Walter A. McNeil, Chief of Police, Quincy Police Department, Quincy, Florida
am humbled and honored to serve you, the leaders of law enforcement, from all over the world. As I undertake the office of president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), I assume leadership for the direction, the goals, and the aspirations of what I believe to be the greatest gathering of leaders in the world. We are very fortunate to have an association that is built around the principles of a democratic society. Thus, it is these guiding principles that have lit the way for each generation of presidents of our association. As we begin anew the work of our association, I pray for divine wisdom, a servant’s heart, and your support for the year ahead.
As I begin my term as president, I want each of you to know that I will be guided by my love for our profession and the deep respect I have for all of you, my brothers and sisters from all over the globe. This will be a year of us. We will continue our mission of reaching, training, teaching, mentoring, building, and growing the most professional police officers the world has ever seen. We will work together and continue to build upon the traditions that have brought us recognition as the world’s premier law enforcement organization.
The IACP has been extremely fortunate to have past officers and staff with great vision and impeccable leadership. For the past 25 years, we have been blessed to have a world-class executive director in Dan Rosenblatt. Mr. Rosenblatt, thank you sir for your servant’s heart, your stewardship, and your humble yet most effective style of leadership, as well as your deep devotion to our association. Dan’s name will be indelibly etched into the history of the IACP because of his commitment to the men and women of our profession.
And to IACP Immediate Past President Mark A. Marshall, chief of police, Smithfield, Virginia, Police Department: For the last 12 months, you have tackled a number of difficult issues and you have performed in the outstanding tradition of our past presidents. For that, sir, I say thank you.
Let me note here the extraordinary dedication and contributions of my good friends and colleagues on the IACP Board of Officers. We have worked together as a very productive team over many years now, and it has been an honor and a privilege to serve with these talented professionals.
My fellow IACP delegates: I am deeply moved by the honor you have given me to lead this great organization. I am filled with an array of emotions that words cannot adequately express. But, while I take on the role as leader, this is not intended to be about one person. This is a time for collective recommitment to our continuing mission of advancing police services and encouraging police personnel worldwide to achieve and maintain the highest standards of ethics, integrity, community interaction, and professional conduct. This is about our vision to enhance our role as the established voice of professional law enforcement throughout the world. This is about continuing to build upon our vision to be an effective force to serve our profession with public safety research, education, training, and administration. While it is true that we now face a world filled with greater complexities—a world in which change happens faster than the speed of light—our mission remains forever fixed, determined, and secure. We help ensure that the men and women we lead, serve, and honor, and who stand in the gaps of our societies protecting us from domestic criminals, moral decay, social injustice, political corruption, or international terrorism, are the essential threads of the fabric of our worldwide system of policing. The thin blue line must never ever fail, and the IACP must be the champion of our cause.
As we all know, while the political voices of the world continue to argue the merits and demerits of our processes of government and debate the pros and cons of deficit financing, countless numbers of police departments all over the United States and around the world are faced with severe reductions in both human and material resources. Even under these circumstances, our cause remains steadfast, our mission remains true, and our devotion to our citizens is unwavering. We all realize that these reductions come at a time when police officer deaths are on pace to mark one of the deadliest years—if not the deadliest year—in the United States. Overall, police officer deaths are up 14 percent this year with two full months to go, and police officer deaths from gunfire have increased by 33 percent, all at a time when police departments are cutting back on training and the implementation of community policing innovations that have proven to be effective survival tools for police officers. When I think of our officers and the amount of patience under adversity in which they perform their jobs, of their courage under fire, and of their modesty after completing a heroic act, I am determined to do all I can to improve their chances of survival.
Thus, the first priority of the IACP over the next 12 months will be to continue a comprehensive violence against police officers reduction strategy. The IACP will continue the work of IACP Past President Michael Carroll and the IACP State Association of Chiefs of Police (SACOP) Division in working to find ways to prevent violence and injuries to police officers. The work of the Center for the Prevention of Violence against the Police and SACOP’s Safe Shield Initiative will be strongly supported and given my highest attention during this operating year.
