Education fraud experts raise alarm about Calgary police ties to unaccredited college that uses Anaheim P.O. box in strip mall

Perkins has cultivated a close association with the police service through his California-based College of Certified Psychophysiologists.

Dr. Robert L. Perkins, a self-described “expert in the prevention and treatment of PTSD,” a “certified sexologist,” and a board member of the North American Surfing Doctors Association, was scheduled to give an in-person presentation on Sept. 13 to Calgary Police Service members.

Over the past year, Perkins has cultivated a close association with the police service through his California-based College of Certified Psychophysiologists.

Perkins has trained CPS members on “critical incident stress debriefs,” which he has said is a “supportive crisis intervention process.” The police service’s executive director of wellness and resiliency, Stacey Ferland, recently successfully defended her PhD in clinical police pyschophysiology from the college.

In early August, the college awarded an honorary doctorate to CPS sergeant Mike Huskins – photos posted on the college’s Facebook page show CPS Chief Mark Neufeld smiling broadly as he presents Huskins with a frame for his degree.

A Global News investigation has revealed the college, which operates from a postal box in a strip mall in Anaheim, Calif., has no recognized accreditation and issues degrees that an education fraud expert said aren’t worth the paper they are printed on.

Over a 31-year career, retired FBI special agent Allen Ezell investigated and shut down some of the world’s largest, most sophisticated degree mills.

“I would not trust it. I wouldn’t give its diploma any credibility whatsoever. It has no academic value,” he said of the college.

“To me, it’s a fraud, it’s a scam. It’s a mirage, it’s not real.”

A higher-education policy expert said it is troubling that CPS officers with PTSD, or who need other counselling support, may be treated with techniques from a college that appears not to be legitimate.

“This is a field where people could be harmed, where people could die as a result of malpractice, as a result of untrained intervention,” said Barmak Nassirian, of Veterans Education Success, a Washington, D.C. veterans advocacy non-profit.

Advertisement

“So it is very dangerous.”

An examination of Perkins’ resume and online biographies uncovered glaring omissions about his education, chronological contradictions, and a list of touted credentials from organizations he appears to have created himself.

Veronica Maxwell is a close associate of Perkins. She claims to be a sexologist with a PhD from the college, where she is now a faculty member. Maxwell also goes by the name Sharon Rowley, who is separately listed as a faculty member and, according to a podcast episode description, is Perkins’ wife.

Maxwell has a website in which she claims she has developed “miracle breathing cures and techniques for all erectile and sexual dysfunctions.”

CPS pauses training, police commission asks for review

The Calgary Police Service declined an interview request, and instead provided a statement that did not address many specific issues raised by Global News. It said it has cancelled Perkins’ September presentation and paused any training from the college or Perkins as it conducts a review.

The college provided “various forms of supplemental training” to about 20 sworn and civilian members, CPS spokesperson Michael Nunn said. This included two PhDs in psychophysiology, about 16 online courses, and three certificates in police mental wellness.

He said the officers were not in their positions as a result of the training. Nunn said he could not provide a timeline for the completion of the review, which will include how much money CPS paid the college, and how it came to be associated with the school.

The police service has “100 per cent confidence” in the training and skills of its psychological therapies employees,” Nunn said. He previously said the police service would respond on Ferland’s behalf but it did not.

In a statement, the Calgary Police Commission said that while it trusts the mental health care that CPS officers receive from its qualified professionals, the commission has “significant concerns” about the police service’s relationship with the college.

“We have asked the service to report to us on both the quality of wellness care available to members and how training and education requests are reviewed,” spokesperson Corwin Odland wrote.

“Our next steps will depend on what is learned about existing practices.”

Lack of due diligence by Calgary police, experts say

Ezell said the Calgary Police Service has displayed an astonishing lack of due diligence. Perkins’ publicly accessible LinkedIn resume is simply not believable, he said, and the college has all the markings of a degree mill.

Although Perkins claims to have PhDs in practical chaplaincy/psychology and clinical psychophysiology, his LinkedIn profile makes no reference to formal education from any accredited university.

Ezell said he wouldn’t call Perkins’ LinkedIn resume a curriculum vitae because it lacks basic details.

He pointed to Perkins’ claim that he was an “armoured officer” in the “army” from April 1988 to July 1991, and describes what he did as “CLASSIFIED.” A proper resume would say which army he served in, what he did and whether he received an honourable discharge. He scoffed at Perkins’s claim that his work was classified.

