Our Obligation to Returning Veterans

By Colonel Mike Tooley, Montana Highway Patrol, Mountain Pacific Regional Chair, IACP Division of State and Provincial Police

Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, military reservists have been called to duty to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many reservists are police officers and state troopers. Upon returning home, some have injuries or illnesses, including traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The IACP recognizes the reintegration challenges facing returning veterans and law enforcement agencies. Several years ago it undertook, in cooperation with the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Employing Returning Combat Veterans as Law Enforcement Officers project, through which it produced and distributed more than 20,000 guides for law enforcement executives, veterans, and family members of veterans.

My agency followed the recommendations of the guides yet tragically is still having trouble assisting our returning veterans. What we have encountered in Montana is a troubling disconnect between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense in diagnosing and providing adequate care for our reservist officers. I understand from many of my colleagues that this problem is more pervasive than many think.

The IACP Division of State and Provincial Police is taking up this cause, recognizing that we have not just a legal but also a moral obligation to help our returning veterans. Chief John Batiste, the IACP general chair, and Division Director Michael Wagers raised this issue with numerous federal elected officials during the IACP Day on the Hill. We also passed a resolution at our midyear meeting in March, proclaiming that we must find better ways to help veterans and that the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense must work with us to become part of the solution. We will forward this resolution for consideration by the entire 21,000 members of the IACP at the annual conference in San Diego.

We would like to hear if your agency has encountered similar problems. Please post your comments to this blog or email Michael Wagers.

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