Law enforcement is a difficult profession and has the potential to cause significant stress in an officer’s professional and home life. Suicide is the leading cause of death for police officers and occurs two to three times as frequently as line of duty death. Often the officer and his/her family do not know where help and support services are available to assist in addressing these concerns. In recognition of these unique needs combined with a reluctance to access traditional mental health services or employee assistance programs, the Western New York Law Enforcement Helpline was created. The Helpline is a volunteer program that provides 24/7 CONFIDENTIAL assistance, information, and referrals by trained Law Enforcement Peers and Family Peers to working and retired law enforcement officers, dispatchers, and their families for any issue that may impact work and family life.
WNY Law Enforcement Helpline Board of Directors Bios
Detective Samantha Kozlowski has been a Police Officer in the Town of Amherst, NY since 2007. Samantha worked in the Patrol Division until 2021 when she was promoted to the Detective Bureau. She is a certified Police Instructor, Field Training Officer, School Liaison Officer and serves as a Safety Officer and Crisis Intervention Team member. Samantha served as a volunteer Firefighter for the Main-Transit Fire Department for over ten years, is a former NYS Certified Paramedic, and currently maintains her NYS EMT certification. Samantha became a WNY Law Enforcement Helpline Peer in 2018, Director in 2019, and currently serves as the organization’s President. She is also an active Peer with the New York State Law Enforcement Assistance Program. Samantha is certified in Suicide Prevention, Individual, and Group Crisis Intervention through the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation. Samantha is dedicated to Officer Wellness and the de-stigmatization of addressing the mental health concerns of those in the law enforcement community.
Vice President / Chair, Biannual Peer Training Committee
Officer Anthony V. LeBron, CTR has been a Police Officer with the Buffalo Police Department for over 32 years. During his tenure, he has served in a variety of capacities to include Community Police Officer, Certified Instructor for the Erie County Law Enforcement Training Academy, and member of the Gang Suppression Unit. He has been a Buffalo PBA delegate for 22 years and Executive Board member since 2014. In 2017, Tony became a member of the Crisis Management Team and has been deployed on numerous occasions to respond to untoward events in the community. He currently is the Vice President of the New York Association of Hostage Negotiators. Tony joined the WNY Law Enforcement Helpline in 2017, and has taken on the role of Board Vice President since its inception. As the Team Leader for the Buffalo Police Department Peer Support Team, Tony has provided assistance to countless officers following critical incidents as well as in response to day-to-day issues that result in increased stress. Tony serves as President of the South Buffalo Community Table which provides over 1,100 meals per month to needy individuals and families. In addition, Tony is also a Board member for the Pucho Olivencia Community Center, assisting the medical and cultural needs of the Hispanic Community in Buffalo, New York. Tony has participated in the Post Critical Incident Seminars hosted by the New York Law Enforcement Assistance Program and has maintained ongoing attention to the mental health needs of officers throughout the state. Through his membership with the Association of Traumatic Stress Specialists, Tony is a Certified Trauma Responder and has maintained his certification through ongoing training and experience.
Secretary / Chair, Families of Law Enforcement,
& Provider Roster Committees
Dawn Yeates is a NYS Licensed Mental Health Counselor and School Counselor trained in EMDR Therapy. She is married to a criminal investigator who is a former police officer and mother of 4 amazing daughters, two of which are police officers. Through her own experiences, which include her husband surviving a critical incident, she has compassion and understanding of the stressors that officers and their family can experience. Dawn is dedicated to bringing awareness to the mental health issues and struggles experienced by officers and their families due to the stressors brought on by the law enforcement career. Dawn serves as a Peer, Peer consultant and Board member for the WNY Law Enforcement Helpline where she also assists in recruiting and training Family Peers. Dawn, alongside her husband Bobby, presents to Law Enforcement Departments and criminal justice students in the U.S. and Canada on critical incidents and how it can affect the officer and the family. In addition, Dawn is a presenter for The NYS Department of Criminal Justice, NYLEAP, and Erie County and Niagara County Law Enforcement Training Academies where she presents to officers and family members information on the stressors of the job, how those stressors can impact family members and provides suggestions on how to battle the stressors. It is her mission to get the message out to law enforcement and their families that WE SEE YOU, WE HEAR YOU and WE ARE HERE FOR YOU.
