PERF: Ready to Roll?


Town Hall Meeting, October 25, 2015, Loews Hotel, Chicago.


On Sunday, October 25th during the annual meeting of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) in Chicago, I attended the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) Town Hall Meeting along with over 500 other members.

I joined PERF shortly after its founding in 1976 and was active until my retirement in 1993; that was the year they presented my with their prestigious  annual leadership award.

The last PERF meeting I attend was in 2005, twelve years after my retirement. Last year, I decided to rejoin. As I wrote in my book, “Arrested Development,” I was not impressed with PERF after my retirement. Now, a decade later I am!

IMG_0433-2I heard someone ask, “What does an American chief of police look like?” It used to be an easy answer – a white guy. No longer.

Among the PERF membership today are a number of women chiefs with strong, informed voices: Kathleen O’Toole in Seattle, Shelley Zimmerman in San Diego, Janeé Harteau in Minneapolis and Heather Fong in San Francisco, among others.

When it comes to race and minority representation it is quite obvious that men and women of color are also strongly represented. The coveted Gary Hayes Award (named after my friend and first executive director of PERF) was given to an African-American women this year, Deputy Chief Danielle Outlaw from Oakland.

In making these observations I am reminded of Jim Collins’ book, “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap — and Some Don’t.” Collins argued that “greatness” must first address “who” (the people in the organization) and secondly, “what” (where the organization needs to go and what it needs to do). In short, first have the right staff in place — then think about where you are going. I have a sense that this might be happening now in American policing.

I heard no argument about the fact that we are at a crisis, a “crossroads” in the history of American policing. If we have the right people on the “bus,” we now can talk about the direction – where the bus is going and what’s to be done once we get there.

Police departments, like companies, think that great strategy or performance will attract the right people but, according to Collins,  that’s backward. People must come first. (Having led a police department for over 20 years I can attest to the proposition that when I started to get the right people on the “bus,” I was able to then to talk about the direction.)

We heard from FBI Director Jim Comey about the need to have full data regarding police use of deadly force so we can know how many  and their nature. Right now, the data are incomplete and needs federal legislation regarding the reporting of deadly force use by police. Comey said, his job was to “contribute to a healthy conversation” about this and other national issues.

I was concerned about him questioning whether recent local crime spikes were the result of police holding back. Don’t we first need the data before we speculate this sensitive issue?

We heard Gil Kerlikowske report that use of force by Border Patrol Officers was down by 40%. He suggested this is the result of training and an integrity advisory committee. I think it happened because of leadership. There are 18,000 border patrol agents on our southwest border!

Ron Davis from the COPS Office talked about being able to hook up a police chief with a problem with another chief who could be a coach or mentor (and, perhaps, has successfully dealt with a similar problem before.) He wanted the chiefs to know that he and his staff are there to help leaders with both questions and problems — and implementing community-oriented policing. He made a closing remark (from Dante?) that there was a “special place in hell for those who try to maintain moral neutrality in a crisis.” Well said.

Alex Marshall head of the UK College of Policing talked about what they were doing and also learning from us. In both of our countries there is a major change going on “at the front end of policing.”

Chief Ed Flynn of Milwaukee talked about the successful litigation against Badger Arms (a $6M settlement). For the past decade Badger Arms was the leading seller of crime guns. Six Milwaukee officers have been killed from illegally-sold weapons from Badger.  He remarked, “The jury did in 9 hours what Congress could not.”

Flynn introduced Officer Bryan Norberg and his wife. Bryan was one of the officers shot by one of those illegal guns and who is, thankfully, now back at work. He received a standing ovation.

A long discussion ensued concerning the heroin scourge facing our nation (including rural areas) and the successful use of the drug, Narcan/Naloxone to save persons about to die from an overdose.

Chief Leonard Campanello of Gloucester, Massachusetts, whose community was being over-run with heroin said, “We cannot arrest ourselves out of this problem!”

If a person comes into the Gloucester Police Department and turns in their drugs seeking help there is NO arrest (see news article HERE.) The problem is that most existing drug treatment facilities cannot handle the number of persons seeking help (One chief said the treatment list in his city had a waiting list of 800 addicts. Narcan, a nasal spray, certainly is the “CPR of the 21st century!” The new Commissioner in Baltimore, Kevin Davis, told us that he had 13,000 addicts in his city!

Another interesting discussion was from the three chiefs from who had Pope Francis come to their town – Washington, DC, New York, and Philadelphia – effective prior planning and flexibility ruled the day, they all said.

Another long discussion of body cameras – pro and con. What was obvious was that state laws regarding open records are not uniform and will dictate much of the police response to release of the video tapes. San Diego PD which has already many body cameras has a structured, need-to-know approach while Seattle, who has little discretion on release of the tapes, posts most all of them on YouTube. An application blurs the faces of individuals before they go on line.

More right to know v. privacy issues were discussed, among other things, by some chiefs along with Scott Greenwood of the ACLU.

Minneapolis is going to full implementation of body cameras in 2016. But questions remain like the recording of SWAT operations and whether of not officers can review their video before they write their reports? Some departments permit this and others do not.

Oakland PD has a lot of experience with body cameras (650 now deployed for 5 years). An officer in Oakland cannot view his or her video footage before writing a report if it is a “critical incident” like an officer-involved shooting.

A final discussion surrounded the report that 80% of police departments having trouble recruiting today. In the NYPD it is down over 50% and is currently an hiring process that can literally take years.

An excellent recruiting film was shown by the Peel Regional Police, Canada’s third largest police force. Their video stressed the helping, guarding function of police and not the military “warrior” orientation.

During this discussion, Chuck called on me to reflect on some the issues that I see (see what I posted just before the meeting and my article, “A Police Chief’s Call to Reform”)

Toward the end of the four-hour meeting it was noted that Baltimore has 6 successive criminal trials of police officers coming up as a result of the Freddie Gray incident and death in police custody. Much pain ahead.

And a police physician stressed the importance of police being well-prepared to give First Aid to those whom they have shot. That is is an important, professional protocol.

PERF Executive Director Chuck Wexler moderated the meeting for four hours and received a standing ovation for his work and contribution to improving policing.

In summary, my sense is that we have the right leaders on the bus – they are diverse and bright. Now is the next step – to put the bus in gear and move forward and, in doing so, rebuild the trust and support that has been lost since Ferguson.

After all, that’s what leaders do!





  1. You wonder how many civilians were killed due to Badger Arms because the police and DA did not do anything about it until the cops started getting killed?

    You still have some women and minorities like Sheriff Clarke acting no differently than many white police chiefs and sheriffs.

    One reason why recruiting is terrible is because thanks to the drug laws, tougher laws on even the most mundane crimes like jaywalking, post 9/11 laws that criminalize peaceful protest and that have legalizes police brutality and corruption, plus contempt of cops, too many people in this country have a rap sheet that is impossible to expugn or can be expugn, but it takes time, money, and a good lawyer to clear your record. However, even if you can clear your record, your arrest will be still in the police files when they do a check on you.


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