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Edward D. Reuss
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The 2nd Annual “John Coughlin Giver of LIfe” Awards and Benefit Ceremony was held on Tuesday, November 11, 2003 at 24 Broadway in Manhattan.   The Police Organization Providing Peer Assistance (POPPA) presented awards to those who have contributed to this vital service of peer support for police officers.

As described in the awards brochure:
“POPPA is a preventative program recognizing that the resistance of police officers seeking early asistance with their personal human problems has been high due to their fear of stigmatization and/or career jeopardy. Studies have shown that cops, as helpers, perceive themselves as failures if they ask for help until, oftentimes, it is too late. The result is suicide, homicide, or other bizaar behavior that further tarnishes their police image.  POPPA helps cops help themselves.”

The same brochure describes the President of POPPA: “Bill Genet, was a 31 year veteran of the NYPD when he founded POPPA back in 1996.  He has served as the director since that time.  Under his leadership, POPPA has grown to a seven member staff and a volunteer corps of 200 active New York City police officers who implement POPPA’s program of peer outreach and support. POPPA recruits and trains cops of all ranks to provide a lifeline for fellow cops experiencing personal or professional problems such as trauma, stress, depression, alcohol abuse, or family tensions.  POPPA is an independent, not-for-profit organization, strongly supported by the NYPD.”

Bill Genet was like a voice crying in the wilderness before the idea of peer counseling for police officers gained recognition in the world of policing.  I remember how the NYPD attempted to deal with the effects of critical incident stress on police officers who were exposed to the violence and trauma of police work.  The Health Services Division’s Early Intervention Unit and Trauma Counseling Unit were official referrals that ranking officers made when confronted with officers with problems resulting from emotional and family difficulties.  Officers with alcohol abuse, gambling, or financial problems were also referred. The critical incident stress resulting from use of firearms or other use of force is an issue that has only recently been recognized by police agencies. Too, the trauma that can result from exposure to the violence and bloodshed of crime scenes and accidents can have an accumulative effect on police officers and other emergency service workers.  Bill Genet was a PBA representative for years and had experience with the tragedy of cops who tried to cope with their problems by themselves. Suicide was an all too common occurrence.  He knew just how vital peer assistance was for cops. The key word in that phrase is PEER. Cops listen to and trust other cops. They may not have medical degrees, but they do have empirical knowledge of the problems of police officers.  POPPA has its critics, but those same critics must deal with one salient fact; the program works.  To read more about the POPPA program and its history, visit the web site at www.poppainc.com

What Bill Genet and the POPPA program needed was the support of the NYPD.  In a Police Commissioner like Ray Kelly, he got it. Kelly comes with the credentials that every cop recognizes.  He is one of them. He wore the same blue uniform walking a post as a rookie cop.  He spent time on patrol in those same radio cars and was a working cop before he rose in the ranks. He knows what Bill Genet means when he explains the POPPA program. And so the two men have built a foundation for full implementation of this enlightened approach to counseling the men and women of the NYPD.

                                         L.to R.  PC Ray Kelly with Bill Genet
                                                         Photo by NY Cop Online Magazine

The guest speaker at the awards ceremony was Alan “Ace” Greenberg, Chairman of the Executive Committee of Bear Stearns & Company .  Mr. Greenberg told the audience how life can lead to some unexpected turns. He recalled how as a young man he had been confronted with a life-threatening illness, yet, how with the support of his family, he had overcome such adversity. He and PC Kelly were friends and their friendship was apparent to all those in attendance.

Alan “Ace” Greenberg, Bear Stearns & Co.
Photo by NY Cop Online Magazine

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly listens to Alan Greenberg’s remarks
Photo by NY Cop Online Magazine

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly addressed the guests and reaffirmed his support of the POPPA Program.  As he spoke, I looked at the award program brochure and read the mission statement of POPPA. “The Police Organization Providing Peer Assistance was established as a volunteer peer support network that is committed exclusively to providing a confidential, safe and supportive environment for police officers and their families.  We are dedicated to the prevention and reduction of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), marital problems, substance abuse, and suicide.  The Poppa program is designed to reduce the gap between access and availability to necessary support services which includes a professional mental health network.”

NYPD Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly
Photo by NY Cop Online Magazine

Mike Sheehan, Fox 5 News hosted the awards presentations.  Mike retired from the NYPD after many years in the Detective Bureau prior to his new career as a TV journalist.  He and Bill Genet knew each other during their careers with the NYPD. 

Mike Sheehan, Det (NYPD)ret. now with Fox5 News
Photo by NY Cop Online Magazine

POPPA Awardees with President Bill Genet and PC Ray Kelly
Photo by NY Cop Online Magazine

To learn more about Critical Incident Stress and the vital role that Critical Incident Stress Debriefing plays in emergency management, to learn how to become a volunteer in CISD, or to donate to this worthy cause, visit the POPPA Web site at WWW.POPPAINC.COM

Critical Incident Stess Debriefing is a recognized part of the Incident Command System .  Emergency Managers must be conversant with this aspect of their role. CISD defusing sessions and debriefings of police officers, firefighters, emergency medical personnel as well as other emergency services is part of the organizational structure of the Incident Command System.

Read these:
Feature articles about the Incident Command System and Critical Incident Stress Debriefing

Click on these links to go to the stories:


After the awards ceremony, I had the opportunity to speak with Commissioner Ray Kelly.  He is a true gentleman with a lot of class.

Ed Reuss with PC Ray Kelly
Photo by NY Cop Online Magazine

I also had the chance to interview CWO Steven Browning , of the New York State National Guard.  Steve is a pilot with the Army National Guard flying the famous Blackhawk Helicopter.  He was at Ground Zero with the Army National Guard and worked with the Army units on the scene. Critical Incident Stress defusings and debriefing sessions were provided to the members of the Army National Guard.  Steve told me that the Army Medical Corps has “combat stress teams” that function in a similar manner as the POPPA teams. It was gratifying to know that our combat troops are receiving similar services as our police and emergency service workers.

                                                                             Army National Guard CWO3 Steven Browning with Bill Genet
Photo by NY Cop Online Magazine


I had spoken with Bill Genet about the POPPA program on prior occasions.  At this event, we discussed how important this program is for the active men and women of the NYPD.  We also discussed how those veteran cops who have left the job without such assistance, still carry the effects of those years with the NYPD in their daily lives.  The benefits of Critical Incident Stress debriefings can still help those who suffer with the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that may result when police, firefighters, and other emergency service workers do not receive any peer support services such as POPPA.   We retirees know many men and women veteran cops who still suffer from the stress and trauma sustained in their careers with the NYPD. Perhaps we will see a CISD and POPPA for retired cops too?

If you are a police officer who needs POPPA, here is how to get help:

Call:  1-888-COPS-COP or 1-888-267-7267



 Retirees Site