Attorneys are Human Too, a Podcast

Episode 11-The Blue Octave Featuring Melissa Presser, Esq.

August 28, 2020 Melissa Presser Season 1 Episode 11
Attorneys are Human Too, a Podcast
Episode 11-The Blue Octave Featuring Melissa Presser, Esq.
Chapters
Attorneys are Human Too, a Podcast
Episode 11-The Blue Octave Featuring Melissa Presser, Esq.
Aug 28, 2020 Season 1 Episode 11
Melissa Presser

Join Attorney Steve Wallace, Esq. and Co-Host Celena Muzic both of The Wallace Law Group, PL as they welcome police legal adviser and founder of mental health and wellness company The Blue Octave, Melissa Presser, Esq.

Topics Discuss Include:

Why become a lawyer?
Past experiences including working for Legal Aid and Public Defender’s Office
Understanding Pressures Of Police Officers
What is the Blue Octave?
Community Policing Strategies
Pop Culture Banter
Lightning Round

Show Notes Transcript

Join Attorney Steve Wallace, Esq. and Co-Host Celena Muzic both of The Wallace Law Group, PL as they welcome police legal adviser and founder of mental health and wellness company The Blue Octave, Melissa Presser, Esq.

Topics Discuss Include:

Why become a lawyer?
Past experiences including working for Legal Aid and Public Defender’s Office
Understanding Pressures Of Police Officers
What is the Blue Octave?
Community Policing Strategies
Pop Culture Banter
Lightning Round

Steven Wallace:

we have a tree today. We have Melissa presser Esquire, and she has so many great distinctions. And I'm going to do them justice. She is the legal advisor for the plantation police department. She's an attorney for the Brower chief of police, and she is the founder of the blue octane. So we have a lot of great things to talk about with Melissa today. How are you Melissa?

Melissa Presser:

I'm doing great. How about you

Steven Wallace:

were awesome. Okay, so let's get started. So you are a legal Eagle. And so if you could tell our listeners what made you become an attorney?

Melissa Presser:

so you're probably only getting the second person that's asked me that question, which is kind of odd, right? The first person that asked me that question was actually a young student who, met me at a coffee for cops event. And, she was interested in why I had done that. And, and so she was a little young to give the answer. I'm actually a trauma survivor. I'm a survivor of sexual abuse. And, and I was sort of derailed in my story. I wanted to become a writer, I'm a creative. And, and I decided that I was going to take my experience and I was going to help. Other kids who had similar experiences. So, I decided to become an attorney after I looked at my options because, I really loved speaking. I'm an extrovert and I never got justice. Well, I kind of that combination of those things, three things really drove me to want to represent children. And then eventually I ended up. Are representing children in the foster care system.

Steven Wallace:

Wow. That's a really good reason. See, I don't think my reason for becoming an attorney in match up to that, I was pretty much, I grew up in a Jewish family and my parents were like, you could be a doctor, a lawyer. So I went to college and I took chemistry and I did okay. In it. Then I took biology and then when it got to organic chemistry, I knew it wasn't for me. So I had to go to option number two

Melissa Presser:

well, that's funny because I'm a Jewish lawyer too. And so my three options were also attorney, doctor or accountant. So I think you forgot that you mentioned that one. You forgot the account and option. So that also like kind of absorbed it because my first option was I wanted to be a social worker in the prison system and my dad was like, no, that's not just not going to happen. So choose one of the other options. So it was a combination of both.

Steven Wallace:

Excellent.

Celena Muzic:

Well, can I ask you, why did you choose to represent the police department or is that something that landed on your lap?

Melissa Presser:

So that's sort of like the ending of my story. I I've been practicing almost 20 years. and I started out, doing dependency work. So representing, I actually wrote my own grant, through the equal justice works foundation that was funded through the Florida bar representing deep end children who were both in foster care, but were also, criminalized. So my job was, it's a long story, rather long story, but really that was when the Supreme court had come out with a mandate to unify. One judge, one child and, most local circuits refused to do that. So I forced that issue with my project. but during the pendency of my project, yeah, looking at the numbers and just being in everyday practice. I really fell in love with the practice of criminal law. I couldn't do it at legal aid because legal AIDS funding, prohibits, attorneys for practicing and criminal law. So I ended up, becoming a public defender and working, with indigent defendants. It really wasn't until, and I traveled that road for a while. The switch really came, from, kind of a tumultuous time, but I had gotten married and, I was having some trouble getting pregnant and I finally got pregnant and I was working with some pretty violent offenders and I had had a couple of, run-ins with the car. Well, the offenders who, are mentally ill and one particular episode where my life was at risk and, and I was carrying twins. And, I think I was about half an inch, from that particular defendant attacking me. and I really had to think at that point about my kids, versus just myself. And so I started exploring, okay, well, what else can I do within the system? Even though my dream was to eventually, maybe migrate into death penalty work. but at that point, my life shifted. So I saw the advertisement for the police department. I was like, they will never hire me. I am a career, civil rights attorney, defense attorney. you know, I'm, I'm a woman, I've got these three babies. I had a succession of three kids in two years. and I had all the qualifications, but on paper I just was not the person. and so. I applied. And, I think I was practicing almost 10 years at that time and I just decided, yeah. I'm just going to put it all out on the table. Okay. I'm just going to, you know, do that during my interview. And so I did, cause I saw the puzzled look on their face, but I said, I'm just going to be honest. and so I sorta went there with them and I said, you know, you'll never find anybody that will, Do the work that I will do, what love you, like I do will defend you. Like I will. you know, and I was able to answer this, answer some personal questions for them that they couldn't ask. And I said, you know, really my, my goal in, in life for, you know, and changing people's lives I came to realize was just because someone has a uniform on versus somebody who's behind bars. You know, the human condition is all universal. You know, so when I was able to channel that, I see a lot more of my evolving purpose, if you will. you know, and why I am at the police department and I've been there almost 10 years and I love it. I love being a police legal advisor.