Similarly, Perkins claims to have been a “police sergeant” in a “police department” in the Toronto area from October 1991 to September 2003. But the resume doesn’t say which police service or explain how he made the leap from being in the army in 1991 to the rank of a police sergeant three months later.

He also claims he worked as a researcher for the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General from June 1991 to May 1993, which overlaps by 18 months with his job as a sergeant in the unnamed police service.

Ezell said the resume should have immediately caused anyone, but most especially a trained police officer, to be suspicious of Perkins’ alleged professional credentials and work experience.

With the access that Neufeld would have to police databases, Ezell said, he could have conducted a background check on Perkins in minutes before allowing him to train officers.

Had Neufeld consulted him, “I would tell him not to touch it with a 20-foot pole.”

A spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General told Global News, “We have reviewed our records and can advise that we have no record of an employee under [Perkins’] name or any variation of that name.”

College not accredited

On its website, the College of Certified Psychophysiologists says it is an online graduate school offering master’s degrees, doctorate degrees, and certificate programs in psychophysiology, the “scientific study of the interaction between the mind and body.”

Advertisement

Under the “Accreditation” section on its website, the college claims it operates “within the required parameters and guidelines” established by the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education. In a July 2019 Facebook post, the college also stated it is a “registered licensed graduate school in California.”

But a search found no reference to the college in the databases of approved institutions for either the bureau or the U.S. Department of Education, which was confirmed through follow-up calls to both government agencies.

“The College Of Certified Psychophysiologists is not an institution approved by the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education,” California Department of Consumer Affairs spokesperson Monica Vargas said in an email.

Vargas confirmed the bureau issued a citation order to the college for operating in the state without approval. It withdrew the citation in May 2021 after the college appealed and a review found the college “was not operating as an educational institution within California,” Vargas said.

 “BPPE has jurisdiction over colleges physically operating and providing instruction in California, which the College Of Certified Psychophysiologists is not,” she said.

Both Ezell and Nassirian said the main marker of a degree mill is a lack of independent accreditation.

“A degree is worthless, useless, other than something to hang on the wall if it doesn’t have accepted, recognized accreditation,” Ezell said.

The college says it is “sponsored” by the North American Board of Certified Psychophysiologists, the “bona-fide professional organization” overseeing the profession.

But the board, of which Perkins is a director, in turn, claims it is licensed and authorized by the college. The board also shares the same postal box address and phone number in Anaheim as the college.

Perkins has specifically referenced the college’s headquarters in Anaheim. He has appeared in videos with a large teaching auditorium as the background, which is also the main photo for the college’s Facebook page.

A Google Maps search revealed the college’s head office address corresponds to a Postal Express outlet next to a nail salon in an Anaheim strip mall. The addresses of its international “offices” in Vancouver, B.C. and Sheffield, England also correspond to postal boxes.

The college recently offered half-off PhDs for $7,700 US.

Perkins declined an interview request. In an emailed statement, he did not address any of the questions about his education or work experience.

He insisted the college is operating within parameters set by the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education. He also insisted the college does not claim to be accredited. He said the college “delivers well written and devised core curriculum subject matter specific to the field of psychophysiology and their application in various fields.

“Students who complete Master’s or Doctorate level degrees are required to complete an intense course of study, as well as (an) in depth thesis or dissertation approved by the Dissertation Chair and then directed by a Thesis or Dissertation Advisor,” Perkins wrote.

“Our Advisors include a 30+ year veteran Investigator of (the) U.S. Department of Homeland Security as well as a current- serving Deputy District Attorney in the State of California,” Perkins claimed. “Once a paper has been completed, it is required to be defended by the committee and is evaluated before a degree is awarded.”

He said the college has no offices because it is an online institution.

In an email, Veronica Maxwell declined an interview request but acknowledged she is also known as Sharon Rowley.

Web of inter-connected organizations

Perkins is not only the president and acting dean of the psychophysiology college. The work experience section of his resume details his affiliation with a dizzying array of organizations, many of which he appears to have created.

This extensive network of self-described non-profit associations – stretching from California to British Columbia to Ontario to North Carolina – provide training and certifications to police officers and other first responders, for a fee.

