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Day 2 of IACP: Highlights from the First General Assembly

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By Leischen Stelter

It has been a whirlwind of events here in Philadelphia during the 120th annual International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) conference. This morning I attended the First General Assembly. In addition to completing routine business of the association (elections, sponsorship acknowledgements, etc.), current IACP president Craig Steckler honored Chief Kehoe of Newtown, Conn. The challenges and traumas faced by Chief Kehoe and his officers during and after the Sandy Hook school shooting are unimaginable, even by law enforcement standards, and it was a very nice gesture for the association to recognize and honor Chief Kehoe during the ceremony.

The Police Officer of the Year Award was given to Timothy Strohmeyer, trooper first class with the Pennsylvania State Police. While it was a nice tribute to this brave officer, Steckler also took a moment to recognize all the other unnamed officers around the country who exhibit bravery every day and never reach this level of recognition.

Eric Holder
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder addresses attendees of the IACP First General Assembly

The two prominent speakers for the morning were Eric Holder, U.S. Attorney General and James Comey, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. IACP president Steckler gave Holder a somewhat uncomfortable introduction, starting out by saying that the relationship between the DOJ and IACP is like a marriage: that even though they disagree on things, they decide to stay together:

“The IACP profoundly disagrees with the decision by the Department of Justice not to challenge the marijuana laws in Colorado and Washington…The decision by the Department of Justice, in our view, opens the flood gates for those who want to legalize marijuana throughout the country…”

He went on to say: “In our view, we have entered a slippery slope that will be difficult to turn away from in the future. We are profoundly disappointed in the decision. Regardless of that, the vast majority of the decisions made by the DOJ are favorable to law enforcement…”

As Holder took the stage, he jokingly thanked Steckler for his almost-welcome introduction and said, “I guess we need some marriage counseling.”

Holder did not address the marijuana laws or DOJ decisions, but he did reiterate his commitment to having a frank and constructive dialogue. “I am here not just to engage and learn from you, but to say thank you for your tireless commitment to public service.”

Holder also made a point to thank federal law enforcement officers for their dedication and hard work during the government shutdown. Despite that fact that a substantial portion of the workforce had been furloughed, the federal police officers worked tirelessly to ensure that safety functions were not interrupted.

Comey
James Comey, Director of the FBI addresses attendees of IACP

James Comey, Director of the FBI, who had been delayed, arrived just in time to make his remarks. He discussed the five expectations he has for those under him in the FBI:

  1. Find joy in your work
  2. Work hard
  3. Keep a life
  4. Treat everyone with dignity and respect without regard to position
  5. Respect the honor gifted to you when you joined the organization

He also discuss what others should expected of him:

  • To listen. “I learned long ago it was a mistake for a leader to come into a new organization and ask: ‘What do I want to do?’ Instead, ask: ‘What does this organization need me to do?’”  There is a huge difference between those questions: One reflects an overconfident leader and the other a leader of humility and patience.
  • Also, he discussed the importance of people questioning his perspective. He said that robust discussions help to make leaders more effective and often results in better decisions.  

Comey reiterated the strong partnership between the FBI and law enforcement agencies. “We are brothers and sisters in a healthy family and we have to have open and honest relationships both in the FBI and with our state and local law enforcement partners. “We need you more than ever,” he told the audience, “as it will not come as a surprise that federal agencies are dealing with budget challenges.”

Comey has experienced more than just a budget crisis during his 6-week tenure. His first Monday on the job was the shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. He recalled watching agency members running toward the shooting, “because that’s what they do, they run towards danger.” But it was more than that. “They all ran together. If I have learned anything, it’s that we run best when we run together,” Comey said. “I am thrilled and honored to be back among you and I look forward to working with you over the next 10 years.”

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