As my favorite philosopher, Dr. Seuss, penned, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” For 125 years, the IACP has steered the direction of the law enforcement profession in order to support our 30,000 members representing more than 150 countries across the globe.
Since the late 1800s, IACP has been the gold standard in training, leadership development, and management models that are recognized and adopted throughout the policing world. As the issues faced by law enforcement continue to change, the opportunities to steer our profession continue as well.
Policing, Social Issues, and Use of Force
A significant, relatively recent development in law enforcement is the role that has been thrust upon the police in addressing social and public health problems.
Our officers work in society’s darkest places and often encounter individuals who are troubled and living chaotic lives. In many instances, these individuals are affected by substance abuse disorders, a lack of housing, or mental illness. During meetings in North America, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, I’ve learned that these social issues are confronted by our officers on almost every continent.
Our officers are primarily problem solvers, maintaining order, resolving issues, and keeping the peace. On occasion, in the course of a police response to these social problems and crime, we have to employ force; however, the use of force by the police in arrest situations is an un-common occurrence.
A frequent unspoken result of citizen contacts and arrests is the danger to officers; in the United States alone, about 50,000 officers are assaulted annually.1 In my view, our officers exercise significant restraint during most of these difficult encounters.
Many of the use-of-force incidents covered by the media lack context and are missing the details necessary for the public to understand how these tragic events occur.
The challenges faced by the police in inter-actions involving those affected by mental illness, including in situations that require use of force, is an example of the impact such social health issues can have on law enforcement and communities.
As a society, we have criminalized mental illness, and we lack the resources to provide appropriate treatment for persons with mental illness. As a result, the largest provider of treatment for mental health in the United States is the Department of Correction; county jails are number two. The three largest U.S. facilities that treat mental illness are New York City’s Riker’s Island Jail, the Cook County Jail in Chicago, and the Los Angeles County Jail.2
Research consistently finds at least 25 percent of those persons killed by police in the United States are affected by mental illness, and the incidents that confront U.S. law enforcement are replicated throughout the world.3
Recognizing that the encounters of police with people affected by mental illness is a global issue, the IACP developed the One Mind Campaign, which asks agencies to commit to identify and partner with the mental health resources in their area and to work with those partners to address law enforcement’s response to persons with mental illness, as well as committing to provide specific training for all law enforcement personnel regarding situations involving persons with mental illness.
As president of IACP, I will continue to promote this critical program, and I encourage every agency, regardless of size, to take the One Mind pledge.
Another issue in need of increased focus by IACP is the victimization of at-risk adults. The global population of people aged 60 years and older will more than double from almost 1 billion today to 2 billion in the next 30 years.4 Additionally, a staggering 1 in 10 at-risk adults are victims of abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
In response to this important issue, IACP will join with key stakeholders to develop roll call training videos, investigative protocols, and victim advocacy initiatives. This measure, has already received a grant for $240,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice and will be co-chaired by Georgia’s Bureau of Investigations Director, Vernon Keenan, and Division of Aging Services Manager, Pat King.5
As critical as the aforementioned issues are, nothing is more important today than public trust. Whether dealing with terrorism in Jerusalem, cybercrime in The Hague, or traditional crime worldwide, behind the details, we are still dealing with people and communities.
Public trust has been the cornerstone of contemporary policing since 1829.6 In the past, some law enforcement agencies have been indifferent to civil rights in their quest to solve crimes, while others permitted the physical assault or murder of persons of a different race or ethnicity. Like everyone in this field, I am proud of my profession, but I recognize that these events represent our darkest hour.
It has long been recognized that attitudes and traditions about life are passed down from generation to generation, and there are those in our communities whose personal and social history has resulted in a distrust of law enforcement.
Undoubtedly, some will ask: Why should the police discuss or acknowledge outrageous actions committed by generations and individuals long in the past? Conversely, those in minority communities may believe any attempt to correct the situation is just another hollow effort to gloss over centuries of inequality and cruelty. However, the law enforcement institutions responsible in some of these instances still exist and—like it or not—the officers serving today bear the burden of that history.
|Meet the IACP President
Louis M. Dekmar
Time in law enforcement
Time as executive
Why law enforcement?
IACP Membership History
IACP’s new TRUST initiative, partially funded by the 2016 million-dollar grant by Michael Jordan, will address historical mistrust between law enforcement and some segments of our communities by providing support and resources for law enforcement.
I am pleased to announce that, among others, law enforcement leaders in Indio, California; Ferguson, Missouri; Albany, New York; Fort Morgan, Colorado; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Balod, India, will play an important role in kickstarting this global trust-building initiative.
We cannot change historic facts, but we can change the consequences of history by building stepping stones of trust within communities. I look forward to participating in this important effort.
Less than two miles from the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial lists the names of the 21,183 U.S. law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty—a stark reminder of the daily sacrifices our officers and their families make. Sadly, at the rate at which names are being added to that memorial, the panels are expected to be filled by 2050.7
There is a quote at the memorial that I believe to be the particular currency of our fallen officers: “It is not how these officers died that made them heroes, it is how they lived.”
Across the globe, we honor our fallen colleagues and their sacrifices by our fidelity and commitment to service. That is our particular currency, as we lead our profession together. Thank you for this opportunity. ♦
1National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF), “Facts & Figures: Deaths, Assaults, and Injuries.”
2National Public Radio, “Nation’s Jails Struggle with Mentally Ill Prisoners,” All Things Considered, September 4, 2011.
3Kimberly Kindy, “Fatal Police Shootings in 2015 Approaching 400 Nationwide,” Washington Post, May 30, 2015.
4United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, World Population Ageing 2015, 2.
5IACP Subcontract Agreement with PAE for Elder Abuse Roll Call Training Videos (internal document, 2017).
6“Sir Robert Peel’s Nine Principles of Policing,” New York Times, April 15, 2014.
7NLEOMF, “Attorney General Jeff Sessions Leads the Lighting of the Candles and Reading of Fallen Officers’ Names,” news release, May 13, 2017.
Please cite as
Louis M. Dekmar, “The Year Ahead,” President’s Message, The Police Chief (November 2017): 6–7.
The IACP has a number of resources for our members regarding response to persons with mental illness, including the following: