is disheartening to me. It actually eats at me that we have retirees delivering Chinese food and driving Ubers. It is bullshit to me that we’ve disrespected our police officers and firefighters like that. So the first responsibility is to get COLA reinstated in some responsible fashion. You know, respectfully, a person that just retired a few years ago is not in the emergent situation that people who retired in the 70s and 80s are. We need to get it turned on fiscally, responsibly, and it is it is also bullshit to me that we have two police officers in the same car on two different tiers of employment. How you have a Tier 3 and Tier 1 officer in the same car, and a legislature can say that’s a good idea is a disgrace and I’ve been public about that.

So where do I see the pensions? I know we’ve developed a responsible plan to take it from the state and unfortunately, the governor didn’t sign it in the 11th hour because I think there was another chief that retired with a $500,000 check, which we don’t see. I find it amazing that with our PFRS plan to take from the state, it’s my pension too. I’ve said it, I’m not a trust fund baby, my wife is a school teacher, I’m a few months from poverty if I lose my job today, like many other cops and firemen, especially after seven years of decreases in our pay. So for those who seem to think that I’m going to make a crazy amount of money out of this, point out where it is. I just want a pension and I don’t want to be dragged down by the other systems that are there. We were always the responsible kid on the playground. When we had the opportunity to drop our side of the pension contributions, like the teachers did, we refused and it wasn’t an easy position from the State PBA President at the time to find out that, hey, we are over 100% funding, let’s reduce our pension contributions. The teachers did and then a short time after that the teachers also lowered their retirement age. So it was the death knell of their system. They were near a hundred percent funding, if they weren’t over a hundred percent funding then. So now you look, we were the responsible kids on the playground and now we know we had that close call of the blending of the systems just two years ago.

If you have the opportunity to address some of your critics what would you say to them?

I wake up in the middle of the night. I wonder what else we could do. I wonder if I’m missing something on some issues, you know we’ve had some losses, Atlantic City to me is devastating and living with that. I went down to address their PBA meeting and it was not an easy meeting. It was “what’s the PBA doing?” I stood before them saying I don’t know what else we could’ve done. Were there missteps with some of the things that we did, possibly! But I don’t lose sleep that it was something else we could have done. I just wonder if there was the magic bullet sometimes. So you have Atlantic City, you know consolidation is still on the plate and it’s something important. You know we are going to have some losses on consolidation too.

Do you see more of that coming, consolidation?

I do! This 2%, again not arbitration cap, but 2% property tax cap, is strangling some towns, some communities and it was passed to force this. It was passed to force consolidation on those towns. So to the critics, I don’t know what else I could do. I’m always open to somebody calling me and giving me an idea they have. Sometimes politically there is a reason why we can’t do something, but there are some issues that I wake up in the middle of the night that I’m fearful that we are missing something. Even with the PFRS that plan and I’ve said it at the meetings, we even went to the F.O.P., we went to the State F.O.P. meeting. It was the first time the PBA ever presented at an F.O.P. meeting. It was historic and I said to them, please tell me if I’m missing something, because I fear that when this legislature goes through and you know, it was endorsed by the two previous presidents, the F.O.P. came on board which was great, it was kind of almost like a relief and a win that okay, other than one public safety union, everybody seems to be on board with it.

You mentioned suicide earlier. What do you say to the officer that is contemplating suicide today?

That’s another frustrating issue. I sit here sometimes and I ask our professionals, what are we missing? What else can we do? Every suicide is a blow because somebody somewhere saw that, and we are a vocation.Nobody really took this job, well some did just because it’s Civil Service, but we have a special bond, a brotherhood, sisterhood. We are in an environment that unfortunately, our suicide rate is higher and I just beg people, not so much the officer that’s contemplating, but the co-workers to keep an eye out and don’t be ashamed to ask. It’s one of those frustrating things, one suicide is devastating.

The stereotypes and the stigmas are still there. The officers are afraid to get help! Is the PBA in communication with the chiefs and the directors, advising them that they have to find a way to tell our guys that they’re okay to go get help and when getting help their law enforcement career doesn’t end there?

I agree with you, but the problem is we still get those chiefs. We have the case of Frank Marchione out of Hightstown, who asked for help and then was subsequently sent to seven psychs, who I guess in their minds was lucky enough to find someone to fail him (said with a smirk).

And that becomes damaging to the other officers who may be in crisis, because now they’re afraid to go get help, due to the possible repercussions.

Yes, that has a ripple effect throughout our community, which is why Dr. Stefanelli is here at no small cost to the PBA. We spend a lot of money to have somebody here two days a week. We put a lot of effort into being able to call “Cop 2 Cop.” If you are concerned about your EAP, then come here, that’s why we’re here. I get it! Believe me! There is still a stigma. I’m not sure if that stigma will ever completely go away and yes one of the first things I did when I became president was develop a relations with Chief’s Association, which it’s like the politician, we’re not always going to agree with the chiefs, but it’s been a great partnership and you know even dealing with that quote, unquote “psychologist” up in North Jersey, who seems to be a henchman for the chiefs. We’ve even exposed that. It’s my goal to have him not evaluating anymore because the danger that he presents to our membership, the amount of people that he had terminated. Call here. We don’t want anybody to think that they’re going to have a stigma, they can come here and they can deal with it privately. This was setup as a triage, but some people are here longer terms because of those fears with their chiefs. Call me! We will find the right service for you depending on what are your issues are. I didn’t coin it, but suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem and there is always an answer, things do get better.

What do you feel or what do you think corrections should be striving for in law enforcement?

I really embraced the corrections group when I took over. Corrections has always suffered from the stigma of you know, lesser than law enforcement. I’m supporting the police title bill but not sure how much traction that’s going to get, we’ll see with the new governor. I’ve said it every time I address them, I could never walk into a jail every day. They definitely walk to the worst beat in the nation. At the end of your career, you’re locked up for a third of your life, literally. You are searched, you have no phone access, so the average law enforcement officer sitting in his or her car, I think needs to realize to put yourself in those shoes of the kind of job that really is. I know the working conditions. You are locked up. If the prisoners don’t like the jail cell, then the officers don’t either. As a matter of fact just before you guys got here, there’s a professional corrections group that I want to make sure we are going to keep, that make sure the correction chair and vice chair still want to be part of that. The first mini convention, I had a separate break out and then we had a couple of assembly people come in. I’d like to continue that as long there’s interest. They are the unsung members of law enforcement that deserve a lot more respect that they get not only from sometimes the rank of the police officers but from the general public too.

What do you want to be remembered for? What’s going to be your legacy?

I think that it’s really getting into the political process. You know, I’ve joked about it that sometimes when you’re involved in New Jersey politics you want to step away and take a shower when you are done, because sometimes it’s pretty dirty, but there is no other way to move our agenda forward if it’s not through the legislature. Yeah I might be a nice guy and yeah I can go have a drink with somebody, but at the end of the day they need money to run a campaign and we need to get our message delivered in the Senate and Assembly. We have to develop relationships with the politicians. So I think being heavily engaged in the political process put us on the map. I’d love to see this PFRS legislation put through. So hopefully we can expedite the issues of COLA and Tier 1 and Tier 3 members, so that would probably be my two top priorities.

When law enforcement is over for you where do you see yourself?

I have a dream of standing under a Sabrett hot dog umbrella until 2 pm. Seriously this is an extraordinary labor-intensive job. This job is sometimes seven nights a week, sometimes four nights a week you know it’s difficult to juggle with a family. I’m lucky that my children are a little bit older. You can’t do this with young children, and you would be doing a disservice to your family. I have a great wife, Lynette who’s a school teacher who understands why I’m out driving around the state and flying around the country, because public service to her is important and she didn’t deserve what this governor did to her. She’s a dedicated school teacher. I love this job. I love the people I work with, but we’ll see what happens at the end of my career, whether to continue a heavy work load or I want to literally stand under the Sabrett umbrella.

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BETRAYED BY BLUE

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BETRAYED BY BLUE
By: Captain Donna Roman Hernandez (Ret.)

On a hot and sunny July 16th in 2007 Totowa Patrol Officer John Sole awoke at 4 pm to the sounds of a television kept on to help him fall asleep during the daytime. He began his 6 pm to 6 am pre shift routine.

The movie “Superman Returns” was playing on the TV and Sole watched a part in the movie where Superman confronts people on a building top, one man armed with a Gatling gun that he turned on Superman. The rounds bounced off Superman’s chest. Sole recalls thinking then wouldn’t it be great if we had bulletproof vests that could stop bullets without the body feeling the concussion of the bullets. After his shower Sole watched the news about the funeral of NYPD Detective Russell Timoshenko who was shot and killed in the line of duty on July 9th. As Sole tied his duty boots, put on his body armor and listened to Timoshenko’s story, he had thoughts that his own shift might be an unusual one. A premonition perhaps?

When this seasoned 14-year Totowa Patrol Officer’s shift started there was no indication of what was to come. Sole’s shift began as typical as any other evening performing radar enforcement and responding to calls. His dinner break was spent at his Totowa residence with his wife and five children and his visiting sister-in-law and her children. Thirty minutes after his dinner break a deadly chain of events began to unfold at 8 pm.

Totowa Borough Municipal Court was held that night and former Totowa Police Officer Pete Riva, fired from employment decades prior, was angry about the Court’s decision to dismiss a matter involving his ex-girlfriend. Fearing Riva’s fury over that outcome, his ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend would not leave the court complex without a police escort. Riva left the courtroom but returned wearing a windbreaker, an odd piece of apparel for a hot summer evening. Sole’s shift partner Officer James Eisele escorted them to their vehicle. Riva was waiting outside for them in the court complex parking lot in his personal vehicle, a black Jeep Liberty, and ran over his ex-girlfriend, clipped her boyfriend, just missed hitting Officer Eisele and fled the scene.

“Officer Eisele was screaming on the police radio ‘headquarters parking lot’ but I couldn’t understand what else he was saying” Sole said. “I turned up Crews Street and as I’m getting in front of Headquarters, Eisele calls out a black Jeep Liberty going up Peterson Road that comes out to Totowa Road, one block above Headquarters. So I headed to Peterson and Totowa Road to stop the vehicle still unsure what Eisele said on the police radio.

I spotted the suspect Jeep a block away from Police Headquarters on Union Boulevard and Crews Street. The Liberty turned towards me as I pulled up head to head to stop him. I recognized the driver as Pete Riva, a former Totowa Police Officer employed during the 1970s. He cut around a car and drove onto a homeowner’s lawn to get away. I radioed Headquarters it was Riva and that I was in vehicular pursuit. We traveled about a quarter mile down Totowa Road and he pulled over next to a huge tree. I pulled across to pinch him up against the tree. As I started to step out of my police vehicle, the siren was still on so I quickly leaned back in to shut it off.”

After Sole pulled him over, Riva emerged from the rear of his vehicle charging and firing at him.

“When I got out of my police car, the first thing I saw was the barrel of a smoking .357 magnum gun firing rounds at me. The sounds of gunfire were deadened by the siren until I shut it off.

Riva continued firing at me head on as I’m out of the car standing in the crook of the car’s door.

I reached for my .40 cal Sig Sauer but my holster’s arched safety guard caught the hammer of my gun probably caused by my pushing down so hard on the holster. Riva charged me and told me to give him my gun. He tried reaching for it but I pushed it back down. I barely had time to react as Riva jumped on me and we started scuffling in the street. Physically I felt something wasn’t right but my adrenaline was through the roof.

I was bleeding but didn’t know it at the time that one round went through my left shoulder and out my left bicep. A second round grazed the inside of my left bicep and almost cut it in half.”

With his left uniform sleeve soaked in blood, Sole was wrestling with Riva for control of the gun.

“Riva had me in a headlock with his left arm and told me to get down on my knees. Until that moment, there was no pause. I was thinking of the next step, finding a window of opportunity to get him off guard, to get to my gun, to stick it in his rib cage and unload. Riva placed his gun to my right temple and told me to take out my gun and give it to him. My opportunity to distract him came. I told him I had kids and not to kill me. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man running towards us. I yelled ‘tackle him’. When Riva turned to look at the other guy he was tackled. I pushed Riva and his gun away from me.

Unbeknownst to both, the man coming to Sole’s aid was retired Paterson Police Captain Philip Bevacqua who ran out of his house when he heard the recognizable sounds of gunfire outside his front door and saw the confrontation.

“Riva and the Captain were scuffling in the middle of the road behind me and trading punches. I regrouped myself, took out my gun, and told the Captain to get back. Riva was about 30 feet from me and waving his gun from side to side. I knew I had to end it quickly. With the Captain out of harms way, I fired from a kneeling position until Riva dropped. My adrenalin came down. My portable’s mic was covered in blood dangling on my left side where I was shot.”

Sole got back on his feet and grabbed the mic cord until it got into his left hand, then grabbed the mic with his right hand. He radioed HQ that ‘108’ was shot and gave his location.

“After the shooting was over an off-duty Police Officer who lived nearby kicked the gun away from Riva’s hand. I remember hearing sirens off in the distance. I knew I was shot but didn’t know by how many rounds. A warm pulse of blood hit inside my left arm. I thought I was hit in the armpit or a round got underneath my vest. I had numbness, no reflexes but extreme pain. I was covered in blood, some light red in color and a darker red like arterial bleeding. I thought I was going to die in the street right there.

I went into survival mode. I thought about driving myself to the hospital thinking how pissed my kids would be that I am leaving this world early. A neighborhood friend of mine, Frank Andriani, came up to me face to face and then I collapsed to my knees. I never laid down out of fear that I would bleed out and die.

The first back up arrived and Totowa Officer Dan DiBlasio asked me who shot me. I pointed to the driveway where Riva was and told my Lieutenant David DeFeo ‘he friggin shot me’ and they both grabbed me and rushed me to the ambulance. As I got in the side door of the ambulance, my father arrived and went to the ambulance. He was heading home and came upon the incident. One of the EMTs recognized him and told him that I was shot but was going to be okay. The first thing I asked when I was inside the ambulance was where was I hit. I was told it was my arm and only my arm. It took a serious edge off.”

Officer Sole was transported to St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson.

“On the way to the hospital I was sweating. I started undressing, pulling the velcro open and my vest off. I felt like I was under a water spicket. At St. Joe’s almost the entire emergency room staff was there working on me like a colony of ants. I was stripped down and one of the doctors gave me a quick assessment. The pain was excruciating. I kept asking about the gunman but received no response. As I was wheeled for an MRI I saw Paterson Police Officer Ricky Latrecchia who I grew up with. He told me Riva was dead.

That was the news I wanted to hear. I felt no emotion. He got what he deserved. I was okay with that.

