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Board Members

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Stephanie Samuels - M.A., MSW, LCSW President, Creator, and Founder
Stephanie Samuels is a psychotherapist who works exclusively with police officers in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Oklahoma. Ms. Samuels has lectured all over the country on PTSD and vicarious trauma, including undiagnosed PTSD and the fallout from departmental silence after officers are involved in critical incidents.
  
Ms. Samuels began her career as one of the founding teens of Teen Line Cares, a mental health help line for teens. Ms. Samuels recognized that teens only trusted and confided in other teens. With this same concept in mind, Ms. Samuels went on to create two law enforcement officer hotlines. She is currently the Founder and President of COPLINE, Inc., the first Confidential National Law Enforcement Officers' Hotline in the country manned by retired officers. 
  
She is the general partner of The Counseling and Critical Incident Debriefing Center, LLC, which specializes in debriefing and long term counseling of first responders and their families. She taught at the Monmouth County Police Academy for 16 years and has been a guest lecturer at The FBI Academy in Quantico.  Ms. Samuels was hired after the Boston Bombing as the Clinical Director of the Boston Police Department Peer Support Unit and co-founded the LEADER (Law Enforcement Active Duty Emergency Responder) Program at Harvard's McLean Hospital and continues to work with the Boston Police Department in a different capacity. 
  
Ms. Samuels has co-authored Under the Blue Shadow: Clinical and Behavioral Perspectives on Police Suicide with Dr. John Violanti and a chapter entitled "Police Trauma: Past Exposures and Present Consequences" in the book Managing Traumatic Stress Risk: A Proactive Approach. She received the President's Award in Social Work in 1999 for the legislation that she wrote to create a statewide hotline now known as Cop2Cop and critical incident debriefings for law enforcement officers. She received the "Honored Citizen Award" from the New Jersey Honor Legion for her contributions to the law enforcement community. She has authored five legislative bills in New Jersey and has helped get two of them passed. One bill was introduced in Pennsylvania that would recognize a psychological injury as the same as a physical injury for the law enforcement community. Ms. Samuels is the author of the "Dear Steph" column for the New Jersey State Fraternal Order of Police Newspaper. Ms. Samuels got her Bachelors degree from UCLA, a Masters degree in Psychology from Antioch University, Los Angeles, and a Masters degree in Social Work from Rutgers University, New Brunswick.
Francis Graf - Vice President
Francis Graf is a former Saanich Police Officer who left the police department to return to the University of Victoria, where he completed a BSc and MA in Counselling Psychology.  Francis’ thesis research focused on the relationship between social support and occupational stress among police officers.  After completing his Masters’ degree, Francis worked with several public and private sector agencies before founding a leading-edge digital forensic investigation and eDiscovery firm based in Victoria, BC, Canada.  Here, Francis built a team of internationally recognized digital forensic experts and he has many years of experience investigating computer misuse in criminal and civil matters of all types.
 
During this time, Francis was also actively involved in training computer forensics practitioners from law enforcement agencies and public and private sector clients across Canada and the USA, as well as developing best practices in computer forensics for public and private sector organizations across the country.
 
In 2003, Francis was sworn in as a Special Constable with the Victoria City Police Department in a unique partnership to support their computer forensics capability.
 
Francis is passionate about the unique psychological needs of law enforcement officers and their families and sees Copline as a critical resource to the men and women who serve our communities in this essential role.
Meg C. Schaul, CPA, Treasurer
Meg Schaul has been a certified public accountant in the state of Illinois for 30 years and has had her own practice for the past 22 years. Prior to her accounting career, Meg spent thirteen years working in the medical field. She spent six years working in nursing homes caring for the elderly as a restorative and nursing aide. She then spent seven years on staff working with a doctor of internal medicine helping patients cope with various physical and mental health issues. Meg is the surviving sibling of two brothers who completed suicide, one at age 21 in 2013 and the other age 53 in 2016. Over the years, she has dealt with officers on first response of many different personal and professional levels. After dealing with depression in her own immediate family, she saw how a help-line can play an important role in providing a "first step" on the road to recovery and being the catalyst for continued care and treatment necessary for good mental health. Her reason for involvement with COPLINE is that she feels strongly that it will fill a void that has long existed in crisis intervention by providing a specialized outreach for those individuals, our law enforcement officers and their families, who have to deal with the harshest elements in human existence on a daily basis.
Emily Eng - Secretary
​Emily Eng is a junior at a liberal arts college on the East Coast. She is majoring in Engineering, but plans on pursuing a career in law enforcement. Through personal experiences growing up, she has unique insight into the multiple psycho-social stressors officers experience and the effects they have on both the officer and his or her families. Emily is passionate about helping law enforcement.  She has interned with the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington D.C., and a Prosecutor’s Office in NJ where she had the opportunity to interact with the many disciplines and community relations that law enforcement is involved in. 
Andrew Herschman - ​Board Member
​Andrew Herschman is a resident of NJ, and a lifelong law enforcement enthusiast and supporter.  He is a NJ licensed real estate agent whose career has been impacted by a disabling and ongoing medical condition resulting from surgical complications over 10 years ago. This has provided him direct personal experience in suffering and coping with PTSD.  He has been a volunteer at events for the New Jersey Make A Wish Foundation and is also an Associate Member of his local Volunteer Fire Company.

