"I have seen the future and it works," mused American journalist and Muckraker Lincoln Steffens in 1919 following his celebrated trip to Rusia. One could apple the same weighty optimism after visiting the recent International Association of Chiefs of Police(IACP) 104th Annual Conference in Orlando, Fla.
In speeches, workshops, interviews, casual conversations and overheard comments, the message was universal: law enforcement faces a tough road ahead but through interdependence and solid working relationships among the cops of the world, along with the help of technology, the good guys will win.
"This type of gathering is extremely beneficial and we all require cooperation against global crime in our countries and around the world, particularly toward right- wing extremism and other forms of terrorism," K.P. Singh of India told POLICE. "This kind of research IACP has done is unique and highly educational," sand Singh, whose title as Additional Director General puts him in charge of VIP security for his country. He is also the Divisional Secretary of IACP's Asian- Pacific Chapter and has been involved with the organization for nearly a decade.
His view was shared by many.
"We all have the same job no matter where we work, so this is very beneficial and useful," said West Brach (Mich.) Police Chief Howard Hanft, who was attending his first conference.
And this from Joseph E. Brann, the Department of Justice's Community Oriented Policing Services director, a retired California chief of police, POLICE Advisory Board member and introduced special guest of the IACP at its general assumbly: "From what I've seen, there is a real positive networking here with so many varied programs and innovations going on. It's a tremendous opportunity to take advantage of other informational and educational opportunities," he told POLICE.
And so it went.
The six- day event in late October at Orlando's Orange County Convention Center was attended by more that 16,000 police leaders, their families and support staff, exhibitors and others. Approximately 700 exhibits were set up, representing leading manufacturers and suppliers of police equipment, services and technology. Some of the hard work came in 60 workshops and seminars on current policing issues covering everything from "Contemporary Issues in Media Management" to "Sex in the Workplace and Related Legal Issues."
Touted by the IACP as the "largest law enforcement conference in the world," event highlights included an award to the Police Officer of the year, accolades to three agencies for Quality in Law Enforcement, adoption of numerous "resolutions," and speeches by several high profile individuals including U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, FBI Director Louis Freeh and DEA Administrator Thomas A. Constantine.
"I'm in awe of the proceedings," Gardner(Mass.) Police Deputy Chief Sandra M. Dines told POLICE following her attendance along with several thousand others at the second of two scheduled General Assemblies. This was her first IACP convention.
"This issues being discussed here, all this information...it is important and it impacts all officers at all levels," said Dines, who helps run a department of 35 sworn officers in a city of 20,000 outside Boston. Tall, with a commanding and amiable presence, bachelors and masters degrees and 20 years of police experience, Dines' comments echoed those of dozens of other law enforcement administrators POLICE talked with during the week.
What's on Chief's Minds?
Ethics... youth... crime... technology... terrorism... white- collar crime... budget concerns... these issues surfaced frequently at the show as pressing matters of today and the future for police leaders- and line officers.
"Technology is going to continue to play a critical role for law enforcement," said Albuquerque (N.M.) Police Chief Joe Polisar, who was scheduled to end his tenure with that Southwestern U.S. city in December. "Computers, cyber crime, encryption issues... they all demand out attention."
Polisar, who won a seat during the conference to the IACP's board of officers as a 6th vice president and who serves on the association's executive and legislative committees, cited what other police leaders so often discussed during the week: juvenile crime.
"Not only as police but as a country, we really have to focus on our children in everything from D.A.R.E. to after school programs," he told POLICE.
Said Twinsburg (Ohio) Chief of Police Anthony Frank: "Externally, the continuing plague of drugs is hurting us as in juvenile violence, which is still on the rise."
"Internally, I think everyone talks about the same personnel issues as the concern," said Frank, attending his fifth IACP conference. "We must stay on top of ethiics and make our front- line supervisors responsible," he added. Frank supervises an agency of 28 officers in a city of 16,000 near Cleveland.
And outside of America's borders, the battle wages just as intensely.
"This conference is most helpful to use in our country," said Daniel Shan, special agent with the Foreign Affairs Office of the Republic of China's Ministry of Justice's Investigation Bureau, an agency with more than 2,000 agents and similar to the FBI in stature and duties.
"The world is getting smaller for everyone... we are starting to experience similar problems as you with our youth," he told POLICE. "Economic crime has now become an international problem in today's world, so this conference is very good for ys... we must work together."
Shan's agency sent three agents, including its deputy director general.
FBI Director Louis Freeh may have summed up best what was on many police leaders' minds- that in this age oh shrinking budgets, continued street crime, increased technological challenges and ever- more creative criminal enterprises, law enforcement must work together to succeed." "The dynamics of law enforcement are changing very fast," he said. "We have to maintain our integrity, reliability, and trustworthiness."
"Our training and resources must keep pace with terrorism and other crime; our technical abilities to collect and manage evidence in a digital age are being challenged... (this is why) our solidarity between agencies must be increased which is why the IACP is such a critical ingredient."
"There must exist a mutual interdependence as we approach the 21st century."
Dennis Hall is a former city police officer with 11 years experience in patrol, narcotics, traffic, gangs and training. He was also the chief of a campus police program in Northern California for four years.