I was brought into a private room and for about 3 ½ hours my arm was stitched up. The Prosecutor’s Office came in for my gear, gun belt, clothes and everything else I was wearing. I pleaded with the Trauma Surgeon to be able to go home. I wanted to get home because my kids knew what happened and if I wasn’t home when they woke up in the morning it would be tough on them. I was released and home at 4:15 am on Tuesday.

While hospitalized I received support from the hospital staff, my wife and family and the brotherhood of blue. My brother Totowa Police Officers on-duty, off-duty and those retired along with Totowa Mayor John Coiro came to the hospital to see how I was doing. Totowa Police Chief Robert Coyle stayed with me during my hospitalization and escorted me and my family to our home. The entire Paterson Police shift stopped in to see me. Officer Latrecchia went to my house and brought me a change of clothing.

In the days following the shooting, all my brother Totowa Officers, the Mayor and Council would frequently visit me at home to check on my progress. The outpouring of well wishes from Totowa residents, many whom I knew and those I didn’t, was overwhelming and Police Officers from Little Falls, Wayne, West Paterson, Woodland Park, Passaic County Sheriff and the State Police visited me during my recuperation. Their support aided with my healing and recovery from this traumatic incident. I was out of work for ten months and returned to the job on May 15, 2008.”

Officer John Sole was the first Police Officer in the Borough of Totowa to be shot in the line of duty. For his heroism Sole received many honors including a Valor Award from the Passaic County 200 Club; a Gold Valor Award from the New Jersey State PBA; a Medal of Honor, Legion of Honor, Combat Cross and Wounded in Combat Medal from PBA Local 80; a proclamation and plaque from the Borough of Totowa and was sworn in as a member of the New Jersey Honor Legion. The Borough of Totowa awarded Captain Bevacqua with a key to the Borough.

On September 1, 2009 Officer John Sole retired with an in the line of duty disability pension. Post retirement Sole works as a School Security/Resource Officer in the Totowa School District and enjoys coaching several Totowa PAL programs. He is an active member with the Cop 2 Cop New Jersey Wounded Officers Association and attends their monthly support meetings.

Totowa Police Officer John Sole used deadly force to save his own life and the lives of others. Sole cautions Officers “Shootings don’t happen like they do in the movies. You don’t get right back up after you’re shot. They leave out the emotional stress put upon the family and extensive physical rehabilitation the Officer endures. During the shooting my instincts were reactionary from my police training and what I learned as a young man. It’s critical to defuse your assailant, wait for him to drop his guard, psychologically turn the critical incident over into your hands and think of what your next step will be to save yourself.”

No law enforcement Officer is immune from a spontaneous armed encounter and Officers must be physically fit, tactically trained and mentally prepared to handle anything – even a gun battle with a crazed assailant who used to be a cop.

Contact Donna Roman Hernandez @ salsacop446@hotmail.com, www.blueforcefilms.com, www.thejerseybeat.blogspot.com

my wife - annamaria, kids - salvatore (missing from photo), jessica, daniella, alyssa, and john jr.

my wife - annamaria, kids - salvatore (missing from photo), jessica, daniella, alyssa, and john jr.

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH THE AGENT WHO TOOK DOWN THE MAFIA

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Exclusive & Uncensored Interview
A Conversation with the “Don”
By: Julia Torres

Joseph Dominick Pistone, a man raised in the Sandy Hill section of Paterson, who graduated from Eastside High School, developed into Donnie Brasco.

His day-to-day upbringing in La Cosa Nostra’s neighborhood enabled him to become the sole FBI agent who took down the mob, ensuring 234 convictions. Here in this NJ Blue Now exclusive, he discusses the making of an operative, and the life of an undercover mobster.

NJ Blue Now: You went to Paterson State College (now William Paterson University), and studied Elementary Education and Social Studies. Was that your interest during high school?

Joseph Dominick Pistone: No, it was being a cop. I went to Staunton Military Academy on a basketball scholarship. After completing my studies, I enrolled at PSC and played basketball. When I was a senior, I took the test for the Paterson PD and passed. I thought that I could work both, but they told me I couldn’t. So I thought, I’m not gonna blow the last year of college, and that’s when I applied for US Naval Intelligence. While waiting for my appointment, I taught at School 10 for a year. (At Naval), I investigated crimes that were committed by military people or on naval facilities, did intelligence work, espionage. I had worked closely with the FBI and DEA, but at that time it wasn’t DEA. It was Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, so I took the test for both and I really wanted to go into the FBI, but it’s tough getting into the FBI. I guess I was lucky enough. I got the call from the FBI first.

Can you tell more about your experiences and background that paved the way for your undercover work?

Well, yeah, and remember Julie, I grew up in an Italian neighborhood. I knew wise guys… I mean, you know the guys. These are guys that you see every day. You know who the wise guys are, it’s no big deal because you don’t see all the behind the scenes. You hang out on the corner, and it wasn’t a big thing. You know what the mafia is, and growing up in an Italian home, you know to keep your mouth shut, when you’re not supposed to be talking. It’s all ears. When I go teach my undercover classes, I have a stick figure of a person with a small mouth and big ears. I say, what does this tell you? That’s a good undercover agent, keep your mouth shut, you got two big ears. We may be getting off the track here, but it might be good. A lot of undercovers, they think they gotta be talking all the time. I remember one time I rode from Tampa, Florida to Miami with Lefty (Benjamin Ruggiero). I guarantee you, I didn’t say ten words. You can do dead time. I think that’s one of the reasons why I was successful. My questions came when they weren’t expected. They weren’t in the form of a question, but it was part of a statement. I used to do that when I wanted to introduce another agent into an operation that the FBI had somewhere else, when I married up the Bonnanos with the Milwaukee family, married up the Bonnanos with Santo Trafficante in Florida. We were just hanging around and I say gee, I got a call from a guy I hadn’t heard from in ten years. He said he’s down in Tampa, Florida. He’s got a nightclub, and that’s it. I wouldn’t say anything more. And then a couple days later, I said, gee, that guy called me again. And then maybe half hour later, Lefty says, who’s this guy that called you? I never had any undercover training back in the bureau, so it was everything I learned growing up in an Italian neighborhood.

Did you create your own back-story or did somebody create it for you?

We created our own. I picked my name. I heard it somewhere. My middle name is Dominick so it was a name that I would answer to, Don, or Donald. With the Donnie Brasco, the mob one, you can’t have a profession of violence, I figured, what’s a non-violent profession? So I went to school to learn about diamonds and precious gems. When I felt that I could talk intelligently, I went out.

It started out as 6 months and ended up 6 years, so it just kept rolling and you had to stay on it?

Yeah. Look, we had a lot of mafia informants, but we had never infiltrated the mob. Once I got close to certain guys, then we just kept going.

For the people that knew you and called the office, they would say, oh, he doesn’t work here. You were pretty much a ghost. I’m assuming you had no contact with anybody.

Just a contact agent. I would meet him like once a month at a public library or museum uptown, ‘cause not many of these guys went to the library or museum, but most of it was by telephone. I would see my wife and kids maybe every seven, eight months, but never make a straight trip. Did it suffer, yeah, when you come back, you’re not the boss anymore. We’ve been living without you for six years, we’re very capable of taking care of ourselves, but there was no animosity or anything. I always had a good relationship with my wife and my kids. It was just, you know, until you prove yourself worthy of taking over the household, you begin. That really didn’t bother me though. That was small thing stuff.

