Law Enforcement execs make special trip to learn lessons of the Holocaust

by | Aug 16, 2012 | Uncategorized

Virginia Beach Police Department Lt. R.J. Smith, Police Chief James Cervera, Lt. Laura Kaiser and Lt. David Squires.

Virginia Beach Police Department Lt. R.J. Smith, Police Chief James Cervera, Lt. Laura Kaiser and Lt. David Squires.

Walking through the darkened aisles of the U. S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., the same thought kept creeping into Laura Kaiser’s consciousness: when is somebody going to step up? When is somebody going to step up and do the right thing?

After what seemed like too many emotionally moving exhibits later, Kaiser found what she was seeking.

“The building got lighter and we could see people’s names written on the walls and how they tried to make an impact,” Kaiser says.

“That’s when you go back and start reflecting on why you do what you do every day as a police officer. You bring back what you learn and you’re like, ‘I’m not going to let that happen.’”

Kaiser is a lieutenant with the Virginia Beach Police Department. On July 17, she traveled with 20 fellow law enforcement officers from Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Newport News and the United States Marshals Service to attend Law Enforcement and Society (LEAS): Lessons of the Holocaust at the museum.

A unique training program organized by the Anti-Defamation League and the U.S. Holocaust Museum, LEAS is specifically designed to increase the understanding of law enforcement personnel’s relationship to the people they serve and the duty to uphold their sworn oaths.

The daylong program includes docent-led, small group tours of the museum, followed by a discussion of the implications of the Holocaust in a law enforcement context.

As of 2011, more than 70,000 law enforcement professionals had received LEAS training. The program is required of all new FBI Agents and Intelligence Analysts, and has been incorporated into three of the FBI Academy’s premier training programs.

Virginia Beach Police Chief James Cervera participated in LEAS with the FBI’s National Executive Institute. The impact of the training led him to share his experience in the program at a meeting of the Hampton Roads Chiefs of Police, and subsequently to plan the July trip.

“One of the reasons we set this up was because we know we’re going to have challenges, and this program reinforces that it’s the value system that drives the right responses to the challenges,” says Cervera.

“My theory was that not just our police department, but departments throughout the region should get the same experience. I’m planning on two trips a year.”

“We want to thank all of the support we’ve been given in order to do this—the ADL in D.C. and the local community that came together and said ‘We’ll do lunch for you,’” says Cervera. The Community Relations Council and the Holocaust Commission of United Jewish Federation of Tidewater supported the effort by paying for lunch.

“The CRC has been working with the VBPD on this and is excited about the relationship that has formed,” says Robin Mancoll, CRC director.

U.S. Marshal Robert Mathieson, Eastern District VA, heard about the trip and asked if he and two of his senior staff members could join the group. They were welcomed.

“I got such a close, upfront, well-led historical perspective of the Holocaust,” Mathieson says. “It was very powerful for folks who know a little about the history, but who don’t know its depth and magnitude. And for those of us on the law enforcement end, it was chilling to see how many people in military roles and keepers of justice could be brainwashed.

“It was a fascinating opportunity,” adds Mathieson. “Everyone that attended walked away with a profound awareness.”

by Laine M. Rutherford