Glen Rock cop gives mental health tips at LGBT forum in Australia
GLEN ROCK — A local police officer is thousands of miles away in Australia this…
GLEN ROCK — A local police officer is thousands of miles away in Australia this week to give advice to other cops from around the world on how best to respond to mental health emergencies.
And for Patrolman Matthew Stanislao, the long journey may feel like deliverance from a truly difficult chapter of his life.
Stanislao, 43, an officer of more than 20 years, will lead a workshop and serve as a panelist at the World LGBTIQ+ Conference for Criminal Justice Professionals in Melbourne, the capital of the Australian state of Victoria.
He said he is the only officer from New Jersey at the four-day event, which ends on Friday.
“I feel privileged,” said Stanislao, who is gay. “If this work that we’re doing in Glen Rock is finding its way onto an international platform, we’re doing something right.”
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Organizers of the conference invited Stanislao to participate after they saw a short film that he produced and uploaded to YouTube. It was shared among law enforcement circles online, eventually making its way to them.
In the four-minute clip, initially created as a training tool for the New Jersey Crisis Intervention Team, Stanislao and another officer discuss how to handle a fictional dilemma over lunch at a pizzeria. The colleague confides in him that his son overdosed in an apparent suicide attempt after coming out as nonbinary.
“I go into clinical mode,” Stanislao said, “and I try to help him.”
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At the same time, Stanislao senses that his colleague is contemplating retirement from the police force and suffering from his own mental health decline.
The video shows, at the very least, that there should be no shame in asking for help. But on a deeper level, Stanislao said, it highlights a technique that all officers should employ when talking to people in such crises.
He calls it “motivational interviewing.” Rather than ask questions, Stanislao said, officers should speak using prompting statements. “When you’re not sure how someone’s doing,” he said, “it can really help in getting information that you may need to help them.”
The strategy will form the crux of the discussion that Stanislao will guide during the 40-minute workshop on Wednesday.
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The video, which includes a cameo by gay rights icon Barney Frank, a native of Bayonne and a former Democratic congressman from Massachusetts, will be screened for those who attend the seminar.
Chief Dean Ackermann said he is proud that an officer from the borough will get to showcase his mental health expertise on a global stage. “It’s an area of law enforcement that we’ve given a great deal of attention to,” Ackermann said. “I don’t think people realize how many of their neighbors are struggling.”
Stanislao, he added, is “helping us learn from each other.”
But it was a daunting road that brought the officer to his current state of fulfillment.
He was fired from the police force in October 2014, and soon afterward, he sued the department, claiming that he was unjustly let go because of his sexuality.
The discrimination case ended 2½ years later with a $750,000 settlement and the reinstatement of Stanislao. He said he spent that time trying to “put my life back together.” In doing so, he received a master’s degree in social work from Columbia University and gained the skills that he now uses on the job every day.
It is ironic, he acknowledged, how a wrongful termination ultimately steered him to this week’s conference in Australia.
“I had an opportunity to go back to police work and to help the profession that turned its back on me,” Stanislao said. “It’s not a path that I intended, but it seems worth it more than ever.”
Philip DeVencentis is a local reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
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