John Sierega - ​Board Member
John Sierega is the Director of Field Services for the Texas Municipal Police Association (TMPA).  TMPA is a 28,000-member strong statewide law enforcement association providing its members with legal defense, local issue support, training and legislative advocacy.  Prior to going to work for TMPA, John was a police officer with the Inglewood, CA police department where he was a patrol officer, training officer, narcotics detective, patrol sergeant, watch commander, and traffic sergeant. 
As the Director of Field Services, John manages of team eight full-time and four part-time field representatives, and one full-time time training coordinator.  The field services division is the largest division within TMPA and is responsible for providing member support in many areas including pay, benefits, working conditions, referenda and benevolent events. 
In an effort to provide mental and physical health and well-being support for police officers, TMPA supports various programs such as COPLINE, the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas (LEMIT) Post Critical Incident Response Seminar, Bless the Badge, and 1st Responder Conference, to name a few.         
John lives in Pflugerville, Texas.  His hobbies include cycling, reading and snow skiing.  He has two children, Katie and Johnny.  Katie has a bachelor’s degree in education from Texas Tech University and recently became a high school teacher in Colorado.  Johnny, who still lives at home with John, is currently studying to pursue a career as a commercial airline pilot.
James Alvarez, Captain (Retired), Los Angeles Police Department Board Member
Jim has 30 years of Law Enforcement experience. He began his Law Enforcement career with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department in 1986. He joined the LAPD in 1988 fulfilling his childhood dream of becoming a Los Angeles Police Officer. Jim has worked a variety of assignments throughout his career; Patrol, Vice, Training Division and Detectives. As a Sergeant he worked a variety of field assignments such as Patrol, Vice, Undercover Operations and as a Lieutenant he held several administrative positions.

In 2013, Jim was promoted to the rank of Captain and held several Commanding Officer positions; Patrol Operations, Criminal Investigation Division and Special Operations Division. In his last command he was responsible for leading approximately 300 sworn and civilian personnel.

Jim was a member of the United States Navy Reserve and was mobilized for active duty after September 11, 2001. He was honorably discharged in September of 2005. He received an Associates of Arts degree from Southwestern College in San Diego and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Occupational Studies from California State University Long Beach. He is a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Association of Police Organizations and the Peace Officers Research Association of California.

Jim has been engaged with COPLINE since he first volunteered as a peer support member in 2018. He has been fortunate to assist in training new volunteers in the area of active listening. He fully supports a program that provides an outlet, in which officers and family members can utilize, in times of crisis. Our LE family is the last line of defense in keeping our society safe and what better way to give back to those still wearing the badge than to answer their call, because suffering in silence is unacceptable.
Dawn Stevens - Advisor
In 1995, Dawn Stevens started her public safety career as a Volunteer Firefighter for the Lanoka Harbor, NJ Fire Department. In January 1997, Dawn was certified as a Class I Law Enforcement Officer with the Lacey Township Police Department. In 1998, she advanced her career and became a Police Dispatcher for Lacey PD.

During her tenure, Dawn held many important positions in addition to her daily dispatch duties including TAC Officer, Communications Officer for the Emergency Management Department, and President of the Lacey Police Dispatchers Union.

