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IACP 2011: Bringing patrol to the chiefs at IACP

How do I, as skipper of the ship here on PoliceOne, make our coverage of IACP as meaningful as possible for the largest possible number of people?

Today we launch annual editorial coverage of the International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference and Expo, and this year we’re doing some things a little differently. Before I get into what's new, I want to first share a thought or two on what's not: the fact that IACP is consistently a great event for law enforcement.

I really like this event for a variety of reasons, but first and foremost is the fact that the lineup of speakers at the education sessions is spectacular. For example, on my dance card first thing Saturday morning is a three-hour seminar on ‘Contemporary Issues in Use of Force.’ This session features PoliceOne Contributors Steve Ijames, Chris Lawrence, Ken Wallentine, and others in a presentation about “emerging research on human performance under stress, how those findings impact models and policies, and comment on more realistic and defensible policies and training.” I’ll also attend sessions on topics like ‘Sovereign Citizen’ extremist groups, interdicting illicit supply chains (from drugs to guns to humans), and an incident debrief from the Detroit Police Department 6th Precinct assault. Pretty compelling stuff.

The second reason I think IACP is an excellent event is that I also get to see all of the newest police products on display from an enormous number of companies exhibiting on the trade show floor. I like SHOT Show a lot — I’m kind of a “guns guy” and typically spend some of my own personal savings there — but the best venue to see everything from training simulators to police boats, helicopters, and other specialty vehicles is, without a doubt, ICAP.

Third, the networking events and impromptu “hallway breakout sessions” which invariably occur are fantastic. Of course, there are one or two annual parties well worth attending (I’m looking at you, my friends from TASER International!).

Who Really Cares?
There is a substantial number of police chiefs (as well as sheriffs, deputy/assistant chiefs) and other high-level command staff among the PoliceOne Members who regularly visit the site. Quickly eyeballing the member database yesterday, a colleague and I determined that we have more than 10,000 chiefs alone. While that’s no small group of people, the number of currently-serving and recently-retired patrol officers who visit PoliceOne on a daily basis is way, way higher, and the simple reality is that the vast majority of you have no interest whatsoever in becoming a chief of police.

In fact, following past IACP conferences I’ve heard from PoliceOne Members — on more occasions than I’d care to admit — something to the effect of the following:

“I’m a patrol officer. I’m always going to be a patrol officer. Why the [bleep] should I care a whit about a conference of chiefs?”

Other than the obvious — these people are your bosses and they’re planning out you’re your job will be performed in the future — that’s a damned good question. Asked a little differently, “How do I, as skipper of the ship here on PoliceOne, make our coverage of IACP as meaningful as possible for the largest possible number of people?”

If I Were Chief of Police
As I mentioned above, we’re doing things a little differently this year. For one thing, we asked you to sit in the chief’s chair (hypothetically, at least) and tell us what you would do if you were chief of police. For example, if I were chief of police, I’d make sure every officer had access to the highest-quality training available, and I’d participate in all the training we provide. I’d also invite local reporters to train with us (well, for a little while at least) to better inform them about police work.

PoliceOne Members sent in a wide variety of thoughts on this question — I laughed out loud when I read the email that said, “If I were Chief, I think I would drink bleach as it would be less painful!”

In all seriousness though, we read every submission and selected some standouts from among those we received for individual recognition. Here are some of the other things you said:

“If I were Chief of Police I would make sure to be involved with the employees that work for me. I would work to build a strong bond between the police, the community, and the press. I would listen to the ideas of my employees and attempt to use those that would create a more positive and safe workplace. Also, I would promote the individual success of my employees, including education, family, and work. I would strive to be honest, straightforward, and tireless in my efforts to improve my department.”

“If I was chief, I would lead by example, not ask any of my personnel to do anything I wouldn’t do myself. I would treat my employee’s as I would want to be treated myself. My job as chief is to work for the people that work for me. Provide the best possible working conditions, equipment and training available. Do what is right even if it is not popular. I think the Chief sets the mood of an agency and I want mine to be second to none. Law Enforcement is hard enough as it is and every agency should support their people and that starts with me, the chief. Just my view from 32 years on the job and front line.”

“If I were a police chief or sheriff, one of my priorities would be to instill in my organization a culture of teamwork, a belief and understanding that were are all on the same side. Too often, especially in evaluations, supervisors take the approach that they must find fault with their subordinates. This attitude causes dissension and resentment. I would also develop a program that cross-trained as many sworn employees as possible — putting deputies assigned to courthouse duties through patrol training for example.”

You can read our top five choices here.

Chief Clint Eastwood
For something fun, we asked you to tell us which Hollywood actor would play the role of your police chief. The most popular answer was Clint Eastwood, although I suspect that was based more upon wishful thinking than an actual reflection of reality. A name that came up a lot was Jackie Gleason. Some even specified “playing Buford T. Justice” but we’d kind of figured that out. Here are my ‘Top 10’ favorite responses:

1. Andy Dick
2. Bruce Willis
3. Jennifer love Hewitt
4. Mr. Burns
5. Al Pacino
6. William Shatter
7. Miguel Ferrer
8. Leslie Nielsen
9. Sam Elliot
10. All Three Stooges

Check out the 250+ other responses posted on the PoliceOne Facebook Fan Page.

Questions, Questions, Questions
Finally, we asked you to tell us what you want us to ask all these chiefs while we’re there. In a PoliceOne Homepage Poll, 57 percent of you said you want me to ask, “What's your #1 concern for officers?” while 36 percent of you said I should ask “What will you do to increase training?” Just six percent said you want to know what chiefs miss most about patrol.

You also offered a couple of good suggestions of your own, and I will ask chiefs the following:

“What are you doing to address high-tech crime, and how do you plan to deal with the increasing law enforcement demand for forensic examination of digital media?

“Do you remember what it’s like to be in the shoes of a police officer?”

“How many Chiefs actually attend the training they require their officers to attend?”

“How many days a year do you go out on the streets and respond to and/or actually answer calls for service?”

Great questions... I’ll be asking these and many more over the next five days.

Let’s Get It Started
As you read this column, there’s a good chance I’m aloft and eastbound en route to Chicago, where IACP 2011 is taking place. As the conference unfolds, I’ll be posting “tweets” of what I see and hear, and will have reams of notes from which I will write articles for months to come. Let me know if there are any specific things you’d like me to look into by simply adding your comments below, or sending me an email.

Meanwhile, check out these two articles written in advance by a couple of “my guys.” My friend Lt. Dan Marcou writes about the value of what he calls “boss-involved survival training” and my friend Chief Joel Shults writes about his thoughts regarding community policing.

If you're at the conference and would like to say hello, stop by booth #840.

Stay safe folks.

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