QUEENSBURY Juanita Salas-Jackson has seen the conflicts from both sides.
As a member of the U.S. Army Reserve, she returned from service in the Middle East and struggled to re-integrate to civilian life.
As a state trooper, she and her colleagues found themselves in conflicts at times with military veterans.
Those encounters got ugly sometimes. Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and other service-related problems have substance abuse issues and conflicts with family members and employers at a higher rate than the non-military public, statistics show.
Salas-Jackson, along with other state troopers and the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, have brought an innovative program to New York to train police agencies in handling situations with some of the 2.7 million veterans who have come back to civilian life in the U.S. over the past 15 years.
Based on a curriculum developed by a Minnesota community policing institute, the instructors are teaching officers how to recognize signs of military service-related problems and deal with them.
The program is called “Public Safety De-Escalation Tactics for Military Veterans in Crisis.”
Fifty or so police officers and veterans service providers gathered Wednesday at the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, coming from as far away as Westchester County for the first day of the two-day session.
Those returning from war zones in the Middle East have dealt with additional “stressors,” because of the nature of combat in urban areas, where it was unclear who the enemy was much of the time and there was “a constant threat from unseen enemies,” Salas-Jackson said.
Participants will learn how to spot signs that a veteran has service-related problems and how to interact to calm situations and avoid violence.
Trainees were also being given information about programs they can use to help troubled veterans.
“You’re going to have resources to give them to assist them,” Salas-Jackson said. “You are in a position to get through to them and help them.”
Warren County Sheriff Bud York invited the trainers to host a session at the sheriff’s office after learning about it through a presentation Salas-Jackson gave at a New York State Sheriffs Association event.
“I was so impressed by it I thought we needed to get it out to our patrol officers and corrections officers,” York said. “She has a lot of empathy and you can tell she really cares about the program.”
York said police agencies will undoubtedly have more interaction with veterans in crisis in the years to come.
“Our guys are going to come in contact with veterans and they need to know how to handle these situations,” he said.