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Police Suicide Webcast

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On October 10th, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP) and Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) teamed up with the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) on an Officer Safety and Wellness Police Suicide Webcast as part of our ongoing efforts to protect the health and safety of law enforcement officers. The purpose of the webcast is to raise awareness among law enforcement about the issue of police suicide and to provide practical information and resources on prevention.

By some estimates, more than 140 law enforcement officers committed suicide in each of the last four years, a startling and unacceptable number. Many law enforcement agencies lack the resources to prevent officer suicide and are unable to respond effectively when it occurs.

The webcast features OJP's Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary Lou Leary, joined by COPS Office Director Barney Melekian; IACP Immediate Past President, Chief Walt McNeil; and two experts, John Violanti and Jim Sewell; who discuss how they are working to assist law enforcement agencies by increasing suicide awareness training, improving access to resources, and identifying best practices for law enforcement agencies. Presenters take questions from participants on a variety of issues related to police suicide and officer safety.

The webcast is available at http://www.ojp.gov/newsroom/multimedia/20121010policesuicideweb.wmv.

You can also view the presentations by John Violanti and Jim Sewell.

The conversation features:

  • Mary Lou Leary, Acting Assistant Attorney General, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. DOJ
  • Bernard K. Melekian, Director, COPS Office, U.S. DOJ
  • Walter P. McNeil, Chief of Police, Quincy, Florida; Immediate Past President, The International Association of Chiefs of Police
  • John M. Violanti, Research Professor, University at Buffalo, State University of New York
  • James D. Sewell, Assistant Commissioner (ret.), Florida Department of Law Enforcement

To comply with 508 regulations, OJP makes available transcripts of all video posted to OJP.gov. Click here to request.

Mary Lou Leary, Acting Assistant Attorney General

Mary Lou Leary was appointed Acting Assistant Attorney General on March 1, 2012. As head of the Office of Justice Programs, she oversees an annual budget of more than $2 billion dedicated to supporting state, local, and tribal criminal justice agencies; an array of juvenile justice programs; a wide range of research, evaluation, and statistical efforts; and comprehensive services for crime victims. Prior to her appointment, she served as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General.

Ms. Leary has 30 years of criminal justice experience at the federal, state, and local levels, with an extensive background in criminal prosecution, government leadership, and victim advocacy. Before joining the Office of Justice Programs in 2009, she was Executive Director of the National Center for Victims of Crime, a leading victim advocacy organization in Washington, D.C. She also served in leadership roles at the Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, holding posts as Principal Assistant United States Attorney, Senior Counsel to the United States Attorney, Chief of the office's Superior Court Division, and United States Attorney. From 1999 to 2001, she held several executive positions at the Department of Justice, including Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs, Deputy Associate Attorney General, and Acting Director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

In addition to her years as a federal prosecutor, Ms. Leary prosecuted crimes on the state and local levels as Assistant District Attorney in Middlesex County, Massachusetts. She received her law degree from Northeastern University School of Law, a master's degree in education from Ohio State University, and a bachelor's degree in English literature from Syracuse University.


Bernard K. Melekian, Director, COPS Office, U.S. DOJ

Bernard K. Melekian was announced as the Director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) by Attorney General Eric Holder on October 5, 2009. As Director of the COPS Office, Melekian leads an organization responsible for working closely with the nation’s state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies to enhance the safety of communities by advancing community policing.  Director Melekian is committed to using COPS Office programs and resources to help law enforcement build relationships and solve problems, which he views as the cornerstone of effective community policing.

Mr. Melekian was the Police Chief for the City of Pasadena, California for more than 13 years before assuming leadership of the COPS Office. He also served with the Santa Monica Police Department for 23 years where he was awarded the Medal of Valor in 1978 and the Medal of Courage in 1980.

Director Melekian has been the recipient of numerous awards, and is recognized as a leader whose commitment to the advancement of community policing is built on years of patrol experience and a strong record of incorporating the needs of the community into police operations.  In April, 2010 he was awarded the prestigious National Public Service Award by the American Society for Public Administration and the National Academy of Public Administration.

Melekian has served as the acting Fire Chief and Interim City Manager for the City of Pasadena.  He was Chairman of the California Attorney General’s Blue Ribbon Committee on SWAT Policy, and is the former President of the 2009 Los Angeles County and California Police Chiefs Associations.  Mr. Melekian has also served on the National Board of Directors of the Police Executive Research Forum.

Director Melekian holds a Bachelor’s degree in American History and a Master’s degree in Public Administration, both from California State University at Northridge.  He is currently a doctoral candidate in Public Policy at the University of Southern California, and a graduate of the FBI National Academy and the California Command College.

Director Melekian served in the United States Army from 1967 to 1970.  As a member of the United States Coast Guard Reserve, he was called to active duty in 1991 during Operation Desert Storm and served in Saudi Arabia. Melekian served a second tour of active duty in 2003.  He retired from the Coast Guard Reserves in 2009, after 28 years of service.