Steven Wallace:

Wow. it makes me proud to be an attorney hearing a story that you have, Melissa. It really does because our practice is not as exciting or sophisticated clients that don't want to pay their bills. So we filed before them, or we've got clients that are buying and selling homes or people that are investing in real estate. So. That's one of the reasons, the reason why I liked my practice is because there's no emotion involved.

Melissa Presser:

That's the opposite of why I like That's like

for

Steven Wallace:

me, I've got enough drama in my personal life. So my business life as vanilla as possible, but Selena knows sometimes we don't choose the best clients at times. So, you know, weaved into our lives too often.

Celena Muzic:

Yeah, there is a motion. We were just, I think Steven and I half the time are really confused about the emotion. Cause you know, there's worst things that can happen. Sure, sure. Absolutely. Okay. So

Steven Wallace:

you've told us a lot of great things, so I know we both have a lot of questions, so here's, here's my first question for you.

Melissa Presser:

So what would w

Steven Wallace:

was there any time, during your career where you had a certain client. And you, it kind of crossed your path and said, you know what, I'm fighting so hard for this client. And I know they're guilty or I know they've done wrong. So that's just something I'm just curious to hear what you have to say about that statement.

Melissa Presser:

so I do have a particular client that comes to mind, sort of a funny, not a funny story, but my husband is private criminal defense attorney. And, for a while, when I left, I had left the public defender's office. I went and I left to help him with his private practice, for a while. So we have tried cases together and done some things together, before I went and when I left, When I had left the, to go to the police department, I was at the office of criminal conflict, which is the same, same as the public defender's office with co-defendants, but I sort of had this one last shot to be a defense attorney, and I was still holding on to that. And, so Shalome my husband. He had a capital sexual battery case, which is a mandatory life on a sexual battery. And I was like, this is the last time I will get to do something like this. So, we decided to. And, you know, the guy kind of, he balked at the deal, the deal was great. he was actually serving time in federal prison, on a, on a separate charge and a deal was a, a concurrent 12 year sentence and he just didn't want to take it. So, I decided to try the case. With my husband. And, you know, I went through all the things you do in a, in a capital sexual battery case. And up until that point, I I'm a competitive person, as you can probably tell. Yes. and so, so I was like, I had never really had a. Big loss Mo in court, mostly because I am an actor. Excellent negotiator. that was one of my strong skills. And so I didn't really have to go to trial too much. Cause I had worked up these cases to such an extent that, you know, I am the minority, my cases were going to trial, which is really what it is. How it's supposed to be. So, you know, we went through this, it was a terrible case, terrible with terrible facts. And, you know, at what point during the trial, during the break, he said to me, you know, you know, ms. Sure. I, I heard you, I heard you were the best. And I said, well, what did he mean? And, and he said, well, you know, everybody at the jail. You know, talking about how great you are, which was sort of, you know, funny during the middle of this trial. And, you know, and at that point, my mind was sorta like, I'm not sure if that's a good thing,

Steven Wallace:

fan club,

Melissa Presser:

right? The jail is like the high school. Right. So I was like, okay. and so we sort of went through this trial and we lost. And I left the courtroom and I don't know what came over me, but I just started to weep. I mean, I just could not stop crying because we don't have parole in Florida. And I knew he was going to serve a mandatory life sentence, which is day for day. And, and I just couldn't stomach that like, this is the rest of someone's life. I think it goes back to my. View of humanity that everybody's redeemable and, you know, humans have value and, and all of these core beliefs I have, and my husband who was like, so on the opposite end of the spectrum, thank God I married him because he keeps me grounded, but he sorta like grabbed me forget it. We were in the elevator in the Broward County courthouse on the new side of the criminal side. And, and he looked at me and he said, hello, he raped a 12 year old. He deserves to go to prison. for the rest of his life, meaning we did his best in terms of what we did and the effectiveness. And then he went into, of course we mounted the best offense we did, what we were called to do. We aggressively represented him, but his, his whole, you know, thing to me was of a shock value almost because I didn't look at cases like that. I think in some ways you dissociate. You know, from that case. So you can be emotional, only able to very aggressively defend your clients. And when you lose in court, I'm sure as any trial lawyer will tell you, it's just a blow. And so that, that really grounded me.

