In the wake of officer-involved shootings that have left several, on both sides of the law, dead, Black officers from several law enforcement agencies around the United States recently gathered to focus on new training tactics.
The National Organization of Black Law Enforcement (NOBLE) celebrated 40 years from July 16 to July 20 with their annual Training Conference and Exhibition at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park hotel in Northwest D.C. The conference featured a July 17 “Blessing of the Badge” ceremony in which NOBLE leaders pressed Black officials to show strength during racially-motivated times of police killings and criticism, a Founders’ Forum, a Civil Rights Brunch, various workshops and awards receptions, a march from the hotel to Howard University’s Crampton Auditorium, and guest speakers, including U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, WHUR DJ Quick Silva and entrepreneur Russell Simmons.
The week of events centered around NOBLE’s mission statement of “Justice by action.” This year’s theme included the original mission statement with a reference to the organization’s history and future, “Justice by action, then, now and tomorrow.”
At the Blessing of the Badge ceremony current NOBLE chaplain, the Rev. Dr. Barbara Williams-Harris, along with past NOBLE chaplains prayed over the badges of judges, lawyers, and police officers. NOBLE leaders thanked God for sustaining the organization and its members and prayed for continuous protection in the future.
Teaching from Psalm 1, Williams-Harris delivered a message that encouraged fellow law enforcement members to remain strong during a time of hatred. “In spite of the storm we will bear fruit,” she said. “On Sunday morning, three officers were shot and killed in Baton Rouge; five officers were shot and killed in Dallas on July 7, both incidents in alleged retaliation to police murdering two Black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.
Attendees of the ceremony agreed with the chaplain’s call for positivity and prayer.
“People need to understand the importance of prayer,” Kareen Campbell, president of National Organization of Black Women in Law Enforcement New Jersey chapter, told the AFRO on July 17. Campbell said it is essential for officials “stay prayed up,” because law enforcers need covering and protection on a daily basis.
She said law enforcement has the responsibility to protect, serve, and minister to everyone no matter the race, background, or gender. According to Williams-Harris the duties of an official can be misconstrued when an officer doesn’t know how to properly exercise their authority. “If you don’t understand your position, you don’t understand your authority.” She continued, “We have people that want the title, but don’t want to do the work.”
Maj. Reginald R. Brown Sr., Baton Rouge City constable, told the AFRO on July 19 that a majority of the disconnect between urban communities and law enforcement agencies stem from the lack of appropriate training, specifically community policing. Brown has been in law enforcement for 15 years. “Learning new policies and procedures, let’s face it, we in the African-American community have more or a larger presence today in our community than ever before, so we are in need of learning tactics, means of training that can help us effectively do our job in the safest manner possible,” Brown said, using Lee Brown, chief of police in various metropolitan areas across the U.S., as an example. “He wrote the book on community policing.”
“Our job takes on the complexion of a number of services you provide that might be closely related to social services as well as law enforcement services, so when you’re out there policing you’re a social worker, sometimes you’re a minister, sometimes you’re a counselor, and some other social aspect of the social field,” Brown said.
A large part of the solution to the tragedies such as the recent killings of citizens and officers, Brown said that law enforcement officials need to take responsibility for their actions.
“We can’t stop trying,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do.”
NOBLE was founded in 1976 to address crime in urban low income neighborhoods.
AFRO Washington D.C. Editor LaTrina Antoine contributed to this article.