Did it ever cross your mind that maybe you could be double-crossed by your agency if something went wrong?

You know, it never did. I only had surveillance a couple times. You can’t try to surveil in Brooklyn or little Italy, and I didn’t want that chance of surveillance to be made. The couple times I had surveillance was when I knew that Sonny Black was gonna give me a contract. We met at the Motion Lounge, the club. My contact gave me a small transmitter that I’d put in my sport coat jacket. The guys picked up the conversation riding around. I only wore a transmitter a couple other times. The other thing I wore sometimes was a mini cassette recorder. I’d just slide it in my cowboy boot or my sport coat jacket. Other than that, it was 24/7 on my own.

They never searched you, never questioned you?

In the beginning. That’s why I never wore anything in the beginning. With wise guys, every time you come to the club, you hug everybody, you give everybody a kiss on the cheek. The hug was to feel if I had anything. This is summertime, what you’ve got on is a shirt and a pair of pants, so it’s kinda tough to be hiding anything.

None of those guys carry guns?

No, the only time they carry guns is when they do a hit.

Did you ever feel like it got too heated?

When they had the sit down, when you’re accused of stealing money. One of the rules in the mob is that you don’t steal money from the family. If you do and get caught, you get killed, you get whacked. The problems I had with Tony Mirra were when he went to the families and said that I had stolen 250,000 dollars in a truck deal, and Sonny Black, you know, they called a sit down. And if Sonny Black calls a sit down, I know I’m gonna get killed. Fortunately, he went to all three sit downs. You’re waiting there and there’s no way out. If he (Black) loses, it’s all over. He (Mirra) testified at the sit down and said I took the money. They eventually killed him.

Your cover was so tight that the FBI and NYPD had you listed as Don Brasco, a Colombo family mob associate.

Yeah, they had me down as a Bonnano and Colombo associate because nobody else in the FBI knew about the case. Neither did the organized crime bureau.

Did you find that because you were so deep in, lines were blurred between who you were, and who Donnie was?

No, I never did. The reason being is that I never took an undercover case because I wanted to get away from something else. To me, it was just another investigation. So I never had self-doubts about who I was, where I was, or why I was doing it. I didn’t stop doing things that I normally did. I like to go to the movies so I would say to the wise guys, hey I’m going to see a matinee. I always worked out so, I still went to the gym. I still ran. Too many undercovers get the misconception, well, if I tell them I’m going to the movies, there’s something wrong with me. It’s the opposite. If you don’t do anything, there’s something wrong with you.

surveillance shot during operation sun-apple later known as donnie brasco

surveillance shot during operation sun-apple later known as donnie brasco

In the last hit that you were supposed to make, which is why the FBI decided to remove you, you were supposed to have been a made guy soon after that, right?

Right. I was having dinner with Sonny Black at a restaurant called Creesi’s in Brooklyn, not far from the Motion Lounge. He told me that he had proposed me for membership. He went before all the captains, all the captains approved it. But we’re not opening the books until December, he said. So in December, you’re gonna be inducted into the family. But then with the Bonnanos, the capos spoke about retaliation and blow out war, that’s when the FBI decided to terminate the operation on July 27th. They wouldn’t go until December because they were afraid I might get killed in between, because of the war within the Bonnano family and how close I was with Sonny Black, ‘cause you have to remember, at the time when the rest were still in jail, it was Sonny Black and Joey Massino as street bosses. Sonny in Brooklyn, Joey in Queens, and Sal Catalano who was head of the Sicilian capos. All the friction of the family, there’d be more shooting going on. Sonny had already had the okay to get inducted. I was that tight with him that he had vouched for me and said that I had been in on a hit.

Okay, you’re out. Trial time. Did they move you somewhere where nobody will find out?

I went to DC and sat down with everybody, all the prosecutors. I had a case in New York, Milwaukee, Florida. I kept moving from districts talking with the prosecutors, going before grand juries.

At what point do they figure out your real identity?

They don’t get my real identity until the actual courtroom. Once all the court proceedings started, then they realized I was an undercover agent. In the beginning, they didn’t believe it. They thought that the FBI had kidnapped me and was brainwashing me, trying to turn me into an informant.

Did you feel they’d come after you and kill you?

I wasn’t sure, but then after they killed Sonny, when they became convinced that I was an undercover agent, then the commission put that $500,000 contract out on me. Normally, the American mafia doesn’t try to kill a cop. But because I had spent so much time with them, I met wives, kids, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, they felt that I crossed over the line by breaking bread in their houses. That was the reason.

With these deep cover jobs, there are people that are really likable, did you feel that you made good relationships with some of the guys, and you felt guilty after they were arrested?

Well, that’s twofold. I had a good relationship with Sonny Black. I had a decent relationship with Lefty. Lefty was a hard guy to get along with. Lefty was all about Lefty. When they got arrested, I didn’t wanna see Sonny Black get killed, but it wasn’t my fault. They know the consequences for what they do. Sonny Black, Mirra, those guys were mafia guys before I got there. Did I wanna see them get killed? No. Do I lose sleep over it? No, because I was just doing my job. They made the choice of being gangsters. My choice was to be FBI.

Once you’re in DC debriefing everyone, how soon after that did you do another U/C and how can you top it off?

You couldn’t. I did undercover overseas, for Scotland Yard, in different parts of the country, but you can’t top that. I did six years with the mob. I used to live with Sonny Black. How many undercovers could say that they spent overnight with a mob boss? How many could say they had dinner at a mob boss’ house? I mean, I sat down with Santo Trafficante. Every time Sonny introduced me to these people, he introduced me as a made guy. They didn’t have any idea I wasn’t a made guy.

Did you need some time to decompress after the investigation or were you pretty good-to-go?

I took a week off and went fishing. I was pretty good-to-go because I spent so much time meeting with the prosecutors, and grand juries. A lot of the information for the commission case came from our case. We put all the bosses in the can.

You experienced the U/C high. How do you explain it?

You can’t. When you’re doing it, I guess it’s the adrenaline rush, but you also have to know that you’re doing it because it’s a commitment to your job, to yourself. It’s kind of like gee, I just went one on four with gangsters, you get that rush there, but you’re keeping in mind that it is just a job.

When did you officially retire?

I officially retired in ’96, but I stayed on a contract to teach undercover and organized crime classes.

At what point did you write a book?

I never went into this to get a movie and books. Lou DiGiamo, a kid I grew up with became a top casting director. He came to the trials, got in touch with me and said, I think you got a good story here. I said who cares. He said, do you read the papers? Every major paper had a story. Publishers started contacting the FBI and that’s how it went.

Do you feel the movie was pretty well portrayed?

They did a good job. The books are still selling, and the movie is still playing. The book is 100%. The movie’s probably 75-80%. Were there things I didn’t like? Yeah, I never slapped my wife. The director put that in on the day they were supposed to shoot that scene. Did I make a beef? Yeah, but it didn’t do me any good. I never had 300,000 dollars lying in my attic. But, you sign and that’s it.

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Any FBI backlash?

No, I didn’t give away any undercover secrets, didn’t tell stories how to school.

Doing U/C work today, how hard do you think it is because of technology?

As far as how you do undercover work, it hasn’t changed. But as far as how to build a legend because of the Internet, yes. Everybody, I don’t care who you are, there’s gotta be something in there with the name you give.

What advice do you have for aspiring undercovers?