In 1998, Dawn married Scott Stevens, a Detective with the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office. In 2016, Detective Stevens was involved in a serious motor vehicle crash, his wife Dawn was the dispatcher on duty who took the 911 call and dispatched emergency units to the accident. Detective Stevens succumbed to his injuries shortly after the accident.

Dawn was proactive in maintaining her mental health through this traumatic event and is very involved, along with her son Scottie, in the Concerns of Police Survivors (Garden State COPS), a group which provided support to her and her family during a difficult time.

Dawn brings a unique prospective to COPLINE, she was not only a law enforcement professional herself, but she was married to Scott, who although a CPA by education, an officer by vocation who spent most of his career working Child Sexual Predator cases as an Investigator and a Computer Forensic Specialist. Dawn not only dealt with her own work related stresses, but lived the other side seldom seen, the wife of a cop.

Dawn understands first-hand what it’s like to survive a traumatic event and is a role model for ALL officers seeking mental health assistance. She’s a great asset to COPLINE and we’re ecstatic to have her as an advisor.
Michael Nevil - Honorary Board Member
 Mike Nevil, a 25-year retired law enforcement professional with the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office in Toms River, NJ, started his career in the Special Operations Group investigating street level narcotics and eventually was assigned as a DEA Task Force Officer.  After completing his narcotics assignment, Mike was assigned to the newly formed Special Investigations Unit where his duties included Internal Affairs, Organized Crime, and Official Corruption cases. During his tenure in SIU, he was detailed to the FBI and NJSP on investigations encompassing traditional organized crime.

In 1999, he was assigned to the newly formed New Jersey State Police High Tech Crimes Unit where he focused on technology-based investigations. Upon returning to the Prosecutor’s Office, Mike created the Computer Crimes Unit, a countywide unit that included undercover investigations, a full service computer forensic lab as well as an educational component for schools and small business.  During this time his unit was featured on “To Catch a Predator” with Chris Hansen. Throughout his career, Mike supervised multiple units within his agency and completed his career in the Administrative Services Unit. 

During his time in Computer Crimes, Mike was exposed to thousands of images and videos related to Child Pornography which had a profound effect on his personal and home life. Seeking a way to deal with the stress of the content, Mike sought out assistance from the Critical Incident and Debriefing Center in Freehold, NJ. Mike utilized what he learned to share his stories and coping skills with law enforcement officers through Police Academy presentations in New Jersey as well as presenting to the command staff for Boston PD and the Massachusetts State Police.

Mike believes COPLINE is an invaluable asset for those officers that are hesitant to request assistance from their agencies for fear of embarrassment or retribution and is excited to bring this tool to fellow police officers in need.
Nicole Eng - Honorary Board Member
Nicole Eng has grown up with civilian parents who have dedicated their careers to working with both the military and law enforcement. She has unique insight into the multiple psycho-social stressors officers experience and the effects they have on them and their families. She volunteered at a local military base at a monthly event for the families of deployed airmen for four years. In addition, she has interned with the Boston Police Department, a New Jersey Superior Court Judge, and a local Prosecutor’s Office where she has had the opportunity to interact with many different disciplines within the law enforcement community. Nicole is passionate about helping law enforcement as she has a tremendous about of respect for the sacrifices they make to protect this country and is honored to be a part of this hotline. Nicole previously served as interim Vice President of Copline until she joined the United States Army as a commissioned officer candidate to protect and serve this country herself.
ELAINE LEADER, PH.D., BCD, CGP, FAGPA - Founder TEEN LINE, Honorary Board Member
​Elaine Leader always dreamt of making a difference in this world but never knew how.  That dream became a reality with the birth of TEEN  LINE in 1980.  As its Executive Director utill May 2015, she helped the program develop into an amazing opportunity for teens to assist their peers through a hotline and community outreach service.   Leading up to this accomplishment was her previous experience as Coordinator of Adolescent Group Psychotherapy Training at Cedars-Sinai where she was a clinical social worker from 1972-1994.
 
While developing the TEEN LINE program, Dr. Leader also continued seeing patients in her private practice and kept busy writing articles and book reviews for professional journals.  Her chapter, “Teen Line:  A Listening Post for Troubled Youth”  appears in the book, Group Therapy with Children and Adolescents, published by the American Psychiatric Press, in 1996.  
 
