Throughout our history, the mission of the IACP has required the association to be actively involved in deliberations over criminal justice policies. It is our responsibility as police executives to ensure that policy makers in all nations and at all levels of government are provided with the insight of law enforcement professionals when they consider policies that affect how we protect the public we serve.
At no time has it been more important for the voice of law enforcement to be heard than today. The U.S. Congress and the administration are searching for new approaches to safeguard the public and protect our communities from the specter of terrorism. In the past two years, they have developed, considered, and in many cases enacted legislation that has significantly altered the responsibilities and authority of U.S. law enforcement agencies. In addition, at a time when many of us are confronting tremendous budgetary pressures as we attempt to simultaneously fulfill our traditional law enforcement roles and adapt to our new homeland security responsibilities, the federal government is considering significant changes to the levels and allocation procedures of critical federal assistance funds.
This year will be no different.
Because of the upcoming November elections, it is likely that our elected leaders will be actively working on critical homeland security and public safety issues. For these reasons, it is vitally important for the IACP to continue its efforts to ensure that the voice of the state and local law enforcement executives are heard.
The IACP occupies a unique position in Washington, D.C., the United States, and the world, representing the professional voice of law enforcement. The IACP does not endorse political candidates or get involved in political campaigns. Instead, it stays above the political fray and focuses its energies on advancing legislative initiatives that provide law enforcement with the tools necessary to fulfill its mission. This abstention from politics allows the IACP to do what is right without regard to how popular its position may be. Over the past several years, in part because of this philosophy, the IACP’s influence has continued to grow. We bring a professional, not a political, perspective to public policy debates.
Yet let us make no mistake. IACP’s success in its legislative efforts depends upon the actions of our membership. There is no more effective public safety advocate than a police chief talking to his or her representative, since the chief possesses the expertise on law enforcement issues the representatives lack. We have the ability to serve as a resource for our political leaders, to let them know which proposals would help us and which would hinder our ability to fulfill our mission.
But your knowledge and experience can only be put to good use when your representatives know who you are. In order to be truly effective advocates for the needs of the law enforcement community, it is vital that you establish a relationship with your elected representatives. As police chiefs, we are responsible for protecting public safety. Thus, it is our duty to ensure that the laws that are enacted are sensible and will allow our agencies to successfully overcome the challenges confronting us and to effectively protect the citizens and communities we serve.
I urge you to act today and contact your representatives. Visit with them when they are back in your district. Call them, write them, send them an e-mail message, send them a fax, but make every effort to ensure that they are aware of your concerns and those of the law enforcement community. The IACP Legislative Agenda, which is available at the IACP Web site, www.theiacp.org, provides an overview of the issues confronting our profession. Use this document as a starting point with your representatives, but also take the opportunity to discuss your local needs and concerns. The important task is to establish a relationship with your representative so that they, and you, can communicate frequently on the issues facing your community and your profession.
Another opportunity to establish this relationship is join with other IACP members on March 3 to participate in IACP’s Day on the Hill. The Day on the Hill gives IACP members the opportunity to meet with their representative and express their views on the needs of the law enforcement community and to advance the IACP’s legislative agenda. This year’s Day on the Hill is scheduled to coincide with the midyear meetings of the IACP Division of State Associations of Chiefs of Police, the IACP Division of State and Provincial Police, and the IACP Legislative Committee. If you are interested in joining us in this important endeavor, please call the IACP legislative staff or visit the IACP Web site for more information.
Whether you can join us on March 3, it is imperative that you get involved. There is too much at stake for law enforcement executives to remain on the sidelines as our elected leaders consider legislation that has the potential to dramatically alter the way our agencies operate. If we do not speak up and make our voices heard, our agencies could be asked to undertake a mission for which we lack the proper resources and confronted by new laws and regulations that will hinder the ability of our officers to effectively police our communities.
The entire law enforcement community, officer and executive alike, has had to accept new responsibilities and adapt to meet the new reality we all share. But we must do more. We must ensure that our elected leaders have the benefit of our wisdom and experience as they develop and debate public safety policy.♦