The President’s Message: The Year in Review

presidentcunninghamWhen I was sworn in a year ago, I could not have imagined the incredible journey I would embark upon as the president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. I feel truly fortunate to have had the opportunity to represent global law enforcement and to have been able to meet so many remarkable and thoughtful law enforcement leaders over the course of the year.

Almost immediately following the 2015 IACP Conference and Exposition, I set out on a mission to learn about the global challenges being faced by law enforcement—terrorism, community-police relations, border security, cybercrime, human trafficking, and narcotics addiction—and how agencies are dealing with these challenges, what is working, and what we can all respectively and collectively do to thwart crime and safeguard our citizens.

My travels brought me to Rwanda, Mexico, Thailand, France, the Netherlands, Canada, and to every corner of the United States. I was fortunate to attend many world regional meetings of law enforcement officials, including personnel from INTERPOL, AMERIPOL, and EUROPOL. I am proud to say that the IACP has expanded its global reach and now serves more than 27,000 members in 133 countries. This is a record high, and I hope that we will continue this trend.

As many of you have heard me say, I believe that law enforcement is currently facing, arguably, the most challenging time in policing history. Over the course of this year, we have witnessed horrific acts of terrorism and violent extremism that have taken the lives of too many innocent people, such as those in Paris, France; San Bernardino, California; Brussels, Belgium; Istanbul, Turkey; Orlando, Florida; Nice, France; and countless more. All of these tragedies, have shocked the world and left many questions and concerns in their wake. These attacks have also steeled our resolve and reinforced the need for all of us to work together to prevent further tragedies.

In addition to terrorism, we find ourselves in a period where our actions are constantly being called into question. At times, it almost feels as if we are under a microscope and that the gulf between law enforcement and many of our communities, particularly those that feel disenfranchised, has never felt so vast. Each incident that calls into question law enforcement’s actions in a particular community is like a flash point that explodes around the globe. An incident that occurs in one jurisdiction now causes protests in a town thousands of miles away, igniting a dialogue that transcends one incident or one location. We find ourselves, as chiefs, commissioners, colonels, commanders, and patrol officers, having to defend our policies and practices, as well as the actions of our fellow officers.

Like any profession, while there are a few bad officers, the overwhelming majority of the men and women in law enforcement are honorable and noble. The reason we chose this profession is our passion and drive to help others, to safeguard citizens, and to protect the people who need it the most. It’s a calling we cannot resist, and we put our lives on the line every day to make this world a safer place and to safeguard people’s rights and freedom.

The reason we chose this profession is our passion and drive to help others, to safeguard citizens, and to protect the people who need it the most.

While all of us who wear the uniform know this to be the case, there are many in the public who either do not know, do not believe, or paint our intentions with a broad brush.

Conversely, while many of us in law enforcement have felt misrepresented and negatively characterized, there are some in our communities who harbor these feelings and a general distrust of law enforcement. Those feelings are exacerbated by incidents that grab headlines and may reinforce a deep-seated history that predates many of us who now patrol the streets.

Because of this, the topic of community-police relations has dominated the conversation for the past two years. In July, law enforcement experienced a particularly tragic month with the death of five Dallas, Texas, police officers—the deadliest attack on law enforcement in the United States since 9/11. Then, just 10 days after the Dallas shooting, we experienced more tragedy with an attack on law enforcement officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

I was able to attend the memorial services to honor the brave officers who lost their lives in both Dallas and Baton Rouge. No words are strong enough to express how I feel about the tragic and senseless deaths of the officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge and the other law enforcement officers who were wounded or killed in shootings around the United States.

Leading up to and following those tragedies, I participated in meetings with U.S. President Obama and Vice President Biden to talk about the challenges confronting policing and communities. The purpose of these meetings was to look at the present divides and, more importantly, find ways to bridge those gaps and work toward collaborative solutions among law enforcement, government officials, support organizations, and other community members. The hope was to directly educate policy makers about our role and the challenges we face daily and drive meaningful conversations that would produce collective changes and solutions.

I have also had countless media interviews with national U.S. affiliates such as Face the Nation, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, the Washington Post, New York Times, NPR, and Los Angeles Times. During each of these media interviews, I worked hard to engage in a meaningful dialogue, inform the general public about issues confronting law enforcement, and weigh in on high-profile situations so the voice of law enforcement was part of the global discussion.