These organizations, most related to PTSD, serve to lend credibility to each other and to Perkins, who touts certifications from them on his resume and in online marketing.

Ezell likened it to a daisy chain. One organization connects to the next, which connects to the next.

“You’re just making a circle,” he said. “You have never left that circle.”

Perkins is the executive director of the Canadian Practical Chaplain Association. It shares the same phone numbers as the California Practical Chaplain Association, of which he is also the executive director and chief of chaplains.

Its website states it trains chaplains to serve in police and fire departments, corporations, and prisons. Its graduates also work alongside athletes, including surfers.

Advertisement

“Surf Chaplains have the opportunity to provide an influence in the surfing community by demonstrating a positive role model as well as a resource for all things surfing,” the website states. “In essence, the Surf Chaplain ‘Does Life’ with the surfing community and is a friendly, familiar face to support anyone facing the trials and tribulations of everyday life both on and off the beach.”

The Canadian Practical Chaplain Association Facebook page claims it is a non-profit. The Ontario Business Registry shows the association was registered as a sole-proprietorship entity in July 2017 based in Toronto but became inactive as of September 2017. The Canada Revenue Agency has no online record of it.

The association says it provides training to become a certified chaplain for $299.99 and once certified, a member can purchase a uniform and a wide range of chaplain’s badges, including a surfing chaplain’s badge, for $149.99, or a badge wallet for $49.99.

On his LinkedIn resume, Perkins claims to have received certification from the International Fellowship of Chaplains (IFOC) through the University of Michigan in January 2003. A spokesperson for the IFOC in Temple, Texas said they have no record of Perkins and she said they don’t offer courses through universities.

Two-for-one accreditation

The chaplain’s certification includes two-for-one automatic accreditation as a Certified Critical Incident Stress Debriefer with the Ontario Critical Incident Stress Foundation, of which Perkins is one of the founders and serves as its executive director. It claims to be a registered non-profit with the Internal Revenue Service in California but an online check found the state suspended the association in 2019.

The foundation says it offers its training in Canada, Australia and 12 American states. An online certification course is $249.99 US and instructor training costs $1,000 US.

Perkins is also CEO of the Center for Chief Mental Health Officers, which is now offering its certification program for US $1,495, more than a 50 per cent discount. It operates from the same Anaheim and Vancouver postal outlet addresses as the College of Certified Psychophysiologists.

Nassirian, the higher-education expert, said it is common for degree mills to set up “supporting operations behind the entity that is actually engaged in the sale of credentials. And it becomes pretty complicated pretty quickly, with all kinds of brands and names that give you the illusion of oversight.”

Perkins is also listed as a full-time faculty member at the Rhodes Wellness College, a private institution in Vancouver. His biography on the college’s website says he has degrees in psychology, theology and applied psychophysiology – but does not say from where he earned them.

Ezell said it would be impossible for Perkins to lead, or be involved with, this many organizations if they were legitimate.

“There are only so many hours in the day,” he said.

When contacted by Global News, Ben Colling, the president of Rhodes Wellness College, said despite what the school’s website showed, Perkins is not a full-time faculty member and was in the middle of the hiring process for a two-week fall course.

“We had not finalized his contract and were in the final vetting process,” Colling wrote in an email. “As a result of final vetting, Roberts Perkins will not be teaching for us at this time and accordingly his information has been removed from our website.”

Health and safety of CPS officers at stake

A CPS officer with PTSD, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution, said he conducted an online search of Perkins and his college after viewing the internal announcement for the upcoming lecture.

“I started digging into him and thought things just aren’t adding up,” the officer said.

After viewing Perkins’ resume and the extraordinary web of PTSD-related associations, he was astonished that his police service would allow anyone with training from Perkins or accreditation from the college to counsel officers with PTSD.

“I think it is just that risk of doing harm, which is sort of counter-intuitive, because as a psychologist, and pretty much any doctor that I know, one of the very first things they are sworn to do is cause no harm,” he said. “And I think they’re running a real risk of causing harm.

Nassirian said the Calgary police need to develop some fundamental conflict-of-interest rules and protocols to verify credentials for organizations with which it does business.

“Even more important than the obligation to the public is the obligation to their own officers when health and safety is at risk,” he said.

If you have information related to this story, or for another story, please contact us in confidence at journalismtips@protonmail.com