By Ronald C. Ruecker
|Ronald C. Ruecker,|
Director of Public Safety,
City of Sherwood, Oregon
hroughout its history, the IACP has played an active role in shaping laws and regulations of importance to the law enforcement profession. It is part of our mission to ensure that our members have the information and resources necessary to meet the public’s expectations for safety and security. At no time has it been more important for the voice of law enforcement to be heard than today.
In the past two years, the U.S. Congress and the administration have addressed a multitude of issues of critical importance to the law enforcement community. These include funding for critical law enforcement assistance programs, homeland security, information and intelligence sharing, firearms, and immigration.
This year will be no different. Because of the upcoming November elections, it is likely that our elected leaders will be paying particular attention to 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 state and local law enforcement executives is 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 the law enforcement community 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. The IACP’s success in its legislative efforts depends on the actions of our members. If we are to be truly successful in this effort, it is imperative that we all get involved. It is critically important that you contact your elected representatives and let them know what the loss of federal assistance funding will mean to your ability to police your community effectively.
There is no more effective public safety advocate than police chiefs talking to their representatives, since chiefs possess the expertise on law enforcement issues that 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 be put to good use only when your representatives know who you are. To be truly effective advocates for the law enforcement community, it is vital that you establish a relationship with your elected representatives. As police leaders, 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 overcome successfully the challenges confronting us and to protect effectively 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, or 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 representatives so that they and you can communicate frequently on the issues facing your community and your profession.
Another opportunity to establish this relationship is by joining with other IACP members on March 3 and 4 to participate in the IACP’s Day on the Hill. The Day on the Hill gives IACP members the opportunity to meet with their representatives and express their views on the needs of the law enforcement community and to advance the IACP 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 and the IACP Division of State and Provincial Police. 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 and 4, 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 could dramatically alter the way our agencies operate. As we have learned in the past, when we do not speak up and make our voices heard, our agencies are often asked to undertake a mission for which we lack the proper resources and are confronted by new laws and regulations that hinder our ability to protect our communities. To combat this, the entire law enforcement community, officers and executives alike, must take action. We must ensure that our elected leaders have the benefit of our wisdom and experience as they develop and debate public safety policy. ■