Treasurer / Chair, Fundraising, Pre-Incident Education,
Recruitment Committee, & Wellness Committees
Detective Mark Pitirri began his law enforcement career as a Corrections Officer where he worked for five years at Shawangunk, a New York State maximum security facility. In August of 1994, Mark entered the Erie County Law Enforcement Training Academy. Upon graduation he became a Police Officer with the Amherst Police Department. For the first 14 years of his career, Mark worked in the Patrol Division then spent another two years in the Family Offense Unit. In April 2010, Mark was promoted to Detective where he spent 9.5 years in the Special Victims Unit. Currently Mark is assigned to the Detective Bureau. Mark has been involved with the WNY Law Enforcement Helpline since the early planning stages and has maintained ongoing involvement in all aspects of Helpline operations. In addition to serving as a Peer with the Helpline, Mark is also a Peer with the New York State Law Enforcement Assistance Program and has facilitated group sessions during Post Critical Incident Seminars. Mark is extensively trained and experienced in Critical Incident Stress Management, and has a high level of dedication to serving the law enforcement community.
President Emeritus / Chair, ICISF Training Committee
Bonita S. Frazer, MS, CTTS, FAAETS retired as the Mental Health Emergency Planning Coordinator for Erie County. She has experience conducting training sessions for a wide variety of audiences in multiple topic areas including crisis intervention, suicide prevention, disaster psychology, and stress management. Bonita is a Certified Trauma Treatment Specialist, a Board-Certified Expert in Traumatic Stress, a Fellow with the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, and holds credentials as a Police Trainer and as an International Critical Incident Stress Foundation Approved Instructor. For over 25 years she has been an instructor at the Erie County Law Enforcement Training Academy. Under the auspices of the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, she offers untoward incident awareness and wellness training to Law Enforcement Officers throughout NYS. Following disasters and other significant events, Bonita has been deployed to affected jurisdictions to provide critical incident stress management services to both survivors and emergency services personnel via current and former affiliations with the American Red Cross, the Western New York CISM Team, and the Western New York Law Enforcement Helpline. Bonita is a long-time volunteer for the Specialized Medical Assistance Response Team, the Medical Reserve Corp for Erie County, New York. She is the former Board Secretary for the Association of Traumatic Stress Specialists, and serves as the Board President of the WNY Law Enforcement Helpline.
Coordinator / Co-Chair, Wellness Committee
Melissa Harte is the Western New York Law Enforcement Helpline (WNYLEH) Coordinator responsible for the tasks and duties fundamental to the day-to-day operations of the Helpline. She has been a Family Peer assisting with the concerns of family members of law enforcement officers since 2018 and is a member of the Families of Law Enforcement Committee. Her training includes courses in Assisting Individuals in Crisis and Officer Wellness. Melissa is the proud wife of a law enforcement officer for over 10 years. Outside of her work with the Helpline, Melissa also volunteers her time with the Fresh Air Fund where she has served as the Assistant Fund Representative for the Niagara and Erie County region since 2018. Melissa and her family have served as a host family for the Fresh Air Fund since 2015. She looks forward to enhancing her knowledge and experiences with the Helpline and continuing to foster children with the Fresh Air Fund for the foreseeable future.
Chief Financial Officer
Diane Blaser is a graduate of the University at Buffalo with a Bachelor of Science in Management with a concentration in Accounting. She has been the Chief Financial Officer for the Western New York Law Enforcement Helpline, Inc. since 2019. Diane also serves as the Treasurer of the South Buffalo Community Table, Inc. and as President of the Buffalo Irish Genealogical Society. She is a Past President of the Western New York Genealogical Society, Inc.
Chair, Marketing Committee
Chair, Nomination Committee
Darren Exum is a Lieutenant with the Buffalo Police Department, and has 22 years of service. He is also a former Correction Officer with the NYS Department of Corrections (13 yrs of service). He has been a Hostage Negotiator while in both of these professions, and continues this craft today. While in Corrections Darren was on the Cell Extraction Team, Fire Brigade Team and a union steward with NYSCOPA. As a Buffalo Police Officer, he has received many distinguished awards such as two Commissioner Medals of Commendation Awards, and various others. Outside of work Darren also received an award for The Law Enforcement Officer of the Year, from the Judges and Police Conference of Erie County (of which he is a member). The Men of INTEGRITY award was also presented to Darren from his community. Darren has been President of the AFRO AMERICAN POLICE ASSOCIATION (AAPA) for 4 years, and is an active member of his Judge Row block club. His private hobby "XMANS Blessings" donates new and used bicycles to less fortunate children. Attending South Park High school and Buffalo State college seems to have done Darren Exum very well.
