About 1,500 black law enforcement officials are gathered in Pittsburgh this week for the 37th annual conference of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.
The group formed in 1976 after black officers gathered for a three-day symposium focusing on crime rates in urban communities with larger black populations. Some of the issues present 34 years ago are still issues today.
“Any time you have communities that are, in some way or another, impacted by social and economic conditions, you’re going to have those types of issues," said Jiles Ship, immediate past national president of NOBLE. "The good thing about it is when issues come up like that you address them head-on. You don’t run from them, you don’t hide from them.”
Other issues facing police chiefs in Pittsburgh and other communities include police/community relations. The overall goal of the conference is to help black law enforcement leaders gain knowledge and skills to strengthen their departments.
“We want people to go back to their respective communities better prepared to address the challenges they face in law enforcement and better prepared to manage their respective law enforcement agencies,” Ship said.
Law enforcement agencies from throughout the U.S. face many of the same challenges. Among them is an increase in the prevalence of handguns.
“Proliferation of handguns subsequently manifests itself in the form of violence,” Ship said. “We have to get a better grip on the way we deal with the proliferation of handguns, because we see the way it’s manifesting and it’s not good for communities. When you’re at home in your community there should be no place that you feel safer.”
Some of the trainings at the conference, which started Saturday and runs through Wednesday, include sessions on improving relationships between teens and law enforcement, proposals for national school-based mentoring, the role of technology in police/community relations and prevention of domestic violence and child abuse.
Maurita Bryant, a former Pittsburgh police commander who now serves as assistant chief of operations for the city's bureau of police, is the group's national president.