Steven Wallace:

Yeah, that's tough. So, I guess my next question is, could you elaborate a little bit on what a legal advisor and an attorney for, the police department and the Sheriff's office exactly. Does on a day to day basis? Cause I think a lot of our listeners aren't aware of that.

Melissa Presser:

So, I call us an emergency room physician. we are the last bastion of general practitioners, you know, in LA. School, when you go to law school, you get a little bit of everything. And I always say, it's more like you, you kind of dabble, but really law school teaches you how to think. Ultimately, a legal advisor does so many different things, I mean, I've practiced in areas that I never thought I'd I'd use like words like eminent domain. I was like, Oh, I'll file that one away. You know? you know, but you're dealing with probate, you're dealing with family law, you're dealing with, you know, general civil practice. You deal with, criminal practice. You're dealing with administrative law, you're dealing with a PA, you know, and that's why really the people who become, advisors need a very good and diverse background in terms of what they're dealing with. And other area I deal heavily with is public records. that's a whole specialty. Unto itself. and, and also a lot with the legislative practice because I, I've written bills. I had a bill passed last year, so I do that with the Broward chiefs association. So, it's a lot of everything. And I think the great thing about being a legal advisor too, is. you don't have time to, to react. you know, when you get a call from a scene at whatever time it is, you don't have time to be like, well, let me go research that, you know, you have to be just like an ER physician and say, I got to figure this out real quick. And I got to patch this person up because if not, they might die. And that's true too, of, you know, anything that's going on in the field. As it's going on. So if you're not a person that, you know, deals well under pressure, you don't like you to make decisions under stress, then it's definitely not the job for you. but for me, it motivates me. I work my best under pressure. I have some really amazing colleagues, most of whom are former prosecutors. I'm a former defense attorney, so just the opposite, obviously of what they have, but generally that's where the pool is taken from because you make those connections downtown and yeah. you know, with the various people within the system, and then you are able then to work with those same people, but in a very different capacities. So it's really, enhanced my learning and my skills and, bringing in and working with other civil attorneys. you know, I didn't know anything about probate and thankfully I have a couple of friends that are lawyers that deal in probate, who, you know, who helped me. And then they'll call me and ask me some, you know, police related or criminal questions.

Steven Wallace:

Follow up question. So you would be called in if like God forbid a, an officer dies in the line of duty and then you'd have to go through the probate issues is that

Melissa Presser:

we deal with probate actually more to deal with a property that we take in. So like for instance, like property on an unattended death, Yeah, that's the property. so our property room runs like, let's say a public storage, you know, but we take in things. So I was, you can imagine from all kinds of cases, we get claims to those things. and so, you know, I really didn't know a lot about, you know, I was like, well, what, what would I do? Because obviously the person is unmarried or maybe the person says a will or,

Steven Wallace:

and where would that aspect come into play?

Melissa Presser:

So family law is when we answer domestics, you know, sometimes we answer domestics or we serve, right. So, or restraining orders. Yeah. They're all related to calls. you know, or I have a husband or wife is trying to get property back and I see there's a pending divorce and obviously I cannot give the property back in that situation. So I'll work with the divorce lawyers, on getting a court order. so, that happens a lot in family law.

Steven Wallace:

So one of the things we also talked about and one of your answers spurred another question for me, we talk a lot about politics and a lot of our other episodes, we'll ask kind of the questions that are on everybody's mind and during the current day, so we have a couple for Celine has got a couple for you later on in the episode. But my question is I personally, I'm the government affairs chairperson of a civic organization in Palm beach County. So I go up to Tallahassee every year and lobby the legislator to pass certain bills. So you mentioned that you had a bill passed this session. Could you

Melissa Presser:

last session actually two sessions ago, maybe. Yeah.

Steven Wallace:

But could you elaborate on that? Cause it's something. That definitely peaked both my interest in Selena's interests.

Melissa Presser:

So, I serve as the legislative chair also for the Broward chiefs of police association and one of our projects, or one of my, what I was really looking at was it in a post MSD world was making sure that we. Change the law, obviously in certain aspects when it came to a post MSD, one of the things that the chiefs really wanted passed was what's called the SWAT medic bill. because tactical medical professionals are SWAT medics who serve on SWAT teams in Florida. We're not able to be armed. and so in big events like the airport shooting in Fort Lauderdale or MSD, as you can imagine as a medic service,

Steven Wallace:

let me just interject for one second. So for those of our listeners that don't know what ms. Diaz.

Melissa Presser:

Oh, I'm sorry. It was

Steven Wallace:

the, Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, killing at the high school in Parkland, Broward County.

Melissa Presser:

Yes. Yeah. So I was very involved in a lot of the aftermath of that in terms of the legal things that were going on. and so, yeah. We were looking at it, looking at our SWAT medics going well, they have no, as they're attending to a victim, they've got no mechanisms to defend themselves, especially when there's an active shooter. You know, if you look at the MSD case, they hadn't found that shooter at that point. So they didn't know, you know, and they were tending to. As, as local, you know, local people would, would know in South Florida. and so I got together, there was a couple of the chiefs ask who had brought the project to me and we decided to write a bill that would allow a SWAT medics in certain circumstances, they have to be very enumerated circumstances to carry a firearm. And so, we went ahead and wrote the bill. I cowrote it with, a friend of mine. Who's the assistant city attorney in coral Springs. And, we sort of decided to just run this bill. and we found sponsors for the bill I worked with. one of the people I worked with was a colleague of mine who I've worked with for a long time down here, which was representative Gottlieb.

Steven Wallace:

I met him when we were up in Tallahassee.

Melissa Presser:

Mike is wonderful. He's a. Career criminal defense attorney. and so we had a bipartisan support on both sides because it, it wasn't, it had nothing to do with guns. It had to do with protection and people were really shocked to learn that medics who are serving in this capacity were not allowed to have firearms. And of course, that lends itself to liability if they were we're using, and, and immunity and all the things that come along with, you know, those defined laws. So, we decided to do it. And, we went through six or seven committees. I brought up, several law enforcement personnel with me, captain of the Fort Lauderdale SWAT team, the captain of the BSO SWAT team, and three or four of the medics that were actually at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, and who served there and in their official capacity with the Broward Sheriff's office. And so they came up with me. I think we went up to six or seven times and testified at the various committees. you know, and it's funny because I was told, you know, I think every year there's about, and I could be getting the numbers wrong, but approximately 3000 or so bills that are filed, but only a couple of hundred that actually pass. It's a very low percentage. And so when I was working with, you know, the various people on the bill, they were like, just so you know, this is not going to pass this year. and I was like, just so you know, you've never met me before, so

Steven Wallace:

yeah. It's an amazing accomplishment. And I can just tell you, because we've been through the process, getting the sausage grinded and you know, it's, it's always a challenge. So that you gotta pass the first time you guys put it

Melissa Presser:

forward. Yes, so it passed. and all of the people involved, like I said, Democrat and Republicans, we had 'em, you know, it was definitely a difficult process, as I'm sure, you know, to even get there, you know, and travel, not only the travel, but just some of the issues we had to work around, with the bill and, you know, I just had a really great crew and, a lot of divine intervention. And, you know, now we have the tactical medical professionals bill, the TMP bill, which passed, it was modeled after Ohio's model. And so we have various agencies around the state of Florida now that are able to arm their, their SWAT medics. And, and you know, I know there will be. And once there is, if there already hasn't been a story that comes out about how that person was able to, you know, defend themselves while tending to, you know, attending to a victim in the field. Excellent.

Steven Wallace:

Selena what's next. Well,

Celena Muzic:

I have so many questions. I don't even know where to begin.

Steven Wallace:

Okay. I'll stand down and let you ask

Celena Muzic:

her. Well, one of my questions is being that you are working for the police force is what is your opinion about what is going on right now with, you know, we have people on one and saying defund the police. We have other people. so check myself. I think there just needs to be a massive reform. In the department. I want to know what your opinion is on that.

Melissa Presser:

Yeah. I'm and I get asked this question a lot. obviously, you know, I think that, what a lot of it is, and even as I work with the Brower achieves is really educating people on, you know, like, let's say we, you start locally on what are the things that are already in practice locally in your local police department, because I'm sure as you know, there's no national standard in terms of policy, there are model policies and so on and so forth. But one of the things we first did with. The Broward chiefs in our rollout was to educate the public on what was already going on here. For instance, there was, you know, a lot of people have misinformation about choke holes while we haven't had choke holds in Broward County for 10 years. you know, or the can't wait, well, we've been doing eight, can't wait. and so I think a lot of people, they look at something and of course we all react. Because that was a horrific murder. and how could you not react? Because you know, you're human and you're watching somebody die. And of course you want reform. I think that as a person who's practiced in the system on both sides, you know, I immediately go to solution, you know, I don't really drive myself with emotion. It's sort of like I tell my police officers, you know, they're, I tell them all the time, there is no emotion and in the law, none, if you want to get the law right change, then you can walk your boat up to Tallahassee and get it changed. But there is no emotion in the law. So. When I started to look at some of the things that we were going to do, I, we had put that out there that these are the things we're already doing. So what did we need to do? Well, look at policy. Does our policy include, you know, X, Y, or Z? Does our policy include when an officer sees another officer act in a certain way, do they have a duty to report? you know, those are the things that are important in looking at policies that govern police departments, because we are a power military organization. So we are governed by not only. Law, but we are governed by rules. So our rules are in the form of general orders and special, special operations or special orders, which tell our police officers and give them parameters on how to behave, so I think in looking at that, it's important to look at policy, which. Everyone did and made the necessary adjustment that needed to be, be done. but a lot of people also don't know that just like lawyers, you have to have CLS and, you know, or mental health professionals with cus you know, law enforcement officers go through a 40 hour. Block every year, that includes an array of classes. Does that come down from CJs, TC, in terms of what they're mandated to do, we do, we do bias based policing. We talk about these issues. I think. What needs to be done is people need to take a step back because I, when you're you're reacting, okay. Have a motion, which I understand, because again, I'm someone in the system, so I'm just very concrete thinker. you need to say, okay, well, what's the problem. And what's the solution, you know? And let's start implementing those solutions. When I hear the term defund, the police. Just as a concrete thinker, it doesn't make much sense to me because on the night mental health calls, if you're going to a domestic violence call in progress, you're not going to deploy a social worker. Okay. So are you going to do a homicide call or a fight? You're not deploying a social worker? I think what people are talking about about is, maybe giving additional funding to the police department to maybe have a behavioral health unit that is somewhere where police departments are suffering. Because, you know, in most police departments, there are not, there are not in house psychologists and social workers and things like that. One of the agencies that has a great program is PBSO. they actually have their own unit, which I went up and spoke to. I was at a round table discussion there with. the attorney General's office, and they've got an amazing unit at PBSO where they have people on staff that, you know, work within the police department. so they've got an amazing program. and I think that's really what needs to happen is to give police departments more funding, to be able to have their own in house. Behavioral health units so that, you know, if you are responding to somebody, who's got a mental health issue and maybe you don't have all the information. I mean, the person could be violent, couldn't be violent. but you can use that as a resource or you're contracting with a mental health body of some sort, that's going to be able to give you that resource, but I'm sure, you know, everybody knows, you know, mental health dollars have gone way down, you know, for years it's not been, a number one priority. And so it's sort of hard to. Say okay. Police officer. So, and so I want you to do all these hundred and 72 things, and the expectation that's placed on that police officer, but then there's no funding given, you know, for these additional workers and there's also no defined roles. you know, because on top of everything we do, we also have people who have, you know, who are hostage negotiators, who've gone through crisis response intervention. There are officers that have. That additional training. And so I'm also a numbers person. So I think it's important to look through the numbers to see, you know, okay, well, how many uses of force? How many, what were the circumstances and start breaking down numbers to see where the problem is because everything else to me just in life is it's a lot of rhetoric, unless, you know, we start looking at stuff and saying, okay, well here exactly is the problem. And here. Is the solution. you know, we have an amazing team at my place department. Not just cause I work there, but I work heavily with them because I'm also involved with risk protection orders, which was another law that passed after, the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas killings. It's also known as the red flag law to a lot of people where we take guns away from people. Who have mental health issues, where they are looking at, you know, potentially killing themselves or somebody else. And we have a specific RPO team that I put together. I helped put together with my Lieutenant, for people who are trained to talk to people who are on the verge of committing suicide, who. You know how, or having homicidal ideation, whatever, whatever it is. But as you can imagine, having an officer playing, you know, a lot of different roles does take them out from other assignments. and so we really need to be looking at some additional funding, whether it's through training. You know, I think training is a big area, for funding dollars. And in addition to having behavioral health units, either attached or within the police department,

Celena Muzic:

Well, do you think that maybe education plays a role in this? I mean, from what I know to become an officer, it's a, what is it a minimum of two years? and, and I say to myself, just because I grew up in New York, so in New York city, you're accustomed to seeing people with mental health and they're, you know, at least back when I was growing up, there's a lot of crime. So, and I believe, cause I know many officers there not getting the psychological help that they need. To process everything that they're seeing. So I asked myself, should an officer become an officer with just two years of a college degree or should there be different specializations for officers? To join the force.

Melissa Presser:

I don't think it's an education issue. I was never a person that's like equated education to being a good whatever you are. I think, and that kind of, I guess, lends itself into the wellness company that I started. I think the gap is there are no mental health slash wellness, whatever services for officers and the problem with that. As you pointed out is that you are exposed. There's nothing that can, prepare you for seeing a dead baby. You know, there's nothing that can prepare you for seeing a dead body. you can have all the education you want. You know, I went to law school for whatever amount of years and you know, the first time I saw specific pictures or certain pictures, there was nothing that could have prepared me for seeing a decapitated body. So. I think when you have that trauma and not having a companion wellness element yeah. In the police department to have ongoing, whether you call it mental health or wellness or whatever it is, you have no debriefing. You're just moving on to the next event. You're not able to process that. And that's that lends itself to the high rate of alcoholism. We have the high rate of divorce, the highest rate of. Suicide in any profession and the ongoing problems that, or maybe, you know, excessive use of force or things like that. Because if you don't get the help that you need, what's a lot of officers right. Yeah. And, and the thing of it is since mental health is so stigmatized, I think both within our profession as well, and with police officers, you know, they're not going to go and get that outside help, on their own, unless they're ordered to, because they've, you know, been disciplined. and so, and police departments in general do not have the in house mechanism. They may have a volunteer chaplain, some have in house chaplains, but there's no program. There's no program or ongoing program that they have to break that down and deal with it. I was really praying about coming from a very diverse background, and having friends who were very passionate on both sides of this. They were calling me, to counsel them, which, you know, I guess is sort of odd considering I'm a, I'm a legal advisor and I do represent the chief, but, you know, I have such a dynamic relationship with police officers in general, both within my department and, you know, countywide because of the work that I do, this wasn't really, it had nothing to do to do with, you know, sharing something with me that was going to get them discipline. It had to do with the way they felt and the complex things that. They were going through and it kind of hit me like, well, not only are they dealing with the front lines of COVID, and their fellow officers are getting sick. and then we had, you know, an officer death within the first, I think, couple of weeks, in Broward to the Broward Sheriff's office. And that was devastating. But then the murder of George Floyd happened very shortly thereafter, and then they were dealing with the complexities of. Of that. in addition, yeah. Do a lot of the violent outrage that was going on, you know, and, and worried about their families and so on and so forth. And so I think that ultimately is the answer, you know, the answer is to Institute something that is a wellness initiative, and a continuing initiative, and try to get that in there police departments so that they can debrief after traumatic. instances and, and what's really good. Great is this past year, the legislature passed the peer to peer bill, which puts in a, a level of confidentiality now between peer-to-peers that are first responders, so that they can have this dialogue in a confidential setting, which didn't exist up until this year. Yeah.

Steven Wallace:

Can I ask? so you started the blue octane. Could go in a little bit more detail of what exactly that program is? Because it appears to go in line with some of the things you've just told us.

Melissa Presser:

So, the blue octave is a wellness initiative for police officers. as far as I know, it's the first of its kind, cause I did quite a bit of research and it's a two part module. I have a group of officers that I'm currently testing with to see what's working and what's not working, but essentially it's, it's a, it's a mind body spirit program. It's a wellness program that addresses, in the first module. Breaking bad habits and patterns. so we're working on mindset. we're working on routines, we're working on things to establish consistency and things like that, working on mood. And then, I'm going to introduce a body element. I'm bringing in a former law enforcement officer who switched her career to a meditation and yoga instructor. And so she is going to be doing meditation with them, a very simple meditation with them. And we are going to be talking about yoga and trauma informed yoga. and then I have a chaplain who I'm working with. Who's going to be, speaking about, you know, general spirituality, the spirituality side, feeding the soul. What does that look like? depending on what your belief system is and so on and so forth and using this modality to get the officer well, In a continuing model and a self sustaining model so that when we move on to module two, for them, those that want to continue in the program, they are then going to learn how to be a peer and a peer support person in a peer to peer model. In a safe and comfortable environment with somebody who works in a police department and understands what they're going through. and then my hope is that as we work out that model, that we're testing, that we will then, you know, bring it statewide, to police departments. And then, you know, hopefully, maybe one day, nationwide.

Celena Muzic:

Why do you think there's not programs like that nationwide in existence already? when I worked in, when I lived in New York, I, I worked for a firm that filed the claims for VCF claims for victims of nine 11. For those of you who don't know, and, and a lot of the illnesses that. would not be covered better said was mental health and, PTL. And maybe that's why I ended up working at that firm, but I never understood why the lack of. Of help for these, for these officers. And a lot of them, you know, passed away of. Of other illnesses, but to me, PTSD and mental health is just as bad as having a cancer. Yeah.

Melissa Presser:

You know, it's an interesting question. a couple of years ago they passed a bill to cover PTSD and workers' comp and you would think that that was already covered, but it wasn't, this was a recent, legislative, bill that passed. again, I think it goes back to, you know, this, this idea that. Officers are like super human that they're like robots that, and I, and I say this about firefighters, about any of those first responding personnel. Like we see them as, this is what they do and they're not human because I think any time we look at somebody and say, well, that's their job. Right. And they're expected to do that. We really dehumanize them. and it just like, we just see a uniform and we just say, well, that's just what they do. So I, I think it's really a lot of public perception. and also a bit of what I talked about before the stigma of mental health. And I think it's only really recently really in the last. You know, 20 years or so that these things have become more accepted. The concept of mindfulness, you know, these other alternative, mental health concepts, or even, you know, going to a psychologist or going to talk to somebody. And the psychologist was talking about acute post traumatic stress, which is. I had never heard of before. and I'm very familiar with the DSM-V and they were talking about how, you know, post traumatic stress in an acute setting is a two to three week event. And so you may be exposed to a trauma and then for two to three weeks, you're having all this symptomology, you know, you're irritable and you know, you're depressed and you're all of these things and I'm like, man, I've I've. Definitely been through that multiple times. and just didn't know what it was, you know, I'm like, okay, I didn't make the connection, but, I think we really need to, the more we start instituting it and making it normalized. and, and I think that's just a problem with Western medicine in general, you know, we have all these ailments and we like to treat them with a pill, but we don't get to the root cause of what's causing it. And so much of it is stress. You're talking about heart disease. Then I'll end diabetes or whatever it is, you know, that you're talking about. Everybody just wants to put a bandaid on it, you know, but the doctor never says to you, well, tell me a little bit about your background. Like, what do you do for a living or are you a trauma survivor? Are you exposed to trauma? I mean, because these are things that there's a lot of great solutions for, including things like, you know, CBT therapy, and some other things, but we just want to treat the, you know, what happens at the end. We don't want to treat the root cause of what's going on.

