The Alexandria, Va.-based National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) is scheduled to host its 40th Annual Training Conference in Northwest, D.C. July 16-20. It is an important effort to show a balance between an officer’s duty and an officer’s everyday life, according to the Rev. Dr. Barbara Williams-Harris, the organization’s chaplain.

Rev. Dr. Barbara Williams-Harris is NOBLE

Rev. Dr. Barbara Williams-Harris is NOBLE’s first female chaplain. (Courtesy photo)

“We have to deal with the community relations side and then we have to deal with the law enforcement side,” Williams-Harris, the first female chaplain for NOBLE, told the AFRO on June 28. She said people tend to forget that officers have families and homes outside of their daily patrolling.

The conference will include a “Blessing of the Badge” ceremony and attendees from all over the United States will have an opportunity to gain insight into the lives of law officials.

Judges, lawyers, and police officers will lay their badges on a table and William-Harris will pray and anoint the badges with oil. “It’s a service of hope. It’s a service of triumph,” William-Harris said.  She said she will pray for protection over the law enforcers, over their squad, and their families. “The badge represents what you do,” she said, referencing that it symbolizes that officials are here to protect and to serve the community. “The people see you as human.”

Williams-Harris explained that she served as a police officer in New York for almost 21 years and can identify with being an authority figure as well as a member of the community. She said her years as an officer and then as a counselor for law officials helped her understand why patrol officers have high stress levels.

When Williams-Harris went to crime scenes where a young man had been shot, she said it would make her think of her own son and his safety. “I’m an officer of the law, but I’m also human,” she said.

Where there are high levels of crime an officer has to witness people in danger, in need, and hopeless on a daily basis and it can  negatively impact an officer’s emotions and be overwhelming, especially if they are dealing with their own personal problems outside of their jobs, she said.

Williams-Harris said people need to remember that officers have feelings and emotions and ceremonies like “Blessing of the Badge” help bring recognition and honor to that by humanizing the badges. “It makes a big difference,” she said.

NOBLE

NOBLE was founded in 1976 to address crime in urban low income neighborhoods. The organization has more than 3,000 members and strives to provide equal administration of justice to all communities.

NOBLE also serves as leaders for the youth. About 175 young people are scheduled to attend the weeklong conference. “This is where we mentor people,” Williams-Harris said. She explained that the organization has several youth programs that collaborate with schools throughout the country. “This is where we show people it’s not just justice by action and tell you what’s wrong or what’s right . . . but it’s for us to also mentor those that are young that are coming up along the way.”