Dr. Leader has received many honors over the years, from the 1964 University of London Mark of Distinction in Social Work to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Award in 2000.  But she is most proud of the Crisis Centers Excellence Award from the American Association of Suicidology which she accepted on behalf of TEEN LINE in 2009.  TEEN LINE is definitely Elaine Leader’s special baby.
Dennis Cronin - Captain (Retired), Old Bridge Police Department, N.J., Honorary Board Member
Dennis Cronin has been a police officer for 36 years attaining the rank of Captain. He served as Division Commander of the Patrol, Special Operations, Internal Affairs, and Detective Bureau Divisions. He taught at Middlesex County Police Academy and lectured recruits at the Monmouth County Police Academy about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the effects of critical incidents, and the importance of communications with family members. He has twice received his department's second highest award for Valor (Police Star) and numerous Excellent Police Service awards, Outstanding Police service awards, Life-Saving awards, Meritorious Service awards, and Outstanding Service award from the state Fraternal Order of Police. He has received recognition for service by the NJ State Senate, the Assembly, and the Governor's Office. He has also received the prestigious "10-13" Service Award by the N.Y.C. Police Department for his actions during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Living through years of the effects of PTSD brought upon by years of critical incidents throughout his police career, he realized that he too needed counseling. Having commanded a unit of 18 police officers at Ground Zero and seeing the devastating psychological and physical effects on those who served, he felt he could no longer sit on the sideline. Dennis believes had he or his peers had the support of a hotline like COPLINE, the depression and physical problems may not have manifested themselves to the degree that they have. Dennis is proud and honored to serve on the Board of COPLINE. He strongly believes in COPLINE and the service it will provide to his fellow police officers in need.
John M. Violanti - PH.D., Honorary Advisor
Current Position - Research professor in the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine (SPM), School of Public Health and Health Professions at SUNY Buffalo, and has been associated with SPM for 22 years. Dr. Violanti is also a member of the SUNY Medical School graduate faculty. He is a police veteran, serving with the New York State Police for 23 years as a trooper, The Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), and later as a coordinator of the Psychological Assistance Program (EAP) for the State Police.
 
Description of work - He has been involved in the design, implementation, and analysis of numerous police related stress, suicide, and health studies over the past 17 years. Recent projects at Social & Preventive Medicine include a 40-year retrospective police mortality study and studies on police stress and health, the most recent involving collection of data on physiological stress and subclinical cardiovascular and metabolic consequences in police officers.
 
Relevant Work - Dr. Violanti has authored over 45 peer-reviewed journal articles on police suicide, stress and PTSD, and police mortality. He has also written and edited nine books on topics of police stress, psychological trauma, and suicide. He has been an invited lecturer on topics of police stress and suicide to the FBI Academy at Quantico , Virginia several times. He has lectured nationally and internationally at academic institutions and police agencies on matters of police suicide, stress and trauma.
Anthony Rusciano - DARR DESIGNS, Advisor
Anthony J. Rusciano retired from the Middlesex County Sheriff's Office. Ret. Investigator Rusciano began his Law Enforcement career as an investigator detailed to the fugitive squad. As gang activity began to emerge throughout Middlesex County, Inv. Rusciano was one of the original founding members of the Street Gang Intelligence Unit. Inv. Rusciano trained thousands of law enforcement officials, educators, professionals, students, and community organizations on street gang awareness and identification throughout New Jersey, New York, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. He has worked in conjunction with the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Violent Gang Task Force and the N.J. State Police Street Gang Unit. In 2002 Inv. Rusciano was assigned to the Federal Bureau of Investigations and in November of 2003 he was deputized with the FBI Gang and Counter Terrorism Task Force working specific federal narcotic and gang cases throughout the United States. Recently retired due to an on-duty critical incident, Inv. Rusciano continues to network with Law Enforcement officials on gang related topics. He still actively lectures to various groups of professionals on gang trends and identifiers. Ret. Investigator Rusciano has developed numerous Gang Investigators Association websites throughout the United States and continues to be a web manager and advisor to these associations.

Investigator Rusciano became involved with COPLINE after being diagnosed with PTSD as a direct result of a critical incident that happened while on duty. Ret. Investigator Rusciano believes strongly in COPLINE and is determined to do all he can to assist fellow Law Enforcement Officers. He believes that if he had known of COPLINE, a confidential hotline, where a fellow law enforcement officer was on the other end of the line, he would have utilized it.