Dear Members and Supporters of NACOLE:
It is with a deep sense of humility and honor that I assume the role of President of the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE) for the 2016-2017 term. As a nation, we are in a moment where issues of police misconduct, police accountability, and community involvement in policing are at the fore. At the same time, the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing has created a framework for positive change within law enforcement, coming from the highest level of our nation’s government.
As the national focus on these issues has increased, so have NACOLE’s membership, training programs, and requests for assistance and guidance from both established and new oversight entities, the media, scholars, and others looking for information and guidance on oversight. These factors have led to a number of challenges for NACOLE around expectations, governance, staffing, and funding.
NACOLE was originally formed by a small group of professional oversight practitioners, including several who were former police officers, as an association to provide mutual support to individuals and agencies working in and to promote civilian oversight. NACOLE has evolved into an organization that also includes community activists, current and former law enforcement professionals, elected officials, policy advocates, academics, and others who support NACOLE’s mission and benefit from its programs. With this evolution have come discussions and questions about the organization’s purpose and work, as well as challenges to meet the requirements and expectations of a much greater variety of stakeholders.
Diversity and inclusion have always been central to NACOLE’s vision, mission, and work. We must always recognize and acknowledge the vision of the NACOLE Founders, and keep in mind the admonition expressed so clearly in this quote from an Australian Aboriginal activists group in Queensland, from the 1970s:
"If you have come to help me you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together."
I am proud to have been leading our “NACOLE in 2020” strategic planning process, an important opportunity to build on our solid foundation and current dynamic tensions, come to consensus around organizational direction and priorities, and create a plan for implementation through staffing, structures, governance, and programs. Important issues NACOLE faces include:
- Supporting and engaging its existing members while increasing its membership base;
- Expanding its reach and influence through strategic partnerships across sectors and professions;
- Effectively addressing “hard issues” by speaking out and taking principled and well-supported positions on important matters of concern within both policing and civilian oversight; and
- Continuing to increase member and stakeholder engagement in and transparency of NACOLE’s governance.
After leading the Association’s “NACOLE in 2020” strategic planning initiative over the last year, I am excited to help us achieve our shared vision for NACOLE:
In three to five years, as a result of strategic efforts, NACOLE will: be an inclusive, diverse, sustainable and expanding organization; create a fully developed field of study and practice; and provide objective timely guidance to communities across the nation. This work will allow NACOLE to be the preeminent, influential national organization for civilian oversight, promoting increasingly respectful police and community relations, and supporting peaceful and just communities for all.
I had the privilege of attending the 2010 NACOLE Conference in Seattle within three weeks of taking over the helm of the Police Review & Advisory Board in Cambridge, Massachusetts. That opportunity provided me invaluable support, knowledge, and personal relationships that have sustained me in the often challenging work of civilian oversight. If you or your agency is a member of NACOLE, I hope that you can be active and involved. If you are not a member, please consider joining.
It is only right that I do what I can to give back to the Association, and do what I can to support our collective work to create increasingly respectful police and community relations, in order to support peaceful and just communities.