NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- North Little Rock is home to the nation's only Veterans Affairs Police training academy. The one-of-a-kind facility now wants to serve even more veterans, by taking its curriculum to local cops.
Nearly 95% of VA police officers are veterans themselves, and say that no one can help a veteran quite like another vet. But, by sharing the academy's extensive training for dealing with combat-related crises, such as PTSD, academy officials are hopeful it will be the next best thing.
When combat veterans come home from overseas, they often face an uphill battle. Alex Traub, a VA police officer-in-training, says patience with the men and woman who have served is very important. A veteran himself, Traub aspires to be a VA officer to help his peers.
"I've always had a belief that being an officer is not just being a crime fighter," Traub explained. "It's being someone who helps everybody."
Trent Pettis, Academic Programs Division Chief at the Law Enforcement Training Center says the academy's focus is controlling any sort of crisis a veteran may be suffering. They're now aiming that focus at local law enforcement.
"We identified a need to get out in the community and teach the community how to identify veterans, how to identify veterans in crisis, how to mitigate some of those issues," he said.
By bringing VA de-escalation techniques to local police and first responders across central Arkansas, Pettis is hopeful those future interactions with vets may result in a more positive outcome, especially when it comes to mental illness and suicide prevention.
"We know that we're successful," Pettis said. "Now we just need to bridge that gap between the community and the VA."
For trainee Alex Traub, it all comes back to the idea of community policing.
"Instead of just sending [a veteran] to jail and starting the cycle over again, getting our veterans to a better place so they can rejoin society," he said.
Because as every veteran knows, you leave no man behind.
The first training session is November 29th, hosted by Arkansas State Police. Agencies from across central Arkansas have been invited to send a representative to receive instruction, and then bring that education back to their colleagues.
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