"STAND UP, STEP UP, AND SPEAK OUT."
held its annual conference from September 29 - October 1, 2021, in White Plains, NY. This conference was hosted by the Westchester-Rockland Guardians Association and Yonkers Guardians Association. I attended because Strategies for Justice was one of the sponsors, I wanted to support Cariol Horne as she delivered an emotional yet powerful presentation on Cariol's Law, and to see her accept her President's Award.
The workshops chosen for this conference were necessary for today's law enforcement, and the engagement was authentic. I particularly was fascinated by What To Do When Stopped By The Police. After hearing about this program for years, it was nice to see it up close. The panel discussion Justice Reform: The Future Of Policing After George Floyd could have been an additional two hours, and no one would have moved out of their seat. And I woke up Friday morning excited to attend the workshop Karen: Weaponizing the Police- Profiling By Proxy, and I was not disappointed.
How wonderful was it to see so many faces that I have worked with virtually, finally in person, and how wonderful was it to meet many new ones too. I was, and I know I am not alone on this one, particularly touched when two US Capitol Police officers were in attendance and received a standing ovation. That was a special moment indeed.
This was my first law enforcement conference. I have trained law enforcement, have been on discussions with a law enforcement focus, and, as many know, have spoken to many individual law enforcement professionals across the country and beyond. But there are a couple of things that I noted during the NABLEO conference I want to share.
A burden to hold a black consciousness and be in law enforcement can, and often do, leads to trauma. As I mentioned, I went to this conference to support our mother of the movement, Cariol Horne. When she told her story, tears filled the room. After she was done speaking, a line formed, and the narratives flowed. Cariol story is known but not unique. Another moment that instilled this point was during the panel discussion on police reform. We heard stories from the panelist and the conference participants on what it was like being black (in some cases, the only black officer) and having to deal with racism and sexism in their departments.
If community policing isn't a goal in your department, make it one. Now, I have to agree with the statement that one of the presenters made. Every officer should be responsible for community policing. It should be a job qualification like showing up for duty. However, if your police department does not have a community policing focus, police and citizens alike need to push for one.
"STAND UP, STEP UP, AND SPEAK OUT." This leads to my final impression and the title of this article. At the end of the awards dinner, before over a hundred black law enforcement took to the dance floor to show that they still got the moves, a powerful and important message was given by the current Chair of the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers, Inc. (NABLEO), Charles Wilson. If you tuned in to our Web show, Moses' People Speak, you might remember Charles Wilson. Mr. Wilson was one of the panelists who answered my call for officers to join me in an open dialogue with law enforcement to discuss race and privilege in light of the events at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. Charles Wilson, who has more than 45 years in law enforcement before retiring, provides excellent insight always. So it was not a surprise that his final message at the NABLEO conference as presiding chair was just as spirited, as spirited as the legacy he will pass on.
"Today, more than ever, we face increasing challenges that must be met with personal forthrightness, organizational excellence, professional fortitude, and a more personalized commitment to both our association and our community. There is a serious need for Black law enforcement to be more vocal regarding the presence of racial profiling and extremism within their respective agencies. We know it exists and must out it at every opportunity. We must be more firm and unwavering in speaking out against and reporting all those we work with who abuse their authority, as our silence will do nothing more than to create a clear, distinct, and present danger not only to our communities but to us as law enforcement officers as well. So STAND UP, STEP UP, AND SPEAK OUT."
The new chair!
I couldn't end this without highlighting that our friend, Shawn Kennedy, will take over as Chair when Charles steps down. Shawn, a retired Sgt out of the Chicago PD, leads with integrity, and I can say this, without doubt, is one of the most unapologetic black law enforcement professionals that I've encountered doing this work. So to our brother, Shawn, God Speed!
Also, check out the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers, Inc. (NABLEO)
About the author
Terry Watson is a professional speaker and trainer who specializes in the topics of disability equity in education, racial justice, and law enforcement. Mr. Watson has more than 15 years working in higher education and is the founder of Strategies for Justice and the host of Moses' People Speak.