Our second initiative will focus on preventing police officer suicides in the communities from a world policing perspective. According to the 2010 Badge of Life Report, there were 145 police officer suicides in the United States last year, which is an alarmingly higher rate than that of the general population. We are going to go back and take a fresh look at police officer suicides. Building on the good work that the IACP Police Psychological Services Section completed many years ago and the work done by the IACP Defense Military Chiefs Section, IACP Second Vice President Yousry “Yost” Zakhary will lead the association’s efforts to take a deeper look at the tragedy of suicides by police officers. We will work with existing videos such as In Harm’s Way, as well as research in the field. The IACP will be looking for ways to identify depression and other early warning signs that could indicate trouble leading to a potential suicide.
Our third initiative will be a focus on our resolute determination to engage in a national discussion on wrongful convictions. The IACP has always been an association that serves as a guidepost on issues some would rather not attempt to address. Wrongful convictions appear to be such an issue. But, as leaders of the IACP, we will remain true to our heritage, true to our mission, and true to the people we serve. Under the direction of our incoming Parliamentarian and IACP Past President Dave Walchak, we will begin immediately to put together an ad hoc committee to look at how we can improve our processes and operations on a wide range of issues, from the sciences we use today to photographic lineups to eyewitness testimony to investigative techniques. The committee will be asked to be the planning group for a summit on the subject that will include forensic experts, experts in investigations, the courts, and district attorneys. Other public and private sector resources will be solicited to help fund the summit itself.
As we seek to make significant improvements to the overall criminal justice process, we must continue our efforts to fill gaps in the sharing of information regarding criminal activity at every level. My experience over the past 20 years has led me to believe that there are huge gaps in the information systems operated by law enforcement agencies and corrections agencies. Because I believe we will indeed save lives and prevent crimes if we work together with local, tribal, state, and federal prison systems, I have asked IACP Third Vice President Richard Beary to lead the IACP’s effort to bring law enforcement and corrections agencies into closer working relationships that will lead to better information sharing between these two communities. This topic will be the subject of an in-focus group discussion with the IACP Executive Committee during our meeting in January.
We all know and realize that the events of 9/11 fundamentally altered the traditional role of law enforcement around the world and ushered in a new era of policing in the United States. Over the last 10 years, a number of dramatic steps have been taken to confront the threat of terrorism, including the passage of the Patriot Act; the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security; fusion centers; and a variety of other programs designed to assist states, local, and federal law enforcement. Despite these valuable initiatives, law enforcement executives have grown increasingly concerned with the lack of a central, comprehensive plan to guide national efforts to adjust to the realities of the world after 9/11. My fellow members of the IACP, the United States needs a strategic plan. We need a national crime commission. Therefore, an ad hoc committee, to be led by IACP First Vice President Craig Steckler, will be created to look at how best to engage at the federal level and guide our efforts to establish a national crime commission.
In addition to our efforts to establish the national crime commission, the IACP will continue the efforts of IACP Honorary Past President Harlin McEwen to secure a national public safety broadband network. The IACP is convinced that law enforcement and public safety need, at a minimum, 20 megahertz of broadband and the D-Block to meet our current and future needs. Law enforcement must have adequate and dedicated spectrum that is managed and controlled by public safety.
The challenges that we confront to protect and defend our citizens in 2011 and 2012 are more complex in many respects than at any time in the history of the world. The threat to our safety is not limited to isolated terrorist organizations conducting operations abroad. The threat includes domestic terrorism, the sovereign citizens’ movement, flash mobs, and sleeper cells. Given these realities, I believe it is in times like these that we must redouble our efforts to develop basic cultural competencies to more effectively engage within a wide range of communities by building relationships of trust, confidence, and respect. Engaging and building relationships has been an IACP priority for many years. Engaging within diverse communities must continue as the hallmark of the vision of the IACP. As leaders of the IACP, we must make it abundantly clear to our officers the high level of commitment that we have to serving the people of this world. We must be determined to meet the challenges of this age with renewed vigor and with a realization of the essential role we play in improving the lives of people all over the world. ■
Please cite as:
Walter A. McNeil, "The Year Ahead," President’s Message, The Police Chief 78 (November 2011): 6–8.