My advice is don’t do it because you think it’s a glamour job, to run away from something. Do it because you’re committed to whatever the case is. And don’t fall in love with it. It’s just another form of an investigation.

Do you think anyone who wants to do it, can? Or do you think it’s a select individual group?


No, not everyone can work undercover. You gotta have that extra sense in you. Undercover is not for everybody and everybody can’t do it. It’s something innate. You have it or you don’t have it.

At this stage in your life, are you content with where you are?

Definitely. I’ve got seven books. I’ve got a movie. I’ve got a TV show that was about me. Right now, I’m working on a TV show called Deep Undercover, with Bellum Entertainment. What we’re doing is we’re taking undercover cases and making episodes out of them.

Do you think there’s still someone who is willing to hurt you or kill you?

There’s always a cowboy out there that thinks if I take down Donnie Brasco, it’s gonna make me a hero in the eyes of the mob. There are sons out there, relatives. So, yeah, I still try to operate pretty low key.

Do you think the mob is anywhere how it used to be as far as powerful?

No, not at all. To me, now they’re just another organized crime group. Still involved in everything, but not controlling the people like they did. I think it’s all the hits they took. There are no strong leaders anymore. All these young guys, the minute they put the cuffs on them, they wanna talk. They can’t do the time.

What do you consider your best strength?

Mental toughness and the ability to stay focused on the task at hand. And that’s what it takes to be a good undercover.

Weakness?

Chocolate, any kind. I do a lot of overseas work, and when I come home, my suitcase is filled with chocolate.

Special words you live by?


Integrity, honesty.

Favorite book?


The Art of War. All the undercover classes I teach, I tell them if you haven’t read The Art of War, start reading.

During Joe’s phenomenal career, he received the U.S. Attorney General’s Award, J. Edgar Hoover Award, and the FBI Medal of Valor. After retirement, aside from his seven published Donnie Brasco books (available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble), he produced Wisegal, a Lifetime movie; Falcone, a CBS TV series; and feature Tenth and Wolfe. At present, Joe is a police training consultant, and U/C and O/C instructor for law enforcement agencies both domestic and abroad. He is also the Executive Producer of Deep Undercover, a docuseries filmed by Bellum Entertainment. Knowing Joe, he has many more unique endeavors in the making. Stay tuned.

Julia Torres earned a Master of Science in Homeland Security with a certification in Terrorism Studies from Fairleigh Dickinson University; a Jersey City State College, K-12 Teacher Certification; and a Bachelor of Arts from Rutgers University, where she enlisted in the Army Reserves. Upon graduating Rutgers, she began a career in law enforcement, and later volunteered for the Gulf War. Once home, she worked undercover until retiring in 2001 due to a Gulf War illness. Since then, she has done volunteer work, acted, and written two non-fiction books.

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Shining a spotlight on 'Blue Suicide' can help save lives

Shining a spotlight on ‘Blue Suicide’ can help save lives
By: Robert Foreman

Suicides among members of law enforcement are continuing to spike at an alarming rate. Recently, the NYPD has been forced to make plans to implement an overhaul of their suicide prevention protocols after four officers took their own lives in June. However, it is believed that less than 10% of the police departments in the United States have a suicide prevention program. Of course, suicide among members of law enforcement, and other first responders, is not a recent problem. By June of 2019 there had been well over a hundred confirmed suicides among first responders, but it is estimated that it could be higher. Imagine what that number could be by the end of the year.

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The recent suicides of multiple NYPD officers helped to shine the public spotlight on the emotional and mental issues facing first responders. Much of the public is justifiably shocked when a first responder takes their own life. However, much of that shock comes from people who view first responders, especially law enforcement, as indestructible and larger than life. Yet they are flesh and blood people just like everyone else. They deal with depression, anxiety, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, divorce, and a myriad of other issues that the rest of the population deals with. 

According to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention (AFSP), suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and firearms account for 50% of those deaths. The suicide rate is highest among middle-age white men. Additionally, men are more likely to take their own lives than women. The AFSP also states that there are 129 suicides each day. Those numbers may seem shocking to most, but for anyone who has lost a friend or family member to suicide those statistics seem all too real.

For those who are considering suicide as an option, you should think twice. Once you go through with it there is no going back. Death is final. Additionally, suicide leaves a ripple effect that goes far beyond a person taking their own life. The family, friends and co-workers are left with a myriad of emotions to deal with, including anger, grief and guilt. The anger is often directed at the person that took their life while the grief comes from the untimely loss of the individual. Ultimately, those who are left behind often find themselves feeling guilty because they believe that they should have done something to prevent the suicide from happening. Having lost someone I love to suicide, I went through all of those emotions.

So, for anyone who is considering suicide as an option just remember that suicide doesn’t solve your problems. It just shifts the burden to your loved ones. No matter what you are currently going through, no matter how bad it is, you must remember that your life is of value. True, life can kick you in the ass and beat you down until you feel like you can’t take anymore. However, things can, and do, get better with time and patience. 

Many people, particularly in law enforcement, don’t want to reach out for help because they believe that it makes them look weak. Nothing could be further from the truth. Talking to a trusted friend, or a trained professional, about the pain that is weighing on you is a sign of strength. It means that you recognize that you can’t carry the burden of all of your problems by yourself.  Nobody expects you to be Superman. Hell, even Superman has his ‘kryptonite’ and he always has to get assistance when he encounters it.

Depression is a real problem and you should find someone to talk to about it. Just because you carry a badge and a gun doesn’t mean you need to battle your demons on your own. If you feel uncomfortable talking to a family member or friend there are plenty of other resources. One such resource is the ‘Blue Suicide Dinner Night’being held on August 1, which is being co-sponsored by Moment of Silence and The Blue Magazine. The event, which is free to officers, will bring together both active and former law enforcement professionals to help combat the issue of ‘Blue Suicide’. The dinner will be held at The Village Inn located at 422 Runnymede Drive, Wayne, N.J.

“We need to discuss the suicide epidemic to tear down the negative stigmatism. The more we open up, the more we realize that we need to rely on each other by opening up at a time of crisis,” said Daniel Del Valle, owner of The Blue Magazine. “A conversation ends up with a smile and a smile may lead to a laugh, which leads to trust. If you laugh with someone then you can build trust and it all started with a conversation.”

If you are currently in crisis, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. For those who are more comfortable using text you can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting START to 741741. Remember, there is no shame in asking for help when you need it. Simply put, the life you save may very well be your own.

PBA Local #80 honors Totowa officers with monument

PBA Local #80 honors Totowa officers with monument
By Robert Foreman

TOTOWA, N.J. – Honoring the memories of fallen law enforcement members is never an easy undertaking and it is often bittersweet. However, the Totowa PBA Local #80 created a stunning memorial that stands as a permanent reminder of the sacrifices made by their brothers and sisters in blue. The monument was initially dedicated in October of 1997, but with the passage of time it became apparent that some upgrades were needed.

“The monument needed to be refreshed. The monument is double-sided, but the original set-up didn’t allow it to be viewed as such. We recognized that there was a lot of area surrounding this monument that was not being utilized. Our PBA worked closely with the Totowa Department of Public Works to create a more inviting space. The monument now has lights, drainage, refreshing landscaping and it will have a bench to allow a more inviting space,” said Daniel Di Blasio, President of Totowa PBA Local #80.

“This rededication was an important focus for me especially with my military background. As a Local, the importance of brotherhood and being inclusive to all members, both active and inactive, is to make sure that we continue to honor and support one another. This newly-created space allows our Local, including families of the deceased, to do just that.”

