By Mike Edmonson, Colonel, Superintendent, Louisiana State Police, General Chair, IACP Division of State and Provincial Police
istorically, law enforcement agencies have been segregated by jurisdiction and in many cases, attitudes. The unfortunate reality that existed in the police culture was a mind-set of city limits versus county or parish limits versus state lines versus the role of federal law enforcement. Additionally in many cases, internal compartmentalization occurred in agencies with a patrol versus investigations versus support mentality. Today the culture is evolving, and operations are now less defined by boundaries. Law enforcement agencies across the United States have begun to ignore the limitations of jurisdictions and have begun to adopt a philosophy of partnerships—not just partnerships based on promises but partnerships based on action.
Partnerships begin with establishing relationships with public safety peers not only in our communities but also beyond. Solidification of those relationships through communication, memorandums of understandings, and planning must occur. The value of these partnerships is seen during execution of missions in support of each other. Partnerships are not only what the public expects, it is what they demand. Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”
In today’s tough economic climate, law enforcement resources can be hard to come by including personnel, training, and equipment. These are the basic tenants of a successful police operation. As agencies struggle to do more with less, the most logical and economical solution is to seek partners and share resources. The Louisiana State Police (LSP) has done this on multiple levels. Partnerships have ensured the survival of the LSP and in the process has contributed to its success. But most importantly, partnering ensures public safety for the citizens that the LSP serves.
As an agency, making partnerships is a pillar of LSP operations. The first official act the author carried out when appointed LSP Superintendent in 2008 was to meet face to face with every sheriff, police chief, and federal special agent in charge in Louisiana to better understand how the LSP could do a better job in pursuing common goals and supporting respective missions and operations. Astonishingly, some of the law enforcement chief executive officers who had 20, 30, 40 or more years of law enforcement experience in Louisiana had never spoken with—or in some cases ever seen—the LSP Superintendent. Collectively, a vow was made to change the jurisdictional culture in Louisiana and build real relationships in the spirit of public safety.
Partnerships must not stop at the state line. Whether faced with threats of terror, both foreign and domestic, or threats of natural disaster, these threats affect everyone. Crime and disaster know no boundaries. Facing unprecedented threats in an ever-changing world, law enforcement agencies must join forces if they are to succeed in effectively dealing with these challenges. An example is the relationship forged between the LSP and the Mississippi Highway Patrol (MHP). As two states that share many geographic, economic, political, and cultural similarities, it was natural to build a relationship to share resources in times of need. Perhaps the greatest natural threat to both states is during hurricane season. What has been learned through experience is that what happens in Louisiana affects Mississippi and vice versa. It is logical that Louisiana and Mississippi work together to effectively and efficiently protect the citizens of their respective states. As Louisiana set out to draft an evacuation plan for its citizens positioned in harm’s way, Mississippi was included in the process. Working together through regular communication, both states established memorandums of understanding that positioned Louisiana and Mississippi ready to respond to hurricane threats and subsequent evacuations. This relationship goes beyond telephone communication for situational awareness during an event. The MHP agreed to embed an MHP trooper in the LSP Emergency Operation Center, which ensures seamless communication of information between decision makers in both states. One need to look no further than Hurricane Gustav to see the results of this relationship—when Louisiana, with Mississippi’s assistance, successfully evacuated more than a million people from South Louisiana as the hurricane approached its coastline. The Hurricane Gustav/Ike evacuation is considered the largest evacuation in the history of Louisiana. Communication and planning contributed to a successful execution.
The value of law enforcement partnerships has been evident far beyond the state line and Louisiana’s neighboring states. In late October of last year, Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New Jersey delivering a devastating blow to the Garden State. Although much of the northeast U.S. coastline felt the effects of Sandy, the Jersey shore received a disproportionate share of the damage. Sandy’s hurricane force winds and storm surge left the Jersey shore crippled with damaged infrastructure—including dwellings, roadways, and power and water systems. As New Jersey officials reached out across the United States for assistance, two of the agencies to initially heed the call were the state police from Louisiana and Mississippi. Not that long ago, Louisiana and Mississippi suffered the devastating effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the New Jersey State Police was one of the first agencies to deploy resources to the Louisiana and Mississippi region. Although Katrina and Rita were more than seven years ago, the memories of New Jersey state troopers patrolling the Gulf Coast still resonate with public safety personnel and citizens. After Sandy, it was not just an opportunity to assist but a duty to repay the service of New Jersey public safety officials by immediately deploying resources to the Jersey shore. Over 300 Louisiana state troopers volunteered for a 25-person, 30-day deployment.
The primary mission was to support New Jersey law enforcement in maintaining order, protecting life and property, and promoting recovery. However, the deployed troopers quickly found their mission to be much greater than simply providing security. Their mission became one of providing counsel and hope. Most of the deployed troopers had experience dealing with the aftermath of hurricanes, having lived and worked through Katrina and Rita. Some of them had been personally affected by Katrina and Rita. Many had to evacuate their families, and many also lost their personal property during the storms. The Louisiana troopers spent time visiting with New Jersey public safety officials and citizens hit hardest by Sandy and recognized that familiar look of despair on their faces. It was the same look of despair citizens had experienced after Katrina and Rita. Giving people hope that their homes, their communities, and their lives would eventually return to normal became the mission—beyond safety and security.
Partnerships are the key to success in law enforcement. When law enforcement executives establish relationships, communicate, plan, and execute plans properly, the citizens win. The public does not care about the color of the uniforms or the shape of the badges. They want to know only that there will be a response when they need assistance. It is part of the law enforcement oath and obligation. As law enforcement continues to build upon these professional relationships, it will directly contribute to safer communities. So whether it is a first meeting with a newly elected sheriff, planning for the evacuation of the Gulf Coast or executing a security mission in the Northeast, partnerships must be a priority. The public expects nothing less. ♦
Please cite as:
Mike Edmonson, "Law Enforcement Partnerships: Now the Norm, Not the Exception," The Police Chief 80 (August 2013): 102103.