Chief’s message: Ending the negative public perception of police

In National, Use of Force by rapsheet

If the message and the mission is to pursue peace, justice and tolerance for all, isn’t it hypocritical to lump 800,000+ American cops into a single, negative identity?

I’m chief of police in a bedroom community near Boston. The demographics of our town have changed a lot since I was first hired in the early 1990s. However, we enjoy a very good relationship with all members of our community, because well before anti-police protests spread nationwide, we worked hard to not only promote diversity and understanding within our police force, but also in our entire community.

Throughout my career and during the past 10 years as chief of police, I have worked tirelessly to diversify our department. It has undergone anti-bias trainings and I have been active in various local and national civil rights organizations. This past spring and summer, we held community meetings entitled “Black and Blue: All Lives Matter” and “Black and Blue: Teen Lives Matter Too.” We’ve done a good job here.

Recently, I stopped to speak with one of our officers working a road detail when an African-American motorist drove by, looked at us and put both his hands up. Seeing that I was startled, the officer said: “Since Ferguson, I get that a couple of times a week.”

1 in 100,000
The stark reality is that when an isolated incident occurs — even if it is halfway across the country — it affects us all. We now live in an age where there is instantaneous access to news through 24-hour TV outlets and a multitude of social media sites.

The vast majority of the time, police officers make the right decision under unbelievably stressful conditions. The good men and women representing law enforcement process thousands of arrests and have millions of interactions every day with citizens across the United States. The only ones we hear about in the media are the one in 100,000.

That’s also the reason why they are newsworthy.

Working Hard for Peace and Justice
This article is aimed — in part, at least — at someone who will never read it: the motorist who felt compelled to paint me, to paint us, with a broad brush.

If the message and the mission is to pursue peace, justice and tolerance for all, isn’t it hypocritical to lump 800,000+ American police officers into a single, negative identity?

Instead of projecting biased protest towards me, I ask that people first look inside themselves and ask, “Am I doing everything I can to make the world a better, safer, more tolerant place for all people?”

I know that when I ask myself that question, I can honestly say I have worked hard to do that, as have the men and women I have worked with throughout my 23-year law enforcement career.

To that motorist I would like to say, “Next time, please remember to look beyond our blue uniform and badge and realize that we are people too, just like you, and please don’t paint us all with a broad brush.”

About the author

In 1992, Chief Kenneth N. Berkowitz fulfilled his lifelong desire to become a police officer when he was hired as patrol officer for the Canton (Mass.) Police Department. Five years later he was promoted to Sergeant and in 1999 attained the rank of Lieutenant. In February of 2005, Ken had the distinct honor of being appointed as the 13th Chief of Police for the Canton Police Department.

Chief Berkowitz holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from North Adams State College, a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Anna Maria College and a graduate Certificate in Public Administration from Suffolk University. Additionally, his educational credentials include being a 2004 graduate of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Drug Unit Commander Academy, as well as their Group Supervisor Institute. He also received training in Dignitary Protection with another federal partner, the United States Secret Service. In April of 2004, he again travelled back to Quantico, Virginia where he had the privilege to attend and graduate from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) National Academy (FBINA 214). In 2007, he completed his leadership training with the FBI when he attended the Law Enforcement Executive Development Seminar. Throughout each of those trainings and during his many years as a “street officer”, Chief Berkowitz’s interests and selfless involvement presented him with a more global training opportunity-a law enforcement summit in Israel-attended by federal, state and local officials with the primary mission of studying contemporary counter terrorism strategies successfully implemented by Israel.

Chief Berkowitz is the current President of the Metropolitan Law Enforcement Council (Metro-LEC) and past Control Chief of their Mobile Operations Unit. Prior to that, he served as the Regional Response Team (RRT) Commander for this same consortium. He is a member of the Executive Board of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). He also serves on the committee on Homeland Security for the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and the Greater Boston Police Council.

He is proud of his professional affiliations which include being a member of the National Committee for Jewish Institutional Security under the umbrella of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), he mentors members of the military returning from active due to his commitment to the Employee Support of The Guard and the Reserve (ESGR) and he is an incredible supporter of the organization known as Cops For Kids With Cancer, solely raising over $10,000 during his 2011 Boston Marathon run.

Chief Berkowitz enjoys lecturing in his position adjunct faculty member at Suffolk University in Boston. He has been asked to impart his knowledge during lectures to officials of the United States Postal Inspection Service, students at the Boston College Center for Adult Learning and the United States Attorney Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council (ATAC) and most recently he was the Keynote Speaker for Ahmidayya Muslim Community’s International Conference in Harrisburg, PA. He lives in a Boston suburb with his wife and son.

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