The updates have created a greater space for visitors and family members of the deceased officers to have time to walk around, sit and take time out for deep reflection. After the upgrades were completed, the monument was rededicated on May 26, 2019 by PBA Local #80.

“I think it’s great to honor the past members of our Local in such a way,” said Totowa Chief of Police, Robert W. Coyle.

The Monument Committee consists of Di Blasio, Jamie Titus, Gary Bierach, Carmen Veneziano and George Di Pasquale. Anyone wishing to visit the monument should definitely take the time to view it because you will not be disappointed. It is truly powerful to behold whether being viewed during the day or at night.

“The monument is dedicated to the memory of Totowa police officers who served our community with honor and distinction. The improvements to the monument, and the area surrounding it, are a fitting tribute to these officers,” said Totowa Mayor, John Coiro.

Retiring Lt. Herman leaves behind a legacy of service

Retiring Lt. Herman leaves behind a legacy of service
By Robert Foreman

PASSAIC COUNTY, N.J. – Born in Paterson and raised in Totowa, Lieutenant Douglas Joseph Herman has lived a life of service to both his community and his nation that many would envy. Outside of his distinguished law enforcement career, he served proudly as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps and even brought his expertise to the FBI SWAT School. Currently, he works for the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office where he serves as the Firearms Range Master (Firearms Training Unit) and Swat Team Leader/Master Operator.


Herman has been with the Passaic County Sheriff’s Department since 1995 and during his time at the Passaic County Police Academy he received the Distinguished Graduate Award and earned 1st place awards in both Marksmanship and Physical Fitness. While he has served the law enforcement community proudly, all good careers must eventually end. In Herman’s case, he is retiring. His terminal leave is set for July 2nd of 2019 and his official date is January 1st, 2020. His wife, Mercedes, is also a retired lieutenant from the Sheriff’s Department and the two met through work. The father of two daughters offered some advice to those young men and women who are just entering the law enforcement profession.

“As new law enforcement officers, continue to train for critical incidents and make every effort to focus on continually enhancing performance and personal skills,” said Herman.

Herman, a graduate of Passaic Valley High School, began his career with SWAT in 2006 and after diligently working his way up the ranks he became Swat Team Leader in 2017. Since 2013, Herman has been a Department Range Commander and he became a Certified N.J. State Range Master in 2018. In 2013, he also became a Police Training Commission Firearms instructor at the Police Academy. During his tenure with New Jersey Law Enforcement, Herman has earned numerous awards and citations, including the Triumphant Award (Firearms Competition), Meritorious Service (SWAT Team apprehension of five fugitives), Unit Citation (SWAT Operation related to a shooting of a police officer), Gallantry Star (SWAT Operation involving the apprehension of two fugitives wanted in connection for a police officer shooting), Honor Legion Member Recipient from the State Of New Jersey, and the Certificate of Appreciation (Renovation of the County Police Firing Range.)

From 1986 through 1991, Herman served with the United States Marines (Infantry) and he was attached to military intelligence for one year as a courier for highly-sensitive materials. A veteran of the Gulf War during ‘Operation Desert Storm’ in 1991,  he was deployed to numerous locations such as South America, Panama, Japan, Okinawa, Korea, Iwo Jima, Norway, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. He received training in Jungle Operations, Cold Weather Operations, Woodland Operations and tracking and survival training. After graduating boot camp in Parris Island, S.C., he went to Infantry Training School in Camp Geiger, N.C. where he tried out for Marine Recon yet he was not selected. Upon graduating Infantry Training School, he went into the Fleet Marine Force 2nd Marine regiment, 2nd Battalion (Marine Infantry Unit) at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

“After high school graduation, I went into the United States Marine Corps at the age of 18-years-old. The reason I join the Marines was because their recruiting station was in Totowa, and the closest to my house, and I did not have a vehicle to drive to any of the other recruiting stations in Paterson,” said Herman.

“During my time with intel is when the Colombia cartels were starting to come into the forefront and the military was becoming more involved with intel for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). After the military, I then worked in construction, and did bartending and security while attending Bergen Community College. In 1995, I then decided to go into the law enforcement field. I took the test and was hired by the Passaic County Sheriff’s Department.”

For his service in ‘Operation Desert Storm’, he was awarded the Combat Action Ribbon, a Navy Unit Commendation, the Kuwait Liberation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and the Southwest Asia Service Medal. Herman was also awarded the Good Conduct Medal, the Navy Artic Service Ribbon and the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with two Bronze stars. He was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps with the rank of sergeant.

Herman’s position as Swat Team Leader/Master Operator calls upon him to be involved with the transport of both high-risk federal and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) prisoners. His decorated career of service, at multiple levels, is one that must be viewed with both respect and awe. Any member of law enforcement would find themselves lucky to have access to his knowledge of firearm proficiency, as well as military and tactical procedures. So, while Herman prepares to close one chapter of his life we can be confident that he will undoubtedly be ready for whatever the next phase of his life brings.

“The most important thing that I’ve learned is that you have to be resilient,” said Herman. “You have to be able to change as circumstances change.”

Port Authority K-9 lost on 9/11 will never be forgotten

Port Authority K-9 lost on 9/11 will never be forgotten
By Robert Foreman

As many of us do, retired Lieutenant David Lim remembers the September 11th terrorist attacks vividly. A former Port Authority officer with the K-9 Unit, Lim was in the K-9 office that was located in the basement of the World Trade Center when the attacks began. Upon hearing the initial explosion after the first plane struck, he believed that a bomb had gone off. Immediately, Lim put his K-9 partner Sirius, a Labrador retriever, in his dog crate and left to investigate. Little did Lim know that he would never see his beloved Sirius alive again.

“The office was in 2 World Trade Center at the B-1 level (First Basement). After leaving Sirius, I went to 1 World Trade Center and I got to the 5th floor when the building started to collapse. After we managed to get out of the building, I tried to get back to 2 World Trade Center for Sirius, but I couldn’t get back inside,” said Lim.

Lim’s ordeal in the stairway of 1 World Trade Center has come to be known as the ‘Miracle of Stairway B’. He, along with 12 firemen, an engineer, a bookkeeper, and an office temp, miraculously survived as the tower began collapsing upon them. One can only imagine what thoughts were going through their heads as all hell, literally, rained down upon them in that stairwell.

Yet after surviving a building collapse, Lim’s focus was still on his partner and friend, Sirius. While Sirius was still listed as missing after the attacks, Lim had to move on with a new K-9 partner. Lim’s new dog, Sprigs, proved to be a faithful partner until passing away from cancer the day after Superstorm Sandy struck the Northeast in 2012. However, Sirius has never been far from Lim’s mind.

“They recovered Sirius in February when I was training Sprigs. We were able to take his remains out with full honors. We took him to Bellevue Hospital and to the Port Authority Command with all of the cops saluting the truck as we went by,” said Lim. “They had a flag on him when we got to Bellevue and they handed me the flag. That’s when I lost it. We had a nice memorial for him in Jersey City. They even gave him a 21-gun salute.”

Lim became an officer in 1980 and joined the K-9 Division in 1997, where he remained until 2005. He eventually became a sergeant and finally a lieutenant in 2008 until retiring out of LaGuardia Airport in 2014. Despite his distinguished 34 years in law enforcement, the impact that Sirius had on him can never be understated.

