Houston County Sheriff Donald Valenza will host the third annual statewide Law Enforcement Alliance for Peer Support conference Tuesday at Harvest Church.
This free event is open to law enforcement officers and their spouses.
ALLEAPS is a nonprofit group organized exclusively for providing crisis intervention training and response services to first responders with a goal of equipping individuals and agencies to deal with critical incidents.
Dr. Tim Faulk will offer the introduction for the seminar. Faulk, a member of Crisis Doctors & Associates, is a diplomat and board-certified expert in traumatic stress through the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress. He is an approved instructor for the Assisting Individuals in Crisis and Group Crisis Intervention programs and the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, and he provides critical-incident training for the Headland Police Department, the Houston County Sheriff’s Office, Dale County 911 and the Dothan Fire Department. He has presented at several conferences, including the Special Operations Medical Association Conference at Tampa, Florida; the Surviving Trauma Conference at Pensacola, Florida; and several Alabama Department of Education conferences. One of his goals is to provide training to first responders to decrease incidents of post-traumatic stress disorder and lower the suicide rate.
In 2019, 47 officers were killed by gunfire while on duty, and more than 220 others took their own lives with their own guns, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
Registration and training with guest speakers Karen Solomon, and Matt and Anita Hanlin will begin at 8 a.m.
The conference is approved by the Alabama Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission for rank-and-file officers and their uniformed supervisors.
Solomon is a co-founder of Blue H.E.L.P., a Massachusetts-based nonprofit group that tracks police suicides.
She is known for giving a voice to thousands of officers in the field who can’t or won’t speak out, ALLEAPS says. Over the past three years, she has interviewed hundreds of officers and their families to gain insight into the field, trauma, stress and physical and emotional survival. Being married to a police officer, she understands what goes along with marriage to a law enforcement officer.
Solomon is a national speaker, author, columnist and advocate. Her books “Hearts Beneath the Badge” and “The Price They Pay” are used in citizens academics nationwide and endorsed by law enforcement.
“This training will give the insight to law enforcement,” she said. “I will discuss how spouses can reach out for help and how to learn what to look for before a mental crisis occurs. Law enforcement officers and their spouses can go through a physical crisis, but most incidents involve a mental crisis.”
Among the topics she will address at the conference are anxiety, stress and burnout issues.
Attendees also will hear guest speaker Matt Hanlin, a detective with the Clay County Sheriff’s Office currently assigned to its training unit. He has served as a field training officer and as a detective in the organized-crime, narcotics, general-investigation and street-crimes units and the state’s attorney’s office, ALLEAPS says.
In 2012, he was shot during a methamphetamine investigation in which his partner, Detective Dave White, was killed.
Hanlin lives in Orange Park, Florida, with his wife, Anita. He is an active supporter of Concerns of Police Survivors and has served three years as the chapter president for the Northeast Florida Chapter. Hanlin and his wife will address the topic of life and marriage after a critical incident.
“My goal is to inform law enforcement officers help is available,” Hanlin said. “I had no idea what was available until I needed it. Now, I want to make sure every officer knows what kind of help is available before a crisis occurs.”
Valenza said many people had the wrong impression about the program when it first started.
“Many people thought this program got a law enforcement officer out of trouble, and that is incorrect,” he said. “A crime is a crime, no matter who commits it. This program allows a first responder a chance to speak with a trained individual on a personal or career-related issued that is causing that officer stress. This program is about helping the officer instead of an officer bottling up issues that could cause that officer harm.
“Unless someone is in law enforcement they have no idea what an officer sees or does on a daily basis. Unless you have a family member involved in law enforcement, you have no idea what kind of stress that can put on an officer’s family. Sometimes an officer just needs someone to talk to.”
Valenza and Faulk said that the Alabama Peer Support Law was signed by those who see the need to help first responders.
The conference is held in cooperation with the the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency and Alabama Law Enforcement Alliance for Peer Support.