As police chiefs, we have the distinct honor of leading the finest individuals that society can produce: the police officers on the street. Each day our officers demonstrate that they are extraordinary people who are routinely doing extraordinary things.
Each of us remembers those milestone moments that make up our lives. Would you ever forget the first day that you put on your uniform and your badge? The excitement and the pride of the moment are indelibly etched into our memories forever. It signaled our desire to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. It symbolized our dedication to service, integrity, the safety of our fellow citizens, and our faith in the rule of law.
As we weave through our careers in law enforcement, it is our responsibility to our profession and to those we lead to meet each challenge with excitement and zeal and to never surrender to apathy or to the belief that nothing can be changed.
It is this responsibility that led me to join the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). Eighteen years ago, as a “newly minted” police chief, I realized the value that engaging and networking with the collective genius that makes up our great association would bring to my community and my career. Drawing on the resources of more than 21,000 members from around the world, the IACP is uniquely qualified to develop and promote those strategies and tools that will make our communities and our countries better places to live.
Never has this been a more important undertaking. Our communities face many challenges and ever-evolving threats. It is vital that law enforcement agencies stay current and on the cutting edge. We must constantly assess and redefine how we do business and be prepared to shift tactics and adopt new techniques and strategies to overcome the threats to our communities. The IACP was founded more than 117 years ago for this very purpose, and I firmly believe that we continue to fulfill the vision of our founders.
Four years ago, as a candidate at the annual IACP conference in 2006, I outlined several of the challenges facing our profession and our association. Since that time, it is clear that while some progress has been made, much remains to be accomplished. However, achieving success in these areas requires not just your support, but also your active participation. The membership of the IACP is our greatest resource and our greatest strength. I look forward to working with all of you to address the following issues.
First, it is no secret that that our ability to share information is mission critical. The days of stand-alone, self-serving agencies are gone. We are a global community. We must share information agency to agency and region to region, at a national level and with our international partners. Our ability to collect and disseminate timely information is an absolutely essential ingredient in our missions. Somewhere in the world, a police officer is collecting information on the next terrorist who will strike one of our communities. Getting that information to the right people, who can then make it actionable intelligence, is critical. But this goes beyond combating terrorism; it is also essential for our crime-fighting efforts. Shared information is a force multiplier for any agency, large or small. The challenge is ensuring that this information is shared in a fashion that allows for meaningful operational relevance.
A key element in achieving this vital information exchange is the National Data Exchange (N-DEx). However, before we can fully realize the value of this system, the necessary funding must be secured and we must resolve the disconnect between other information-sharing systems, fusion centers, and reporting requirements such as Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR).
I know that the multitude of systems and options that address information sharing is frustrating for much of our membership. It is clear that we need a solution that makes operational sense and gives us manageable intelligence. We need to distill these concerns into a comprehensive blueprint for action. I will work this year with our standing committees and sections to identify those impediments and propose a series of recommendations for immediate implementation. We will engage the stakeholders at every level—local, tribal, state, and federal. The time for talk has passed; we must take action. Our communities, our agencies, and our countries are counting on it.
Second, the IACP call for a National Commission on Crime and Justice continues to grow in importance. The 1965 Johnson Commission report fundamentally changed the criminal justice system in the United States. Still, much has changed in the past 45 years. Technology, immigration, and our role in the protection of our homeland are but a few of the new challenges for our profession. Now more than ever, we must have a comprehensive review of the entire system. We must bring this commission to fruition; this will be a legislative priority during the coming year.
Third, almost without exception, police agencies are facing reduced budgets. Reductions in staffing are at an all-time high. The negative effect of reducing services to our communities cannot be overstated. In response, the IACP must be a resource to assist our members when they are faced with difficult financial decisions. Drawing on the collective wisdom and experience of our membership, the IACP will work to be a one-stop shop that will provide the members with information on alternative funding streams, improved communication tools, and the identification and prioritization of cost-saving measures and other efficiencies.
There are also two very important issues related to law enforcement technology that demand attention. While technical in nature, both issues will have a tremendous impact on our continuing ability to protect our communities, The first issue involves the allocation of the 700 MHz D-Block radio spectrum for public safety use. Whether you have four officers or forty thousand, this small piece of radio spectrum is absolutely essential to your broadband communications capabilities. That is why the IACP, along with all of the major public safety associations, has worked tirelessly to ensure that public safety has a sufficient spectrum. We cannot allow this valuable spectrum to be lost to commercial interests. We must leverage the collective muscle of our membership on this issue and bring the D-Block to public safety.
The second but equally time-sensitive priority is our continued capability to conduct court-authorized electronic intercepts and surveillance. Communications technology has overtaken both law enforcement technical capabilities and the laws governing their use. If this situation is not addressed immediately, law enforcement faces the very real prospect of “going dark” and being unable to conduct effective electronic surveillance. The IACP, along with partners at the local, tribal, state, and federal levels, has been working over the past 18 months to address this issue, and we are moving toward a solution.
I will continue to support IACP’s officer safety initiatives. This year has been a violent one for police officers in the United States and around the world. It is imperative that we continually evaluate and develop techniques that will protect our officers when they are confronted by someone who will not hesitate to injure or kill them. We owe this to those who put their lives on the line every day for the freedoms we cherish.
Throughout my tenure on the IACP Board of Officers, I have had the honor and the privilege of meeting with hundreds of IACP members around the world. Almost without exception, these members were interested in finding ways that they could become more engaged with the IACP and the services we provide. To these members, I promised that the association would continually seek out and utilize new outreach and communications tools. To that end, I am pleased that the IACP has enhanced its presence through our new and improved website at http://www.theiacp.org; our Facebook fan page at http://www.facebook.com/TheIACPPage; our Twitter account at http://twitter.com/IACPOfficial; and other social media outlets. In addition, the IACP just launched the IACP Center for Social Media to give our members the information they need on how to use these new communication tools to better serve their own constituencies.
But more must be done. Our enhanced outreach capabilities need to extend to one of the most significant responsibilities of our members and their engagement with this association: the ability to vote for the leadership. Currently, the IACP election rules require attendance at the annual conference to vote. With budgets being slashed and the always present scheduling issues that confront our members, we should evaluate and consider alternatives for our members to participate in the democratic traditions that this association holds dear. The time has come to look at new technologies that exist to address this issue. To that end, I will task a committee to review our current election practices and evaluate potential changes to our voting process. Above all, any change contemplated must adhere to the principals of fairness and equity to all of our members. Increasing our members’ participation in the selection of leadership is a core principle of the democratic foundation of our organization.
These are exciting yet challenging times. But no society can flourish unless it provides its citizens with a fundamental level of safety and security. The constant specter of terrorism, the need to secure our homelands, and the challenge of immigration policies are but a few of those issues we are facing.
But meeting these challenges requires more than talk; it requires your active participation. The IACP is only as strong as your commitment to participate in the work ahead. I invite and challenge all of our members to engage themselves in finding solutions to our shared priorities. Contact me through the IACP Facebook page, send me an e-mail, and let me know what and where we must go and how you are willing to help. Working together, we can overcome any challenge.
Thank you for allowing me the privilege of leading our association. Together, we will continue to provide the message of reason, responsibility, and clarity of purpose that has always been the hallmark of the IACP. ■
Please cite as:
Mark A. Marshall, “The Year Ahead” President’s Message,The Police Chief 77 (November 2010): 6 and 75.