“My first dog was Lena, but she had to retire in 2000 due to arthritis. I met Sirius at a park where dogs were being checked to be in the K-9 Unit. Sirius was there to be a hunting dog, but when they threw one of the toys in the water he wouldn’t go in the water. So, he failed at being a hunting dog. They asked if I would take him for Bomb Sniffing School and I did,” said Lim. “Now, he was a big dog. Like 90 to 100 pounds. But he was a good dog and a lot of fun to be with. I got to bring him home and he got along great with my kids. When he was at work he did his job, but when he was home he was like any other dog. He was just starting to come out of his shell when he was killed. We didn’t have a lot of pictures of him because we saw him every day. We never expected to lose him.”

Although he had four legs, Sirius proved to be as dedicated a law enforcement officer as any human. He served with distinction and honor and made the ultimate sacrifice as many first responders did on 9/11. As such, Lim firmly believes that Sirius’ service and memory should be kept alive with the greatest show of dignity and respect imaginable.

“Sirius does share a shadow box in the 9/11 Museum with his leash and my holster. But my heart’s desire is for my partner’s name to be engraved into the 9/11 Memorial. He was a police K-9 and he deserves this honor,” said Lim.

THINKING OF OPENING A BUSINESS? HERE ARE SOME OPTIONS YOU MAY WANT TO CONSIDER

CHOOSING A BUSINESS STRUCTURE
By: Malone Financial Services

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In March 2015, about 679,072 new business had been created in the preceding year.¹ All individuals pursuing the dream of exercising their entrepreneurial muscles, will face the same question, “Which business structure should I adopt?”

Each option presents its own set of pros and cons. To complicate matters a bit, the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act created several key changes that may benefit certain business structures. For example, the new law added a 20 percent deduction of qualified business income for certain pass-through entities. However, service industries (e.g., health, law, professional services) are generally excluded, except where income is below $315,000 for joint filers and $157,500 for other filers. This provision is set to expire December 31, 2025.

This overview is not intended as tax or legal advice and may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding the most appropriate business structure for your organization.

Sole Proprietorship/Partnership

This structure is the simplest. But it creates no separation from its owner. Income from the business is simply added to the individual’s personal tax return.

Advantages: Easy to set up and simple to maintain.

Disadvantages: Owners are personally liable for the business’s financial obligations, exposing their personal assets (house, savings, etc.). It does not offer the prestige or sense of permanence of a corporation or LLC.

C-Corporation:

A corporation is a separate legal entity from its owners, making it easier to raise money, issue stock, and transfer ownership. Its life is perpetual and will survive the owner’s death.

Advantages: There may be tax advantages, including more allowable business expenses. It protects owners from personal liability for the company’s financial obligations and may lend a measure of prestige and permanence.

Disadvantages: More expensive to set up, the paperwork and formality are greater than for a sole proprietorship or LLC. Income may be taxed twice, once at the corporate level and when distributed to owners as dividend income.

S-Corporation

After forming a corporation an owner may elect an “S-Corporation Status” by adopting a resolution to that effect and submitting Form 2553 to the IRS.

The S-corporation is taxed like a sole proprietorship, i.e., the company’s income will pass through to shareholders and be reported on their respective personal tax returns.

Advantages: S-corporations avoid the double taxation issue associated with C-corporations, while enjoying many of their tax advantages. Owners are shielded from personal liability for the company’s financial obligations. It provides the prestige of a corporation for small businesses.

Disadvantages: S-corporations do not have all the tax-deductible expenses of a C-corporation. The cost of set up, the paperwork, and formality are greater than for a sole proprietorship or LLC. S-corporations have certain restrictions, including a "100 or fewer" shareholders requirement. Shareholders must be U.S. citizens and the business cannot be owned by another business.

Limited Liability Company

An LLC is a hybrid between a corporation and a sole proprietorship, offering easy management, pass-through taxation, and the liability protection of a corporation. Similar to a corporation, it is a separate legal entity, but there is no stock.

Advantages: LLCs provide the protections of a corporation, but are taxed similar to a sole proprietorship.

Disadvantages: Typically more expensive to form than a sole proprietorship, LLCs require more paperwork and formalized behavior.

Remember, the choice of business structure is not an irreversible decision. You may amend your business structure to accommodate your changing needs and circumstances.

  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016 (latest data available)

The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by FMG Suite to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. FMG Suite is not affiliated with the named broker-dealer, state- or SEC-registered investment advisory firm. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright 2019 FMG Suite.

YOUR CREDIT HAS AN IMPACT ON YOUR AUTO, HOME & LIFE INSURANCE RATES

DOES YOUR CREDIT SCORE AFFECT YOUR INSURANCE RATES?
By: Malone Financial Services

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One landmark study found that credit-based insurance scores are used by about 95 percent of all auto and home insurers in calculating the cost of insurance to individuals.

While the vast majority of insurance companies use credit-based insurance scores to help determine the price of insurance, it is banned in the states of Massachusetts, Hawaii, and California. Some states only allow it as a factor for property insurance like auto and homeowners insurance. Other states allow it to be used with any type of insurance.

Several Factor

Generally, an insurance company will use a credit-based insurance score as just one factor in its underwriting process. Other factors may be considered, depending upon the type of insurance. For example, with auto insurance, other factors could include your zip code, the age of the drivers, the make, model and age of the car, and the number of miles you drive annually.

The use of credit scores to determine insurance rates is rooted in research that has shown individuals with lower credit scores had higher car insurance losses and higher claims payouts.

You can ask your insurance company if a credit-based insurance score was used to underwrite and rate your policy, and in which risk category you were placed.

If you want to improve your credit-based insurance score, you should consider taking the same steps you would to improve your credit rating: make timely debt payments, clear up past disputes and keep credit card balances low.

  1. Predictive Analytics: Achieving Greater Decision Accuracy, Better Risk Segmentation, and Greater Profitability, Fair Isaac Corporation, 2012 (most recent statistics available).

The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by FMG Suite to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. FMG, LLC, is not affiliated with the named broker-dealer, state- or SEC-registered investment advisory firm. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright 2019 FMG Suite.


Jon Stewart rips Congress on behalf of first responders

Jon Stewart rips Congress on behalf of first responders

By Robert Foreman

Comedian Jon Stewart went to Washington, but he wasn’t there to make anyone laugh. On the contrary, the former Daily Show host was pissed off and he made sure that Congressional lawmakers knew it. Stewart, along with many 9/11 first responders, had come to Capitol Hill to fight for the funds that were allocated to care for first responders in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks. Now, one would think that looking out for the first responders, who are dealing with a multitude of health issues stemming from 9/11, would be a no-brainer. However, this is Washington, D.C. where nothing is ever simple.

Congress had allocated well over $7 billion dollars to address the various health issues that first responders have endured. However, the money was only set aside through 2020 and the mounting claims from first responders who have endured Ground Zero health-related issues has strained the fund. In fact, there was a point where the amount of the payouts was being slashed. It is for that reason why Stewart, and the first responders, found themselves before the House Judiciary Committee. To add insult to injury, there were numerous members of Congress who did not even attend the hearing. Stewart, rightfully, said it was “shameful” that more lawmakers were not in attendance.

The often raw and emotional testimony given by Stewart, and some of the first responders, received widespread attention and praise. Perhaps, ‘shamed’ by the overwhelming media and public reaction the House Judiciary Committee unanimously passed a bill the following day that would permanently reauthorize the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund. However, the battle is not over yet. The bill must still survive a full House vote and then be passed by the Senate. Any politician, regardless of political party, who votes against the bill can never stand before the American people with any credibility and claim to value the lives of first responders.

