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Candidate for 2011 IACP Office: Ronal W. Serpas

Superintendent of Police
New Orleans, Louisiana, Police Department
Candidate for IACP Fourth Vice President

’ve proudly been a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and I am proud to be a Life Member. Together in the past two decades we have witnessed many great challenges and many positive changes in law enforcement. I would be honored to be given the opportunity to serve as this prestigious organization’s fourth vice president as it faces new challenges and works to bring even greater improvements to law enforcement.

I chose to become a police officer 31 years ago when I enrolled as a recruit with the New Orleans, Louisiana, Police Department (NOPD) and retired after 21 years of service in the summer of 2001. Today, I’m just entering my second year as that department’s superintendent. Prior to my appointment as NOPD Superintendent in May 2010, I served as Police Chief in the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department from January 2004 until May 2010. Before heading to Nashville, I was Chief of the Washington State Patrol (WSP) for two and a half years. During that time, I had the opportunity to come to know the tremendous dedication and effort of state troopers, scientists, fire marshals, and so many others. Before accepting the chief’s position in the WSP, I was appointed deputy superintendent and the first chief of operations for the NOPD and served in this capacity for the last five years of my career in New Orleans. Having been a police chief at the local and state levels has given me an incredible opportunity to witness the dedication of those who in my view serve in the most noble profession: American policing.

My education includes a doctorate in urban studies, with an emphasis in urban crime from the University of New Orleans (a Louisiana State University System school). From 1993 to 2001, I was an assistant professor of criminal justice at Loyola University New Orleans, teaching graduate and undergraduate courses.

I believe that success in policing depends on leadership’s ability to implement change. Change is challenging, but I’d like to continue to work with the IACP in its laudable efforts to respond and lead the nation in fighting crime in the 21st century.

More specifically, I would, as fourth vice president, focus my efforts on addressing the devastating impacts that the economy is having on law enforcement agencies, finding ways to optimize our use of new technologies and work with our nation’s up and coming generations of future law enforcement professionals.

It goes without saying that today’s economy is playing a bigger role in law enforcement than it has in decades. Having an insufficient budget cripples a police department in the obvious ways, such as not being allowed to hire new classes of recruits as often as we’d like and not being able to offer more competitive salaries, which would enable us to raise the bar in hiring standards. Some departments have cut down on car patrols simply because of exorbitant gas prices. Some have delayed the replacement of essential equipment because the money’s just not there.

Secondly, I’d like to work with our membership to maximize the use of communications tools that have emerged in the past two decades. Just over two decades ago, less than half the population had personal computers. We didn’t have Blackberries. Only one person had a phone in his car, and that was James Bond. Fast forward to 2011, and police officers can be instantly connected with their colleagues, leaders, and the public, whether they’re 10 minutes away or on the other side of the planet. We can hold video conference calls at any time of the day or night. The explosion of communication ability within police departments, as well as with the communities they serve, is boundless. Not to mention the powerful, new technologies we use to analyze crime, deployment patterns of officers, in-car computers, and so forth. And on the other end of this spectrum, the use of computers and the Internet to commit crimes such as identity theft or transporting illegal images is staggering. Obviously we have for some time been benefiting from these technologies. However, working together, members of the IACP can make great strides in better harnessing this and using it to our advantage and in making our communities safer.

In a matter of a few years, law enforcement agencies have moved ahead light years. Besides advancements in the way we fight and analyze crime, change is quite evident in today’s recruits. These members of the X and Y generations have very different expectations than those I had some 30 years ago. They expect a certain type of training; advanced electronic devices on their belts; and sophisticated, various means of communications. Today’s recruits are simply more demanding, in all respects. And that compels IACP members to meet all the demands.

I seek the privilege and the honor to help lead this great organization, and I hope you will give me the chance to do it. ■

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From The Police Chief, vol. LXXVIII, no. 8, August 2011. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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