Combat to Community Cultural Competence Training Prepares Law Enforcement


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Colleen Corliss, Communications Director

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Responding to Recent Violence Perpetrated by Iraq Veterans

SAN FRANCISCO (January 19, 2012) – The tragic violence recently perpetrated by Iraq veterans is being met with widespread response. Reports by friends and family indicate that Benjamin Barnes, who fatally shot a Washington State park ranger, and Itzcoatl Campo, who is accused of stabbing four homeless men in California, both suffered from post-traumatic stress.

Post-traumatic stress (PTS) and traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are being reported in record numbers amongst returning Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans. Both serious mental health injuries, PTS and TBI are often at the center of a growing number of crisis situations occurring between law enforcement and veterans throughout the country. It is vital to note however, that while many veterans are struggling with PTS, TBI and transitional issues, the vast majority of veterans do not engage in violent behavior.

Even so, we are witnessing an increase in critical incidents which has law enforcement reaching out to veterans service organizations in search of answers. Swords to Plowshares, Institute for Veteran Policy developed as part of their Combat to Community Program, an eight-hour training for law enforcement, “Law Enforcement Crisis Interaction with Veterans.” The course is certified by the California Commission of Police Officers Standards and Training (POST) and to date Swords to Plowshares has trained over 2,000 officers throughout California.

The training details the current era veterans’ experiences, as well as provides a cultural competency component that illustrates the transitional challenges these veterans face when returning home. The clinical component of the training focuses on providing officers with tools to identify veterans who may be suffering from PTS and TBI, recognizing common triggers, and how to deploy effective de-escalation techniques to help ensure a positive and safe interaction between veterans and law enforcement.

“This is a rapidly growing public safety issue and these tragedies need to be examined by law enforcement and veteran communities to implement meaningful solutions,” said Keith Boylan, Swords to Plowshares’ Policy Coordinator and Training Facilitator. “As more troops return home, we can expect to see a rise in crisis situations.  It is vital we address this problem now to prevent violence before it occurs.”

Important Resources:

War causes wounds and suffering that last beyond the battlefield. Our mission is to heal the wounds, to restore dignity, hope, and self-sufficiency to all veterans in need, and to reduce homelessness and poverty among veterans. Learn more about the work of Swords to Plowshares, and ways in which you can help, by visiting our website at