Walter P. McNeil Chief of Police, Quincy, Florida; Immediate Past President, The International Association of Chiefs of Police

Immediate Past President Chief Walter McNeil, was chosen as the Police Chief for the City of Quincy, February 28, 2011. When appointed by Governor Charlie Crist on February 20, 2008 as the Secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections, Walter McNeil had more than 29 years of law enforcement experience. In this role, he is responsible for planning, coordinating, and directing the nation’s third largest prison system with a total annual budget of $2.3 billion and a workforce of over 20,000 employees. While serving in this position, he has continued to emphasize his commitment to public safety through a common sense approach to addressing recidivism.

Secretary McNeil was head of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice when appointed to the position of Secretary of Corrections. While at the Department of Juvenile Justice, his priority was to ensure the efficient operation of the state juvenile justice system through the provision of an appropriate mix of programs and services for juvenile offenders.

Prior to being selected to lead the above- named agencies, McNeil was the Chief of Police for the City of Tallahassee, Florida. Appointed to this position in 1997, McNeil served as the Tallahassee Police Chief for almost ten years. As Chief of Police, he directed 345 sworn police officers and approximately 130 full time civilian employees, and administered a total annual budget of approximately $42 million to ensure the effective delivery of law enforcement services. During his tenure as Chief, the Police Department consistently received very high customer service satisfaction ratings from the citizens of Tallahassee.

A strong voice for progressive law enforcement, he lead several community policing efforts in Tallahassee to control gangs, drugs, and juvenile crime. These efforts earned him numerous honors, including being named Public Sector Business Person of the Year; recipient of the Northern District U.S. Attorney’s Outstanding Service Award; the Tallahassee NAACP Humanitarian Award; the United States DEA Award for drug enforcement; the IACP Civil Rights Award; and the City of Tallahassee Humanitarian Award for his response to Hurricane Katrina as one of the Incident Commanders.

Prior to serving as the Tallahassee Police Chief, McNeil held the positions of Assistant Police Chief, Police Major, Police Captain, Police Lieutenant, Police Sergeant, and Police Officer/Investigator for the City of Tallahassee.

McNeil holds a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice and a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminology. He is also a graduate of the FBI National Academy. He is an active member of the State of Florida Human Trafficking Task Force, an active participant in the United Way of the Big Bend’s Community Reinvestment efforts, a practicing member of the 100 Black Men of Tallahassee, and serves as the 2010 Honorary Chair of the State of Florida Leukemia Lymphoma Cancer Society Fundraiser. Past community involvement include serving as Board Member of Boys and Girls Town of Tallahassee, Chair of the American Heart Association Heart Walk, Honorary Co-Chair of the March of Dimes Walk America Campaign, Board Member of the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce, and Refuge House of Tallahassee Board Member.


John M. Violanti, Research Professor, University at Buffalo, State University of New York

John M. Violanti, Ph.D. is a Full Research Professor in the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, School of Public Health and Health Professions at the University at Buffalo, NY, State University of New York and has been associated with this department for 25 years. Dr. Violanti is a member of the medical school graduate faculty. Prior to his position at Buffalo, he was a full professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Department of Criminal Justice. He is a police veteran, serving with the New York State Police for 23 years as a trooper, investigator, and as a coordinator for the Employee Assistance Program for the New York State Police. Dr. Violanti served in the U.S. Army, 57th Military Police at West Point from 1963-1966. He has been involved in the design, implementation, and analysis of numerous suicide, stress and health studies over the past 25 years. His latest work involves a 10-year study on police health, psychological well-being, and shift work funded by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and National Institute of Justice. Dr. Violanti has authored over 50 peer-reviewed articles and 14 books on suicide, stress and PTSD. He has lectured nationally and internationally at academic institutions on matters of suicide, stress and trauma at work.


James D. Sewell, Assistant Commissioner (ret.), Florida Department of Law Enforcement

James D. Sewell retired as Assistant Commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in February 2005, following a 32-year career with university, municipal, and state law enforcement agencies in Florida. Since his retirement from active law enforcement, he has provided training and management consulting services to a number of law enforcement and social services agencies, not-for-profit organizations, and professional associations.

Dr. Sewell received his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. in Criminology from Florida State University. He has published two textbooks, one of which, Stress Management in Law Enforcement, with Dr. Leonard Territo, is in its second edition, and over fifty journal articles and book chapters, principally on law enforcement management and law enforcement stress.

He is a graduate of the Florida Criminal Justice Executive Institute Chief Executive Seminar (Eighth Class) and F.B.I. National Academy (114th Session) and is a Life Member of both the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Florida Police Chiefs Association. In 2010, he was named to the FPCA’s Wall of Honor for contributions to the Association and the law enforcement profession.


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