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A Word From Our President

First and foremost, I would like to thank the current members of the RI Guardians Association (R.I.G.A.) for electing me the President of this newly established minority police association. Additionally, I would like to personally thank and acknowledge, Lt. Charles Wilson (Ret.), Chairman of the National Association of Black Law
Enforcement Officers, Inc. (NABLEO), and his wife, Shirley Wilson, Ph.D., Bryant University for providing the support, motivation, and vision of this non-profit organization. Like so many other civil rights leaders and visionaries, Charles and his wife (Shirley) have displayed a life-long passion for enhancing the relationship between law enforcement and our community of color. They have been advocates for officers of color, and they have conducted statistical research that speaks to the lack of diversity in law enforcement. 

As you may not know, I am a recent retiree from the Rhode Island State Police (RISP) and completed 25-years of service honorably. In 1990, I was the only Black/African American recruit to successfully graduate from the training academy. Before retiring, I reached the rank of Detective Lieutenant and served in both the Uniform and Detective
Bureaus. However, shortly after retiring, I was disappointed to learn that
there were no Black/African candidates to graduate from the 2016 RI State Police training academy. 

Throughout the last several years of my career, I was assigned to the RI Commission of Prejudice and Bias (RI-CPB) and the RI Drug Overdose Prevention and Rescue Coalition. The RI Commission is comprised of members of law enforcement, clergy and community members. The Commission on Prejudice and Bias provides training to law
enforcement agencies, facilitates educational training, and provides a conduit for reporting challenges individuals or organizations may have in our Rhode Island communities. While with the commission, I, along with a prosecutor from the RI Attorney General’s office provided training to police recruits and non-commissioned police officers at the RI Municipal Academy; such training would include civil rights laws, hate crimes, and related offenses. Additionally, I would take the time to educate the law enforcement members about historically racist and discriminatory practices of members of law enforcement and the current need to conduct fair and impartial community policing. In fact, I have always recognized the importance of police-community relations and the need to hold members of law enforcement accountable for police misconduct and abusive police practices.

While working with the Overdose Prevention and Rescue Coalition, I worked on complex issues regarding the opiate-drug epidemic. Within the Commission, I was also assigned to the Public Safety subcommittee where I worked on establishing policies and procedures that enabled police officers to carry naloxone (opiate reversal drug) to treat
overdose victims as first responders. Additionally, I spent nearly 6-years as a federally deputized member of the Rhode Island FDA-Office of Criminal Investigation Task Force (FDA/OCI) where we primarily investigated crimes in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

During my tenure with the task force, I assisted with the “Google” investigation where the internet company was convicted for allowing online Canadian pharmacies to place advertisements through its “AdWord” advertising program targeting consumers in theUnited States. As a result of the federal prosecution, “Google” forfeited $500 million dollars to the federal government. Under the Federal Equitable Sharing Program, the RI State Police received $45 million in asset forfeiture sharing which was ultimately used to provide training, purchase equipment, and cruisers, and renovate facilities.  

More recently, due to high-profile incidents such as “Ferguson,” most law enforcement administrators and public officials have recognized the need to enhance police-community relations through community policing and promote efforts to increase diversity in their respective agencies. However, too many of these police agencies have
failed to achieve their diverse recruitment expectations and goals. Even with best intentions, many police agencies minority recruitment efforts have been unsuccessful through conventional methods. Police agencies have failed to recognize the need to be more creative and the need to implement innovative methodologies to adequately recruit candidates of color. Also, many failed recruitment initiatives do not emphasize community outreach in conjunction with strengthening the bond between members of law enforcement and their communitymembers. Additionally, police agencies do not adequately implement recruitment methods that include police officers of color to specifically target and mentor young adults of color.

Considering the many recruitment pitfalls, the Rhode Island Guardians will provide community-based solutions to policing issues which have a direct impact on communities of color and the pivotal roles that Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian and Native American law enforcement personnel, and other criminal justice practitioners of color play. We will do this through various programs designed to empower youth, develop mechanisms that will facilitate the open exchange of information between and amongst minority law enforcement officers and their respective agencies, and establish effective communication between community members and their law enforcement guardians. The Guardians’ tools of success include opportunities to expose youth to the criminal justice field, mentorship programs for youth or young adults of color in high school or a higher education institution interested in law enforcement or pursuing a career in the field of criminal justice. 

Sincerely,

John A'Vant
President

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