As part of our continuing effort to address community-police relations, I am proud to say that the IACP stood up the Institute for Community-Police Relations (ICPR) in May 2016 to help provide law enforcement with the tools and resources they need to build and sustain a culture in policing that values transparency, accountability, and community engagement and increases community trust. The work of the ICPR will be guided by an advisory panel of law enforcement practitioners, community leaders, civil rights advocates, and academics. Recognizing the universal nature of the issues being addressed by the ICPR, the advisory panel will also include representatives from multiple nations and regions of the world.

The topics of de-escalation and use of force coincide with community-police relations. For this reason, the IACP formed a partnership with the Fraternal Order of Police to convene a law enforcement leadership summit with 16 law enforcement organizations to examine use of force by law enforcement officers, discuss differences surrounding proposals that seek to change use-of-force standards, identify areas of consensus, and collectively map out a path forward on use-of-force issues. The IACP plans to reconvene members of this summit at the 2016 IACP Annual Conference and Exposition in San Diego, California, to resume these discussions and to work toward the development of a well-thought-out, comprehensive, consensus model policy on use of force.

Evidence-based research is an important factor in implementing effective, long-lasting police practices and strategies. In May 2016, the IACP partnered with the University of Cincinnati (UC) to develop the IACP/UC Center for Police Research and Policy. The IACP/UC Center for Police Research and Policy will provide a path for law enforcement and researchers to work together on evidence-based research that will address critical policing issues and drive future practices and policies.

Our legislative efforts on behalf of the law enforcement profession and police executives are a centerpiece of IACP’s activities. Throughout the year, the IACP worked with the U.S. administration, as well as with members of Congress, on a wide range of issues critical to public safety and the law enforcement profession. When it was announced in December 2015 that there would be major changes to the Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) Asset Forfeiture Program and that all payments from the equitable sharing program would cease, the IACP worked immediately to relay the negative impact this would have on law enforcement and our ability to safeguard the public. Following several conversations with Congress, the DOJ, and the administration, we were pleased when payments from DOJ’s equitable sharing program were renewed. In addition to advocating to preserve the asset forfeiture program, we also worked to educate members of Congress on the issue of encryption and the current barriers to accessing electronic communications faced by law enforcement. Those efforts included partnering with the National District Attorneys Association to host a series of congressional briefings on the issue and the effects on public safety capabilities.

These narratives only scratch the surface of the issues we have weighed in on during the course of the year. We also constantly provided feedback on legislation as it was being drafted to ensure it took law enforcement considerations into account. With the U.S. presidential election quickly approaching, the IACP wants to ensure that law enforcement is informed of U.S. candidates’ policy positions specific to criminal justice and how they plan to work with law enforcement to safeguard the citizens of the United States. That is why the IACP sought answers to 10 questions on criminal justice policy issues from the Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump campaigns and distributed those answers to our members so they could familiarize themselves with the candidates’ policy positions and philosophies.

As always, we worked hard throughout the year to provide our members with the tools and resources they need to make their jobs easier. We developed critical issues dashboards that contain key messaging worksheets pertaining to topics that law enforcement leaders face each day. These messaging worksheets are designed to break down critical topics and provide key talking points and facts to assist you in your daily communications. We have also centralized our resources relating to these topics to provide you with a clearinghouse of the most up-to-date resources available, including model policies, guides, reports, and more. The IACP will continue to expand the critical issues dashboard offerings in the years to come.

The IACP also launched a daily news clip service, The Lead, that captures relevant global news on topics of interest to law enforcement. The daily clips are delivered to your inbox each morning to help you keep up to date on the news in an easy, digestible manner.

The IACP held Critical Issues Forums in eight locations in the United States during the months of August and September. These Critical Issues Forums allowed IACP leadership to hear directly from police leaders about the challenges confronting their respective agencies and the collective profession and how IACP can assist on both fronts. The topics and policy issues emerging from these sessions will help focus IACP’s efforts over the next several years.

Clearly, this has been a remarkably busy and productive year for the IACP. It has been my honor and privilege to have had the opportunity to lead this amazing organization for the past year, and it has been the highlight of my career thus far. I would like to offer IACP 1st Vice President Don De Lucca my congratulations and complete support as he assumes the IACP presidency. I know he will do a terrific job leading our organization and continuing to advocate on behalf of the profession.

Finally, I would like to express my deepest appreciation to my family, professional colleagues, friends, the staff at IACP headquarters, and the men and women of the Wellesley Police Department. All of you have played a vital role in allowing me to take on this tremendous challenge and experience it to the fullest. I look forward to continuing to being actively involved in the IACP and serving in any way that I can.