Celena Muzic:

So our officers viewed by departments as, as just do your job, in that mindset or it's just, frowned upon for them to get this type of help.

Melissa Presser:

I just think it's, It's similar to, like I said, being a lawyer, you know, I would never feel comfortable if I went to therapy, I would never feel comfortable telling another lawyer friend I went to therapy. it's just not something that's accepted. I think in general, still in many professions, not just, not just policing.

Steven Wallace:

I wish more lawyers, especially opposing counsels would go to therapy.

Celena Muzic:

We'd have a few, probably made some therapy.

Steven Wallace:

We like to self-diagnose. We like to diagnose opposing counsels.

Celena Muzic:

Yeah. Is there a way that we can, as, is there a way of civilians that we can interact more with officers and had enough negative light, but in a positive way too? See that human side. I mean, in New York while we have, we have beat cops, I grew up with my neighborhood cop. I knew who he was, you know, it's, it's, it's a different experience. I mean, I'm not going to say things don't happen there, but, it is a different experience. You know, who your officers are, you go to the precinct and everyone's there. Here, I've gone to a precinct and you press a button and you wait for someone to come outside.

Melissa Presser:

Yeah. I mean, to me, everything's about initiative, right? Like if we have all these issues, then somebody has got a break, right. At some point, you know, I can tell you, for instance, in my police department, my chief answers to every single one of his emails. You know himself. And, and I have early in working with all the chiefs and the County and the Sheriff's office, you know, there's never been a time where I've heard from a civilian or someone outside policing. Hey, I try to get in touch with, you know, someone from command staff and they just never responded to me. I mean, I think it starts with just looking at your local police department, wherever you are and saying, okay, maybe sending an email to the chief and just saying, Hey, you know, I wanted to reach out my hand. I want to meet you. I want to. I'd like to meet the officers that are patrol my zone and just say, thank you. Or a lot of times what we had before Colby, we had coffee with cops. So there's, I would check your, your local police department for, they always have events. They're always having something to have that go on and, and if they don't, then you should call their community policing unit. You should call. Everybody has one, you should call and say, Hey, I'm a resident of so city. And I really appreciate all that you're doing, but I'm hoping we can engage with you more. sometimes it's just the dollars. They just don't have. Let's say the dollars to put an event on, but with COVID, you know, you can suggest, Hey, I'd love to have, you know, a zoom meeting. Can we have a community zoom meeting? I have found that police departments are extremely open to ideas in their community because. You know, most departments are very community-based, especially when you're talking about cities because you're patrolling your own city or an independent, agency like we are in plantation. So I would definitely encourage you to reach out and meet those people. I would also encourage you if you want to check out a really great way to find out more about people, our great initiative that I love, My good friend, chief constant Stanley over at Lauderhill police department. they are on the Lauderhill page, Facebook page. I think it's every week, maybe they're introducing a new officer, the human side of that officer, and they're saying, Oh, I love dogs. Or I went to college here and, and I just love it. I'm like I watched them to talk more. Cause I think so amazing. and so that's a great initiative that you may want to say, Hey, city of, so and so like, look what. Chief Stanley is doing. and I really liked this and I, you know, that's a great yeah. Way and a great initiative. And I think there's other agencies that are also a coconut Creek is another example that's doing. If you look on their page, they have, you know, they've got the pictures of the officer and tell about the officer and that's a great way to look at somebody and say, you know, I may have a problem with. Policing. Right. But like this person is somebody's mother or sister or aunt. this person is a person just like me. And so, so by telling somebody I want to defund them or that I don't value value what they do in general. maybe I should start looking at ways that I can get to know, you know, like you said, my local personnel and see ways that I can help create a solution. And, and I think those are some tips. Those are two great initiatives that have been started.

Celena Muzic:

Absolutely. I think, I think that needs to be put out in the community more so that, you know, it's like you said, something's got to give at one point and I think it takes two to tango. Yes, it does. It always does.

Steven Wallace:

Okay. So now we're going to transition into a couple pop culture slash silly questions. So my first pop culture slash silly question to you, Melissa is during the pandemic, which show or shows have you been binge watching?

Melissa Presser:

Oh my God. I'm the worst person to ask. I'm such a big dork. I don't watch TV. but I was introduced to Netflix for the first time. So, We watched, what was that? A tire King. So we binge-watched tire King, even after everybody told me not to, but I found it, pretty funny and I really enjoy considering the seriousness of what I do. So, I watched that with my husband. That was good.

