Chief Joseph C. Carter
|Chief Joseph C. Carter, Transit Police Department, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, Boston, Massachusetts|
olicing, by its very nature, is a profession that is at the mercy of outside events. Despite our proactive and investigative efforts, despite the training provided to our officers, despite the equipment and technology used by our departments, and despite our best efforts at intelligence gathering and information sharing, we all too often find ourselves forced to react to outside events. This challenging, and often frustrating, reality is what makes successfully managing a law enforcement agency such a difficult task.
This uncertainty is also the reason why, when we have the opportunity to proactively take steps to improve our ability to protect our communities, we must do so. Nowhere is this more important than in our efforts to work with our elected leaders to ensure that we have the resources needed to effectively fulfill our mission of protecting the public from crime and violence.
At no time has it been more important for the voice of law enforcement to be heard than today. In the United States, the newly elected 110th Congress and the administration are searching for new approaches to safeguard the public and protect our communities from the specter of terrorism. Over the past several 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 significantly reduced the levels of, and changed the allocation procedures for, critical federal assistance funds.
It is for these reasons that the IACP has embarked on an aggressive campaign to ensure that our elected officials understand the needs and concerns of the U.S. law enforcement community. In mid-December, the IACP Board of Officers approved the release of the IACP Law Enforcement Action Agenda for the 110th Congress. This document, which was provided to the congressional leadership and to relevant committee chairs, provided a concise and detailed overview of the critical issues confronting the law enforcement community and IACP’s recommendations for congressional action. (A copy of the agenda is available on the IACP Web site at www.theiacp.org.)
The initial response to our efforts has been quite promising. Congressional leaders have already solicited IACP’s input on a wide range of issues related to both traditional law enforcement and homeland security issues. In fact, during the first week of the 110th Congress, the IACP was asked to testify before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and to provide the perspective of the state, tribal, and local law enforcement community on our national homeland security strategy and the recommendations of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, popularly known as the 9/11 Commission. (A copy of IACP’s testimony is available in the What’s New section on the Web site at www.theiacp.org.)
Nevertheless, our efforts will not stop there. In March, IACP leadership will gather in Washington, D.C., and meet with key policy makers on Capitol Hill and in the administration to discuss the critical needs of the U.S. law enforcement community.
Yet let us make no mistake. IACP’s success in its legislative efforts depends upon the purposeful actions of our membership. There is no more effective public safety advocate than a police chief talking to his or her representative about issues that impact the safety of their shared constituencies. Because police chiefs possess the law enforcement expertise that representatives lack, we have the ability to serve as a vital resource for our political leaders by letting them know which proposals would help us and which would hinder our ability to fulfill our mission.
That is why, as part of our congressional outreach effort, I have asked each of you play a role as well. I believe that it is critically important for each IACP member to contact the members of his or her state’s congressional delegation and let them know the law enforcement community’s legislative priorities.
To that end, the IACP has set up an online legislative action center where you can write letters and e-mail messages to your senators and representatives. The IACP Legislative Action Center includes a sample letter and a link to the Law Enforcement Action Agenda. By simply entering your zip code, you can instantly send a letter to your members of Congress, asking them to strongly support the law enforcement community. (To visit the Legislative Action Center, visit the IACP Web site and click the “Contact Congress” button on the legislative page.)
I urge you to get involved. There is simply 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 police our communities effectively.■