Thousands of American citizens lost their lives on 9/11 and those images that we saw play out on our televisions screens are forever burned into the nation’s psyche. I vividly remember worrying about my family and friends who were working in Lower Manhattan that day. Thankfully, none of them were hurt. However, there were many people who lost friends and loved ones, including first responders. Imagine what those first responders saw on that fateful day. As thousands of people were fleeing to safety, the police officers, firefighters and EMTs were racing toward the terror. They bravely did their jobs while some of their fellow first responders lost their lives. Yet they didn’t have the time to mourn their fallen brethren. They did their jobs of saving as many civilians as they could. Little did the surviving first responders realize that as they were working in the rubble that was once the Twin Towers that the toxic chemicals and fumes released that day would ultimately claim some of their lives years later.

One would think that a grateful nation would want to do everything in its power to help those 9/11 first responders. Stewart deserves to be applauded for his ongoing support of the first responders. However, neither he, nor the first responders, should have had to essentially shame Congress into doing the right thing. Congress should have done the right thing on their own and made taking care of the first responders a top priority. As a society, we often throw the term ‘hero’ around too freely. But those first responders who ran toward the chaos on 9/11 deserve that title. It’s as simple as that.

So, Congress, should treat them like the heroes that they are instead of forcing them to fight for the very funds that were promised to them. Many of these first responders survived the initial 9/11 attack in 2001, but nearly 20 years later they are fighting, and in some cases losing, the war against the health issues that were unleashed that day. We should allow these first responders to continue to fight their health battles with grace and dignity. Sparing them from having to trek to Capitol Hill to demand answers about how they are going to pay for their treatments is the very least that we as a country can do after the sacrifices they made on 9/11, and continue to make, on our behalf.

STRESSING ABOUT YOUR CHILDREN'S COLLEGE? HERE ARE SIMPLE TIPS TO CONSIDER

COUNTDOWN TO COLLEGE
By: Malone Financial Services

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Tip: Parlez-vous Francais? Many universities like to see multiple years of foreign language on a transcript. 

Source: Collegeapps.about.com, March 11, 2016

Most parents want to give their children the best opportunity for success, and getting into the right college may help open doors. According to the Census Bureau, 33% of American adults have a bachelor's degree, and those with a bachelor's degree earn 67% more on average than those with just a high school diploma.

Unfortunately, being accepted to the college of their choice may not be as easy as it once was. These days, preparing for college means setting goals, staying focused, and tackling a few key milestones along the way.

Before High School

The road to college begins even before high school. Start by helping your elementary and middle school children develop a love for learning. Encourage good study habits and get them dreaming about college. A trip to a nearby university or your alma mater may help plant the seed in their minds. When your child reaches middle school, take the time to find out which prerequisite courses may set the right track for math and science in high school.

The earlier you consider how you expect to pay for college costs the better. The average college graduate today owes $37,172 in debt, while the average salary for a recent graduate is $49,785.

Freshman Year

Before the school year begins, consider meeting with your child’s guidance counselor. Discuss college goals and make sure your child is enrolled in classes that are structured to help him or her pursue those goals. Also, encourage your child to choose challenging classes. Many universities look for students who push themselves when it comes to learning. At the same time, keep a close eye on grades. Every year on the transcript counts. If your child is struggling in a subject, don’t wait to get a tutor. One-on-one instruction can be a huge benefit when mastering difficult material.

In addition to academic performance, many colleges want prospective students to be well rounded, so encourage your child to engage in extracurricular activities, such as sports, music, art, community service, and social clubs.

Sophomore

YearDuring their sophomore year, some students may have the opportunity to take a practice SAT. The practice test is a good way to give your child an idea of what the test entails and which areas need improvement. If your child is enrolled in advanced placement (AP) courses, encourage good performance on AP exams. A solid grade shows universities your child can succeed at a higher level of learning.

Sophomore year is also a good time to get some depth in extracurricular activities. Help your child identify passions and stick to them. Encourage your child to read as much as possible. Whether they read Crime and Punishment or Sports Illustrated, they will expand their vocabulary and critical thinking skills. Summer may be a good time for sophomores to get a job, do an internship, or travel to help fill their quiver of experiences.

Junior Year

Near the beginning of junior year, your child can take the Preliminary SAT, (PSAT), also known as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT). Even if he or she won’t need to take the SAT for college, taking the PSAT could open doors for scholarship money. Junior year may be the most challenging in terms of course load. It is also a critical year for showing good grades in difficult classes.

Top colleges look for applicants who are future leaders. Encourage your child to take a leadership role in an extracurricular activity. This doesn’t mean he or she has to be drum major or captain of the football team. Leading may involve helping an organization with fundraising, marketing, or community outreach.

In the spring of junior year, your child will want to take the SAT or ACT. An early test date may allow time for taking the test again in senior year, if necessary. No matter how many times your child takes the test, colleges will only look at the best score.

Senior Year

For many students, senior year is the most exciting time of high school. They will finally begin to reap the benefits of all their efforts during the previous years. Once your child has decided which schools to apply for, make sure you keep on top of deadlines. Applying early can increase your student’s chance of acceptance.

Fast Fact: Pre-Approved. The U.S. Department of Education says that all students, regardless of financial status, are eligible for up to $31,000 in federal Stafford Loans over four years. 
Source: U.S. Department of Education, 2017

Now is also the time to apply for scholarships. Your child’s guidance counselor can help you identify scholarships within reach. Also, find out about financial aid and be thorough. According to research by NerdWallet.com, nearly $3 billion in free federal grant money goes unclaimed each year simply because students fail to fill out the free application.

Finally, talk to your child about living away from home. Help make sure he or she knows how to manage money wisely and pay bills on time. You may also want to talk about social pressures some college freshmen face for the first time when they move away from home.

For many people, college sets the stage for life. Making sure your children have options when it comes to choosing a university can help shape their future. Work with them today to make goals and develop habits that will help ensure their success.

South Paws Wanted

Your child doesn’t have to be the high school valedictorian to qualify for a scholarship. In fact, thousands of dollars are awarded each year for the most unusual things. Consider these:

  1. Right-handers need not apply. Frederick and Mary F. Beckley offer $1,000 to lucky left-handed students (who also want to attend Juniata College in Huntington, PA).

  2. Stick It. Duck Brand Duct Tape offers $3,000 to students who go to their high school prom dressed entirely in duct tape

  3. How Tall Is Tall? Tall Clubs International offers $1,000 each year to a tall person attending college. Get out the measuring tape. A woman must be at least 5’10” and a man must be 6’2” or taller to qualify.

  4. Candy Connoisseurs Unite.The American Association of Candy Technologists offers $5,000 to students who have exhibited an interest in confectionery technology.

  5. From “Mr. Top Ten” Himself.David Letterman offers $10,000 to students of Ball State University (his alma mater) who produce an original video, audio, written, graphic, or film presentation.

    Source: Financialaidfinder.com, 2017

    Census Bureau, March 2016; Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 20, 2017

  1. U.S. News and World Report, May 9, 2016; Time.com, May 12, 2017

  2. NerdWallet, January 27, 2016

The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by FMG Suite to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. FMG Suite is not affiliated with the named broker-dealer, state- or SEC-registered investment advisory firm. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright 2019 FMG Suite.