Steven Wallace:

Okay, follow up question related to that, being that you're in law enforcement, do you think that Carol Baskin killed her

Melissa Presser:

husband, so, you know, if you're asking me just to give like some circumstantial opinion, I mean, I think the evidence circumstantial evidence is pretty, it's pretty heavy on that, Fred. So when it surprised me to learn that she did now, it would not

Steven Wallace:

surprise me. Okay. Last follow up question. Should I feel guilty that I'm rooting for Joe exotic during the entire

Melissa Presser:

series? No. Oh, you know, like he's so likable. my husband's like, you're crazy, but I was like, why can't they film him from jail? Like the part two should be like him from jail and like his constant rants. And I was like, that would be a great show. Like I would even listen to the audio if they didn't want to do a TV series, I'm like, I would just listen to it as a podcast. you know, so yes, I'm in favor of a part two, like, from fly from jail, you know, I think that would be a great, good for entertainment for sure. Yes. Oh my God. That's hilarious.

Celena Muzic:

I want to know who was your celebrity or who is your celebrity crush?

Melissa Presser:

Oh my God. so I love Maxwell. I love Neo soul music and, I almost had my third child at a Maxwell concert because I was like, I was like, hell, I have to go. I cannot, I have to go see Maxwell. and so I told my husband, I'm like, well, you know, if you, if you pass on before, you know, he's definitely going to be, up for consideration. So, I used to travel around like literally going to Maxwell concerts because his music is incredible and, he is just an incredible artist. So that, that is my celebrity crush. Oh, wow. Wow. I did not expect Maxwell. Yes.

Steven Wallace:

Okay. You're going to ask one more question each and then we're going to go to the lightning round. So my question is, and I don't know, are you, are you a fan? Are you a sports fan at all?

Melissa Presser:

I grew up a canes fan cause I'm from Miami.

Steven Wallace:

Okay. So my question is, do you like basketball?

Melissa Presser:

I mean it's all right. It's not my, like my first cup of tea, but you know, that's all right.

Steven Wallace:

Here's a Seminole question that we have on the podcast. Who is the greatest of all time, Michael Jordan or LeBron James. And why?

Melissa Presser:

Oh, Michael Jordan, that's easy. Because, you know, I look at, I don't, I don't look at from a sports perspective, but his story is so incredible in the way that he was just not going to give up. And I can relate a lot to that in terms of the fact that he didn't make his JV team. And, you know, he came back to be the greatest basketball player that ever lived. Anybody who's like, I am not going to stop. Trying is a favorite person of mine.

Celena Muzic:

That is fantastic. I'm all for Jordan. So anyone that says Jordan, I'm like, yes.

Melissa Presser:

Yeah. I love it. Growing up. I'm a child of the eighties and he's such an icon. And, you know, I just, I don't know. He was just, so his story is so inspiring to me face jam at space jam. I mean, yeah, exactly.

Steven Wallace:

I mean, all my son and I, we love space jam.

Melissa Presser:

Yeah. I like space jam too. I'm like that's yeah, I like that. And like Mike, like Mike and all that stuff, so yeah.

Steven Wallace:

this, this is very inspirational episode. I feel, I feel proud to be an attorney after this episode.

Melissa Presser:

That's good. I love it.

Steven Wallace:

So now we're going to bring down the octane a little bit. We're coming round. So it's just basically, it's a rapid fire, this or that? Answer the question without any thought or explanation. First question burgers or tacos,

Melissa Presser:

burgers, Coke,

Steven Wallace:

or diet Coke, diet

Melissa Presser:

Coke.

Steven Wallace:

Mountains or

Melissa Presser:

beach. Ooh, right now I'm going to say mountains and I don't know why

Steven Wallace:

hugging or kissing

Melissa Presser:

hugging. And

Steven Wallace:

last but not least dog,

Melissa Presser:

dog all the way. Excellent.

Steven Wallace:

Well, thank you so much, Melissa. Could you tell our listeners how we can find the blue Octavia and how we can find you on social media?

Melissa Presser:

You can, yeah, I'm on Facebook. You can find me personally, Melissa Zelnick or presser, or on the blue octave page. You can just type in the blue octave and we will come up. I also have a website that we've been working [email protected] Pretty new. So check it out and let me know what you think. And we're also on Instagram at the blue Okta.

Steven Wallace:

Excellent. Well, I know we're leaving and I are going to friends you on Facebook.

Melissa Presser:

Great.

Steven Wallace:

And we'd love to have you on again. Maybe we can do an episode on dealing with stress and, you know, through wellness and an alternative mechanisms. We'd love to have you on the next couple of months.

Melissa Presser:

Yeah, check out some of my Facebook videos, I do a couple of live videos and you can see some of those wellness initiatives and, you know, you should even try something today. I'm telling you, it takes a little bit of a shift to half, half a millimeter or whatever you want to call it. And, you know, we control our minds. So we are the ones that decide what kind of day we're going to have.

Steven Wallace:

Excellent on that. We will, we will leave you our listeners. And thank you so much, Melissa, for taking the time out. We

Melissa Presser:

really thank you. It's been fun.