Copline: 1-800-267-5463Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: Dial 988Crisis Text Line: Text BLUE to 741741

About Us

Beyond the Badge CA is a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization that was created by two New York law enforcement officers, to raise suicide and mental health awareness, as they felt the need to address the growing mental health crisis that the first responder community is currently facing.

Enlisting the help of other fellow officers, friends, and family, they set out on their mission to BREAK THE STIGMA.

As first responders you are a part of the largest family there is, and they wanted officers to know IT'S OKAY TO NOT BE OKAY

Our services and support are for those individuals who serve as first responders (Law Enforcement officers on the federal, state and local levels, Firefighters and volunteer fire, EMS including EMTs and Police Medics, Corrections, Sheriff’s, Deputies, Court officers, Probation/Parole officers and 911 operators and dispatchers).

Our Mission

• To reduce the growing epidemic of first responder suicides by breaking the stigma surrounding first responders coming forward for mental health treatment. We want to spotlight a positive image for those who see strength in coming forward and seeking the help they need and deserve.

• Additionally, to provide support and resources for the families whose first responder died by suicide.

• The statistics are rising at alarming rates for first responders who die by suicide due to PTSD, substance abuse, anxiety, and depression, which are often caused by day-to-day stress and trauma from the job. We want to spotlight a positive image for those who see strength in seeking the help they deserve.



Chris Panetta


Chris Panetta retired from the NYPD in April of 2021 as a Second Grade Detective. Over his 21+ years of service, he worked in multiple assignments throughout NYC including Borough Crime and the Organized Crime Control Bureau where he worked in Vice and Narcotics. After suffering a tragic and devastating loss in 2019, Chris joined the NYPD’s Peer Support Program and was also certified in Mental Health First Aid. Not realizing it initially and what it would lead to, he quickly learned that accepting this role would be the most important assignment of his career.

Growing up with an inherent drive and resilience instilled by his parents, Chris had the motivation and desire to further his educational prowess. While working for the Department early in his career and having to postpone his education twice due to attending the Police Academy and then the tragic events of 9/11, he obtained his B.S. in Business Management. Later, he decided he wasn’t quite finished and obtained his M.S. in Criminal Justice.

When Chris and his wife, Michelle, suffered the loss of his childhood friend and co-worker on January 25th, 2019, only three weeks after their wedding where his friend attended, he wondered why… why this happened and could he have done anything differently. Then the unimaginable happened later in the year when ten more brothers and sisters in blue also died by suicide. Chris and Michelle had seen enough. They took action and co-founded Beyond the Badge NY and had an event to raise awareness not knowing what would happen next. The event was successful but not because they raised money, but rather because they took the first step to bring a dire situation to the forefront of the conversation. Three years ago, Chris and Michelle just wanted to tell those struggling a few things:

1. It is not how one died, but rather how they lived.
2. It’s okay to not be okay.

But most importantly….

3. In this family, no one fights alone!

In the beginning Chris said “I don’t care if anyone remembers my name. I only care that our organization goes on long after I’m gone.” It seems to be well on its way!

Michelle Panetta


Michelle Panetta is a Senior Anti-Money Laundering/Financial Crimes Investigator, where she investigates individuals who launder money for the purpose of drug and human trafficking, terrorism, white collar crimes and local street crimes. Before this, Michelle was a Nassau County Probation Officer. She spent the first three and a half years of her career in the DWI Unit and assisted with Electronic Monitoring. She also spent time assisting with the Opioid Overdose programs as well as assisted numerous individuals in obtaining their GED’s. After suffering a Line of Duty incident, Michelle began working in the Restitution Unit. She retired in 2021 after five years of service to the residents of Nassau County.

Additionally, Michelle became an adjunct professor in 2017 at Nassau Community College where she currently teaches criminal justice. She also holds a B.S. and M.S. in Criminal Justice from Long Island University.

In 2019, Michelle and her husband Chris suffered a devastating loss when Chris’ co-worker and childhood friend died by suicide. Later that year, Michelle and Chris co-founded Beyond the Badge NY because they were distraught and angry about losing their fellow brothers and sisters in blue to suicide and felt something had to be done. Additionally, after her LODI she began having her own struggles with anxiety and PTSD and felt she could make an impact with others. She made a decision to let others know… “In this family, no one fights alone!”

Board of Directors

Melissa Swailes


Melissa Swailes is the widow of LAPD officer, David Swailes, who died by suicide in 2016. Melissa and David had been high school sweethearts and had been married for 14 years with four boys, at the time of his death. Additionally, Melissa has been a teacher for the past 20 years and most recently teaching special education for the past 10 years. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Studies and a Master’s Degree in Educational Administration.

In the aftermath of her grief she was determined to raise awareness of the growing epidemic of suicide amongst LEOs and find purpose in her pain. She began to speak publicly about her story and worked with other non-profit organizations dedicated to raising awareness. She created the Heart of LAPD Suicide Prevention Walk that began in 2018 and concurrently also serves on the board of the LAPD Family Support Group which aids the families of all fallen officers.

Jason Palamara

Vice President

Jason M. Palamara is currently the Director of Veteran and First Responder Engagement for Forge VFR. He is also a U.S. Navy Veteran and a retired New York City Police Department Cold Case Homicide Detective.

