June 3, 2023

Come to our Annual Meeting in New York City and be part of the PERF Town Hall


PERF members, 

As we think about the challenges facing the policing profession, I want to share a few thoughts on PERF’s history and how those origins relate to our upcoming meeting in New York City

In the 1970s, with race, crime, and police reform all central issues in the United States, police leaders sought to understand how they might improve the profession. Patrick V. Murphy was a reformer who led police departments in New York City, Detroit, and Syracuse, NY, then served as president of the Police Foundation. In 1976, he brought together ten police chiefs from larger cities and challenged them to form an organization that would view the profession with a critical eye and push for higher standards. 

I’d like to think that PERF has lived up to Patrick Murphy’s challenge over the past 47 years. An important part of our success is our belief that every PERF member should have the right to speak up and take a position. I see the PERF Town Hall Meeting as Jeffersonian democracy, in which each person in the room has a voice, regardless of rank. 

Town Hall Meetings are opportunities to debate the issues of the day. We’ve heard heated discussions about whether police chiefs should speak publicly about gun control. What positions should chiefs take on enforcing immigration laws? Should chiefs be required to have a college education? Should officers? 

These meetings are also opportunities for experienced police executives to share lessons with the next generation of police leaders. Police chiefs have offered personal accounts of their successes and mistakes. Over the years, we’ve heard from former Pittsburgh Chief Bob McNeilly and former Cincinnati Chief Tom Streicher about their experiences with DOJ and monitors as they managed consent decrees in their cities. Former Houston Chief Betsy Watson, former Atlanta Chief Beverly Harvard, former Milwaukee Chief Nan Hegerty, and former Lenexa, KS Chief Ellen Hanson spoke their minds and served as role models for aspiring female police executives. Former Madison, WI Chief David Couper shared his thoughts on how police should be evaluated. Former San Jose Chief Joe McNamara and former Baltimore County Chief Neil Behan pushed police leaders to take on a more significant role in gun control debates. When Gil Kerlikowske left his position as a chief in Florida to become the police commissioner in Buffalo, he spoke about the challenges of leading an agency with a strong union. Former Chicago Superintendent Terry Hillard and Kansas City Chief Rick Easley spoke about their efforts to improve race relations in their cities.

And the meetings often reflect the challenges of the times. Former Seattle Chief Norm Stamper discussed lessons he learned from the massive protests in his city at a 1999 World Trade Organization conference. After the September 11th attacks, then-Arlington County, VA Chief Ed Flynn told us about his agency’s experience responding to the Pentagon. And after the 2002 D.C. sniper attacks, the D.C.-area police chiefs discussed the challenges of responding to a multijurisdictional case.

PERF’s international members have shared their perspectives. Sir Hugh Orde spoke about his experience policing divided communities while leading the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Lord Ian Blair of Boughton, Sir Denis O’Connor, and Sir Stephen House provided a UK perspective during conversations about use of force. And Vancouver Chief Adam Palmer discussed the supervised injection sites in his city.

We’ve had valuable input from researchers as well. Research doesn’t always make its way to the field, and the Town Hall Meeting is an opportunity for researchers and practitioners to connect. University of South Florida Professor Emeritus Lorie Fridell spoke about her pioneering work on implicit bias. University of Illinois at Chicago Professor Emeritus Dennis Rosenbaum discussed his evaluation of D.A.R.E. University of South Carolina Professor Geoff Alpert has shared his considerable knowledge of police pursuits and use of force. University of Maryland Professor Emeritus Charles Wellford told the audience about his research into homicide investigations. And Criminology Professors Herman Goldstein and George Kelling, who sadly both passed away in recent years, were regular Town Hall Meeting attendees. Goldstein was an early proponent of problem-oriented policing, and Kelling’s Kansas City Preventative Patrol Experiment challenged prior beliefs about the value of patrol.

Over the years, many police leaders told me that Town Hall Meeting discussions had a lasting effect on their careers. Chiefs, sheriffs, and those who aspire to those positions can openly discuss their successes, mistakes, and lessons they’ve learned.

I’m looking forward to this same kind of spirited discussion at our upcoming Annual Meeting in New York City on July 17-19. It will include a full-day Town Hall Meeting on July 18, panel discussions on the morning of July 19, and receptions on the evenings of July 17 and 18. The policing profession – much like society at large – has changed dramatically over the past few years, and I want to hear your thoughts on issues you’re facing.

How is 2your agency working to reduce violent crime? Have you seen a decrease in proactive policing and traffic stops? PERF’s recent survey found agencies are losing officers faster than they can hire new ones. What are you doing to hire and retain more officers? Are you changing your physical fitness standards or other minimum requirements? How do we inspire the next generation of cops? New police chiefs will talk about the unexpected difficulties and joys of leading an agency. Experienced chiefs will offer their wisdom to the younger leaders in the room.

Thank you to all of you who have sent in topic ideas, and feel free to reply to this email with any additional ideas. I encourage all of you to attend our Annual Meeting next month, particularly those of you who have never been to one of our meetings. I hope to hear your voice speaking up about an issue you care about.