A MESSAGE FROM OUR PRESIDENT (2/19/2018)
To our members,
Last week was, even by the horrific standards set by the news cycles in recent years, a difficult week for America. In Florida, we saw yet another demonstration of senseless killing. It is difficult to say “yet another” when we are referring to the massacre of 17 people at a school in Parkland, Florida, but here we are.
Since a week ago Friday, five police officers have also been killed in the line of duty in this country, bringing the early year’s total to 12 officers murdered and another four who died from accidents or other causes in the line of duty. More on that in a few moments…
While we all offer our sincere condolences, thoughts, prayers, and words of action for the families and friends of the fallen in Florida, and to the families and friends of the fallen officers, including Chicago Police Commander Paul Bauer, who was killed while responding to an incident last Tuesday, we must stop and reflect on ourselves and our duties as law enforcement leaders.
The NA represents 17,000 law enforcement officers in high leadership positions across the world, including all 50 of the United States of America and in thousands of cities and towns. We are a large group composed of men and women, black and white, from the north, south, east coast, west coast, Midwest, and everywhere else. We come from liberal and conservative parts of the nation. However, we are united by one of the great consistencies in our world: state and local police exist to serve others, without regard for who they are, what they have done, or where they come from.
We cannot ignore the fact that our country is divided today, but police are not. Our communities may have different priorities, trends, and challenges, but our mission remains consistent from Alaska to Maine to Florida to Hawaii to Puerto Rico and abroad. That is why the National Academy Associates needs to become more active in how we communicate. We need to talk to each other and we need to talk to our communities.
Our airwaves – television, newspaper and social media especially – are so littered with negative discourse. We not only have an opportunity but a duty to be more proactive. While we cannot ever say that a crime certainly would have been prevented, perhaps a community in Massachusetts has a program in place to encourage school children to be vigilant on social media and watch for threatening language. Perhaps a police department in West Virginia has a program in place to teach families to watch for signs of an opioid overdose. Perhaps someone has an idea that would keep high powered firearms out of the wrong hands without triggering a constitutional discussion.
One thing is for certain, our jobs are unfortunately very secure. The Governor of Florida described the mass shooting in Parkland as “pure evil,” and I concur. However, law enforcement is on the front lines of these incidents – before, during and afterward – and we can share our ideas, successes, and failures openly to improve the entire group. This, in turn, benefits the nation as a whole.
As president of this great organization, I pledge to include law enforcement in the national conversation in a productive way. We will not be another activist voice in the crowd. You will hear no shouts of “guns don’t kill people” or “gun control now” from our organization. Neither slogan offers a solution to a problem that is as simple as it is frightening: people are killing large amounts of other people at a rate that is beyond alarming in this country. And police officers are being killed at higher rates than in recent years. Sadly, although it is early in the year, we are on pace to double the amount of police officers killed in this country. Thirteen officers killed so far this year, up from “just” six at this time last year.
Although it is difficult to be a police officer today, there is not a profession that is nobler or more poised to change the divisiveness that is prevalent in today’s world than law enforcement. We are out there daily, on the front lines, serving our most vulnerable. Our voice needs to be loud and our voice needs to be clear, and it starts with decency. Perhaps we can create circumstances in our communities where there is a reduced chance for mass shootings, fatal overdoses, suicide, and the killing of police officers.
We are a great nation. We are better than this. There are ideas, products, training resources, programs, and people out there today that are saving lives and preventing tragedies.
I don’t pretend to know the solution, but I have 17,000 friends who may have some ideas.
Be safe, be strong, Be vigilant, and be proud!
Scott A. Dumas
Chief of Police