A Guide to Professional Law Enforcement Organizations & Associations

June 3, 2024
Are they worth it for you? Find out what police and law enforcement professional organizations and associations are the right fit for you.

Once you enter law enforcement, you will become besieged by invitations to join professional or law enforcement-centric organizations. Some are worthy for you now, some maybe later as your career develops. Some are just plain scams for your money. If you so desire, you can fill your wallet up with membership cards which will be taking up the space where your money was. So choose carefully. 

Types of organizations: First and foremost are the fraternal ones. The Fraternal Order of Police (www.fop.net) immediately comes to mind along with several more depending on your station in life. If you are still an entry level officer, confer with your Field Training Officer or Academy staff as to which ones are available in your area and which ones, they recommend for you. In some areas of the country, there will be several avenues to pursue and sadly in some areas -none. Of course, those in union states will be brought into their collective bargaining units without fail and may be your first joining. 

Management support based: Once you enter the realm of the command staff. You will require more managerial leanings, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (www.theiacp.org) will probably be your first consideration. Every state has some version of their own Chiefs of Police organization, State Sheriffs organizations and so forth. Do not forget the National Organizations of Black Law Enforcement Executives (https://noblenational.org) for they bring much to the table for rising command staffers. All of these will have committees with closer focus on specific topicsaccreditation, staff development, etc... 

Ethnic-focused organizations abound as well. The oldest one is the National Conference of Police Emerald Societies which is focuses on the Irish American officers.  The Police Emerald Society is probably the oldest police (and fire) fraternal support groups known. Not to be outdone are the Columbian leagues for Italian officers. Several Afro-American patrol leagues exist as well. Most of these all have local organizations and may not be your area but know that they do exist. They do offer fraternity and support to their members and the departments. 

Specialty-based organizations will come to you later in your career. Most all regions and some states have investigation-based organizations. Forensic officers, accreditation, evidence\/property room managers, homicide investigators, internal affairs officers and so forth. 

Training also falls under this umbrella as well, such as the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (www.ileeta.org) and the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors(www.ialefi.com). Both are premiere organizations with great conferences, certification opportunities, regional trainings, and member support.

There are several defensive tactics organizations that are support functions of some tactics systems. These too offer support to members for certifications and member development. 

Within the training realm there far too many to list and would miss some important ones. I recommend you seek out the ones that are in your region, agree with your state POST requirements/needs and support your department’s training mission. 

Considerations before joining. First some of these are geared for special assignments – supervisory, job-focused, or training-focused.  We in this country prefer to have that specialist title rather than one of a generalist. The point is that you may not be able to join or have acceptance until you are placed in such a role. Granted some may take your application along with your money but it may be of little worth to you at this time.

There are three questions: Three areas you should research prior to joining any organization. First is what is their overall objective or mission?  Who are they in it for? If they are to promote professionalism and to assist your career development as a membergood. Does this organization have intellectual exchanges via conferences (national or regionally) or other medias to help your skills sets?

They are the red flags to look out for, if it appears that their goal is get membership numbers as fast as they can, no vetting, just to line their pockets. 

What is the overall worth of the membership to you now and who is paying for it? Annual fees for some may appear to be miniscule but they add up. Some organizations can be three figures! Inquire of your department regarding their paying your professional development membership fees. 

Sustainability: Again, perform some independent research as to how long they have been in existence. Their longevity may speak of their success to carve out a niche in the crowd list. Start-up organizations have tended to fade away quickly without support and money.  There have been several ‘flash in the pan’ groups. All they did do was grab the money and run. Charlatans are out there so before you put your name on the line, make sure this is one you will stake your name to. 

Speaking of names, be extremely wary of any organization that wants to use of your name. They may want you for an advisory board member or a state representative. If they have a shady reputation; then your name will be soiled as well with a guilt by association. Through the years I have been contacted by some who are totally bogus. These scammers and their snake oil reputation is not where I wanted to be. 

Worth of membership, or what do I receive with membership? I am not speaking of a lapel pin, bumper sticker, or decoder ring. Do they vet their membership? Some will require a current member to sponsor you, which is maintaining the credibility of the group. If a group is open to the public without any screening; walk away. All they want is cash.

Some groups still offer magazines or now digital magazines for an intellectual exchange. Some offer secure websites where only the membership can obtain and share ideas, policies, or lesson plans. This sharing of ideas and data can be worth the fees at times.

My goal here was to assist you in making a sound decision in selecting a group(s) that can enhance your career. There are several tried and true organizations out there, several I still belong to. Sometimes, their application process has extra steps but it worth it for the assurance to their members. Again, the Johnny Come Lately groups will continue to pop-up only for their personal gain and not the professions. Make wise selections and utilize the bonus benefits to better yourself and your department.

About the Author

William L. "Bill" Harvey is a U.S. Army Military Police Corps veteran. He has a BA in criminology from St. Leo University and is a graduate of the Southern Police Institute of the University of Louisville (103rd AOC).  Harvey served for over 23 years with the Savannah (GA) Police Department in field operations, investigations and completed his career as the director of training. Served as the chief of police of the Lebanon City Police Dept (PA) for over seven years and then ten years as Chief of Police for the Ephrata Police Dept (PA). In retirement he continues to publish for professional periodicals and train.        

About the Author

William L. Harvey | Chief

William L. "Bill" Harvey is a U.S. Army Military Police Corps veteran. He has a BA in criminology from St. Leo University and is a graduate of the Southern Police Institute of the University of Louisville (103rd AOC).  Harvey served for over 23 years with the Savannah (GA) Police Department in field operations, investigations and completed his career as the director of training. Served as the chief of police of the Lebanon City Police Dept (PA) for over seven years and then ten years as Chief of Police for the Ephrata Police Dept (PA). In retirement he continues to publish for professional periodicals and train.        

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