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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services

145 N Street, N.E.
Washington, DC 20530

August 2022 | Volume 15 | Issue 8

The Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) has selected the Cincinnati (Ohio) Police Department (CPD) Military Liaison Group and the Cincinnati Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center to receive the 2021 L. Anthony Sutin Award for Innovative Law Enforcement and Community Partnerships.

In 2014, a routine traffic stop in Cincinnati became the genesis of a unique and long-lasting partnership. Sergeant David Corlett of the CPD pulled over a driver cruising in a high–drug prevalence area. During the ensuing conversation, Sergeant Corlett gleaned two vital pieces of information: the driver was a veteran and searching for narcotics. Sergeant Corlett identified himself as a veteran of the Iraq War. The driver had recently returned from Afghanistan and was receptive to Sergeant Corlett’s outreach but there was a problem: Sergeant Corlett did not know where to refer the young man for help.

Sergeant Corlett began volunteering with local veterans’ groups in a peer-support role, but he knew that he could do more. Nearly a third of the officers of the CPD are veterans. Sergeant Corlett reached out to these officers and formed a coalition called the Law Enforcement Liaison for Battle in Distress to help improve interactions between officers and veterans in the community. After this group was responsible for successful interventions with several veterans experiencing suicidal ideation, Chief Jeffrey Blackwell requested a briefing, and was so impressed that he decided that the effort needed to be formalized within the department as the CPD Military Liaison Group.

Veterans in crisis come into frequent contact with law enforcement. Sergeant Corlett and his team had experienced success in improving initial police-veteran interactions, but they also recognized that, as with the first young veteran in crisis he interacted with, the police department was going to need partners among the local service providers. Sergeant Corlett reached out to the Cincinnati Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the Hamilton County Veterans Treatment Court presided over by Judge Melissa Powers. Judge Powers invited Sergeant Corlett to observe the operations of the court, where he was introduced to Veterans Justice Outreach worker Ron Michaelson. “After just a couple of meetings,” according to Dr. Kathleen Chard, who nominated the team for the Sutin Award, “the two determined that the best course of action would be to utilize the police as a triage for the veteran and together determine through follow-up with the veteran what the best course of action would be for long term solution.”

The partnership flourished. Partners such as the Hamilton County CIT program, the Cincinnati Fire Department, the Ohio Supreme Court, and the office of the Attorney General of Ohio all took note of the program and in 2021, the Ohio Attorney General posted guidelines for agencies across the state to use in forming their own local Military Liaisons. The program even attracted national and congressional attention: on October 28, 2021, Congresswoman Maria Salazar introduced the Service Act for Veterans and Law Enforcement to provide grant-based funding for law enforcement agencies across the country to develop a response model based on the Cincinnati veteran response team. The national scope and innovative nature of and community support for this program all featured prominently in the selection of the Cincinnati Police Department Military Liaison Group and the Cincinnati VA Medical Center to receive the 2021 L. Anthony Sutin Award for Innovative Law Enforcement and Community Partnerships.

When informed of the decision, Sergeant Dave Corlett said, “This is such an honor. The Military Liaison Group is not about doing what we do to receive recognition, but it is so nice to know we have the support of our Cincinnati Police Command Staff and our friends at CPD. This program could not be successful without the support of the department and our community partners.” Jane Johnson, Executive Director for the Cincinnati VA Medical Center, concurred: “The Cincinnati VA and Cincinnati Police Department’s shared mission for serving veterans through outreach in the community is one of many important partnerships we have with our community partners. The receipt of the Sutin Award is just one of many achievements that highlights how serving veterans at the earliest possible point of engagement in their life can make a significant impact when partners work together.”

The L. Anthony Sutin Award for Innovative Law Enforcement and Community Partnerships recognizes the efforts of innovative and sustained law enforcement and community partnerships whose unique collaborations have transformed public safety in their communities. This award is bestowed on those partnerships in which law enforcement is actively engaged with the community in a multifaceted manner that has been sustained over time and has resulted in positive, observable public safety outcomes or advances in public trust. The award is named in memory of Tony Sutin, who served as a founder and Deputy Director of the COPS Office from its creation in 1994 until 1996. After serving as the Principal Deputy to the Associate Attorney General of the United States, then as acting Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs, he joined the faculty of the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Virginia in 1999. He quickly became dean and served in that capacity until his untimely death on January 16, 2002.

Sarah K. Estill
COPS Office

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