June 1, 2024

A few highlights from the PERF Annual Meeting


PERF members,

This week PERF held its Annual Meeting in Orlando. The two-day conference was filled with too many lively discussions to cover in today’s column, so I’m going to share some of the conversation about staffing and announce the three recipients of the PERF Leadership Award. Next week I’ll share some other highlights from the Annual Meeting.

Attendees gathered in Orlando for the 2024 PERF Annual Meeting


Many departments have faced staffing shortages over the past few years, though agencies that responded to PERF’s recent survey reported a slight increase in overall sworn staffing in 2023. Annual Meeting attendees discussed the ways they’re addressing staffing challenges, including through civilianization.

Chief Troche

Sarasota, FL Chief Rex Troche: “Our future officers have their last meeting with me, and I always ask them why they chose us. They say the reason they picked us is because our recruiters called them immediately. The recruiters made them feel like family right from the start.

“So really look at your recruiters. Ours have a direct line to me and I meet with them about three times a week.”

Chief Tracy

St. Louis Metropolitan Chief Bob Tracy: “The best recruiters in any organization are the people in the organization. So we incentivize our officers with $500 if they can get somebody successfully through the academy.

“The biggest complaint from our officers is that there aren’t enough officers. I went to roll calls and said, ‘We have to help ourselves, and if we bring people into this profession, it’s going to lessen the load on us. I need your help; we have to promote the organization.’ And we’ve been seeing a lot more of our people bringing people in.”

Chief Murphy

Chattanooga, TN Chief Celeste Murphy: “I found we were not getting back to people fast enough. I had to streamline our background process. I had to make sure we focused on those things that will bring in this generation, like a quick callback. And we realized we have to reel them in younger and keep them in the process, keep them engaged in the culture, and keep them in that pipeline.”

Chief Davis

Fairfax County, VA Chief Kevin Davis: “We have the best of the best majors and captains assigned to recruiting, retention, and hiring. In other times, we might put them in operations or investigations, but right now we’re saying that our greatest need requires our greatest commanders. We want the ones who are up-and-coming, are in it for the long haul, and have something to prove.”

Chief Young

Daytona Beach, FL Chief Jakari Young: “I think we’ve done a good job as a profession coming up with creative strategies to recruit people, but retention is often an issue. I’m going to use my favorite quote from [Volusia County Sheriff and former Daytona Beach Chief] Mike Chitwood: ‘The hardest thing to overcome in any agency is a bad first-line supervisor.’ It’s easier to overcome a bad lieutenant, a bad captain, a bad major, or a bad member of the command staff. But that first-line supervisor has the most influence over whether or not we can retain our staff. So you have to look at your promotional process to make sure you are promoting the right people to supervisory roles.”

Chief Nisleit

San Diego Chief David Nisleit: “One thing I think we do very well as a police department is our camp program. Once people pass our tests and are considered recruits, they come to camp. Camp is two days a week and is voluntary. They meet other recruits going through the process, go through workouts, talk to members of the department, and are generally brought into the fold. And when they go to the first day of the academy, they know most of the people there, because they’ve all been going to camp two days a week for the last couple months.”

Chief Nisleit is retiring next week, and we greatly appreciate his contributions as a longtime PERF member and leader in the field.

2024 PERF Leadership Award

At our Annual Meeting, PERF’s board of directors presented this year’s Leadership Award to three deserving recipients.

Ed Gonzalez was elected sheriff in Harris County, Texas in 2016 and reelected in 2020. He began his career with the Houston Police Department and served on the Houston City Council from 2009 to 2016.

Sheriff Gonzalez receives the 2024 PERF Leadership Award

“He’s innovative. He’s a leader,” Metropolitan Nashville Chief John Drake said on behalf of the entire PERF board of directors. “He started a sobering center, where people can go to diversion as opposed to going to jail. He also dealt with Hurricane Harvey. So he’s been pretty amazing.”

Sheriff Gonzalez has provided his entire agency with ICAT training, and his trainers have helped teach ICAT to others across the country.

Michael Harrison served as the police commissioner in Baltimore from 2019 to 2023 and police superintendent in New Orleans from 2014 to 2019. He was PERF’s president from 2021 to 2023.

Former Baltimore Police Commissioner Harrison receives the 2024 PERF Leadership Award

“Very few departments go through a consent decree, and he went through two,” Chief Drake said. “First in New Orleans, he put a lot of reforms in place. Then he went to Baltimore, another city that was under a consent decree. He put reforms in place in both cities that many of us are using now. And he was PERF’s president and my mentor.”

David Rausch has led the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation since 2018. He spent the first 25 years of his policing career with the Knoxville Police Department, including seven years as the agency’s chief.

Director Rausch receives the 2024 PERF Leadership Award

“David is a Tennessee colleague,” Chief Drake said. “He’s been at the forefront of high-profile incidents throughout Tennessee, including the Christmas Day bombing and the Covenant School shooting in Nashville, as well as holding the Memphis officers accountable for the death of Tyre Nichols. He’s been a consummate professional.”

The PERF Board of Directors joins the 2024 Leadership Award honorees

Annual Meeting attendees also recognized Tony Narr, who led PERF’s SMIP program for 29 years. Tony made an immense contribution to the profession by continually improving SMIP to meet the ever-changing challenges facing the profession. Many chiefs have come to depend on SMIP to train their future leaders, and SMIP would not be the same without Tony’s years of steady, thoughtful guidance.

Attendees recognize Tony Narr with a standing ovation

Thanks to everyone who made the trip to Orlando to contribute to our Annual Meeting!