Jason has served as a peer support counselor with the NYPD and currently serves as a volunteer crisis intervention counselor with the Long Island Crisis Center. He is a John C. Maxwell certified life coach and is certified in ASIST and Mental Health First Aid. His mission is to connect with and serve his fellow First Responder and Veteran communities, ensuring the care they need is always available to them. Jason is currently writing “Living Blue”, a book on police wellness and resilience, with Barbara Rubel.

Far too often, our heroes are lost to suicide and the surviving families are forgotten. As First Responders, we often forget that our blue family is much bigger than the pain we may be enduring. I share in the passionate work Beyond the Badge does in helping spread the message of community and support and in ensuring that our heroes are never forgotten. Joining the Beyond the Badge family serves in this mission.

Joseph Aiello


Joe is originally from New York. After graduating high school, he joined the United States Air Force (USAF) and began his military journey at Lackland AFB, San Antonio, Texas. He was subsequently stationed at Bergstrom AFB, Austin, TX, Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, and finally at George AFB, Victorville, CA. In December 1990, Joe joined the Montclair Police Department as a Level one Reserve Police Officer, while in his last year in the USAF. In January 1991, Joe was deployed to Operation Desert Storm, station in Bahrain. After Joe returned from Bahrain, he was offered a full-time Police Officer position for the Montclair Police Department. Joe served ten (10) years with Montclair PD working various assignments, but none more rewarding than Fraud/Forgery investigations. In February 2000, Joe accepted a Police Officer position with Manhattan Beach Police Department. Joe served over eighteen (18) years with Manhattan Beach PD working various assignments including patrol, Fraud/Forgery Detective, and Field Training Officer. In January 2011, Joe was promoted to Sergeant and worked as a Patrol Watch Commander and Professional Standards and Training Sergeant. In February 2014, Joe was promoted to Lieutenant and worked as the Graveyard Patrol Watch Commander until his retirement in May 2018.

In June 2020, Joe joined Citibank as a Lead Investigator. Joe has worked a myriad of cases, including Wire Fraud Cases, Discrimination Cases, Internal Investigations, and External Investigations.

Joe is married and has 4 children. Two adult children and twin 17-year-old daughters. In his off time, Joe loves to spend time with his family, traveling, and boating at Lake Havasu, Arizona.

Committee Directors

Kristina Colletti

Director Of Clinical Advisement

As a clinician and former first responder, Kristina’s mission is to help others heal from post-traumatic stress injuries so they can go on to live their best lives. Kristina is currently a Board-Certified Licensed Counselor with an M.A., with distinction in mental health counseling from Hofstra University. Kristina is licensed in both NY as an LMHC and in NJ as an LPC. Kristina is an EMDR Certified Trauma Therapist and is certified as a Psychiatric Rehabilitation Practitioner, as well as a Clinical Trauma Professional. Kristina specializes in trauma and believes in supporting the whole person, heavily focusing on multiple areas of wellness. She draws on her own lived experiences combined with her clinical background to encourage hope. Kristina believes that trauma is an injury and with appropriate peer and mental health support, the injury can heal.

Kristina is currently Deputy Director for a statewide behavioral health not for profit organization in NJ. As part of the executive team, Kristina oversees and supports the operations and success of the programs within the assigned region of the state, inclusive of wellness centers, forensic, community support services, and supportive housing programs. Kristina is a clinician for New York Law Enforcement Assistance Program (NYLEAP) and took an active role in helping to bring Post Critical Incident Seminars (PCIS) to the state of NY. She is the Founder and Managing Director of Warrior Wellness Counseling, LLC, a private practice that primarily provides trauma therapy to first responders, military, and survivors of suicide loss. As the Director of Clinical Advisement for Beyond the Badge, Kristina provides clinical guidance as needed to Beyond the Badge NY and affiliated chapters. Kristina takes an active role in mental health education and awareness with peers and other affiliates.

After learning that her childhood best friend’s husband died by suicide after 12 years on the job in law enforcement, Kristina set out to break the stigma when it comes to first responders and mental health. Kristina is also personally a survivor of multiple losses to suicide. She has close relationships with many first responders, military, and is well versed in family dynamics involving first responders through her own lived experiences. As a former first responder with emergency medical services, Kristina uses her own journey with critical incidents and trauma to further motivate her mission of providing hope and healing to others. Kristina continues to collaborate with various organizations who share in her mission.

“The expectation that we can be immersed in suffering and loss daily and not be touched by it, is as unrealistic as expecting to be able to walk through water without getting wet.” -Rachel Remen

Professional Advisement

Thomas Purpi


Tom Purpi has been practicing law in the state and federal courts of New York since 2010. His top-rated firm handles a wide variety of legal matters from general civil and commercial litigation to corporate, real estate, employment, and matrimonial law. As a native New Yorker, he is a graduate of New York University and the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

Tom is currently outside counsel to Beyond the Badge, Inc. His commitment to Beyond the Badge’s mission is inspired by his appreciation of the heroism and sacrifice of his family and friends in law enforcement, and of all those in the first responder community. He has, as too many others have also, been personally affected by the tragedy of loss due to mental illness. Tom plays an intricate part of bringing Beyond the Badge’s mission to new chapters across the country in hopes of once and for all smashing the stigma of mental illness and protecting those who serve and protect us.