Chair, Documents & Procedures Committee
Stephanie Paluch serves as a Board member on the Western New York Law Enforcement Helpline, and also serves on the Families of Law Enforcement Committee. Stephanie is daughter of retired State Trooper Paluch. Stephanie is a Member Service Advisor at SEFCU. Stephanie has a background in financial education and mental health. Stephanie has a passion for continuing her education and helping people.
Chair, Technology Committee
David J. Casterline attended SUNY College at Buffalo where he received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Economics and Finance and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Social Studies Education. David’s career in law enforcement began in 2000 as an Inspector with the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (US INS). In 2002, he left the US INS and joined the Amherst Police Department. David’s career as a police officer was cut short when his patrol vehicle was struck by a drunk driver, causing it to roll over three times causing career ending injuries. He retired in 2008, but returned to the Amherst Police Department in 2013 as a Crime Analyst in the Intelligence Unit. In 2016, he and his partner received a Unit Citation for their efforts and involvement in major police investigations. David has been a peer since 2017 and currently serves as a Board Member and heads up the Technology Committee.
Cheryl L. Kennedy, MSW, MPH is a member of the Board of Directors for the WNY Law Enforcement Helpline. Her husband is retired New York State Police. She has over 20 years of experience assisting law enforcement and emergency services personnel who have experienced a critical incident. She is a Family Peer and active member of the Family Committee which has recently launched an Acts of Kindness initiative to provide support to families and law enforcement personnel who have gone through a critical incident, experienced a loss or event which has caused significant emotional distress. Cheryl is also the point person for all registration related activities for the WNYLEH training initiatives for ICISF courses.
Ana J. Eiser has been a U. S. Border Patrol Agent for sixteen years within the Dept. of Homeland Security/U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Ana is an active Peer Support Member with both the U.S. Border Patrol and WNY Law Enforcement Helpline. She also serves as a board member with the WNY Law Enforcement Helpline. Ana served as the Employee Assistance Program/Peer Support Sector Coordinator (PSC) for eight years, involving the management of Peer Support Members throughout the Sector’s six stations and Sector Headquarters (encompassing over 300 employees). As the PSC, she oversaw the Peer Support Program training, interviews, deployments and reports to Sector and D.C. Headquarters command. Ana has experience effecting critical incident deployments and critical incident stress debriefings for both survivors and first responders. On several occasions, Ana was selected to serve the families of fallen Border Patrol Agents at the CBP Valor Memorial and Police Week in Washington D.C. Ana has earned commendations letters from both her assigned Sector and agency headquarters in Washington D.C. She also earned the U.S. Border Patrol Achievement Medal for Valor. Ana is currently their AFGE Union LOCAL 2724 union secretary/ treasurer. Throughout her career, Ana has obtained numerous training certifications to include Traumas of Law Enforcement, Intervention and Peer Support, National Police Canine Association-Detection Canine Handler, and Special Operations Division- Basic Telecommunication Exploitation Program. Ana is an active volunteer with the Special Olympics, The Miracle League and Camp Good Days and various local animal rescues.
Matt Cross has been a Police Officer with the City of Buffalo Police Department for 3 years. Prior to that, he was employed as a Sergeant with Erie County Sheriff Department’s Jail Management Division for 12 years. Matt is also a certified NYS Law Enforcement Instructor, and current Field Training Officer with Buffalo. Prior to entering the Law Enforcement field, Matt worked full time with the Developmentally Disabled community for 9 years, and has a background in counseling. Matt became a member of the Buffalo Police Peer Support Team in 2020 and became a WNY Helpline board member in 2021.
Troy D. Ford is currently an Investigator with the NY State Police and has 25 years of service. He served as a field training officer when he was a Trooper and became a member of the Crisis Negotiation Unit as an Investigator. Troy was also a member of the Collision Reconstruction Unit where he coordinated the training of its members as well as responded to and investigated fatal and serious personal injury collisions in the WNY region. Troy became a member of the NYSP Employee Assistance Program, as a peer, in 2015 and has responded to numerous critical incidents as well as conducted many critical incident stress debriefings for first responders. His current position as the Troop A EAP Coordinator allows him to provide resources not only to members of the NYSP, but to members of other police agencies and their immediate families that struggle with stress in ways that can negatively effect them not only in their professional lives but in their personal lives as well.