Most police enter the profession with the best reasons: They want to protect people who can’t protect themselves, give back to their communities and secure justice.
To help law enforcement professionals stay true to their core values, ADL and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) created a powerful program, Law Enforcement and Society (LEAS), in 1999. LEAS spurs law enforcement professionals today to reflect on their mission.
The program traces the changing role of police under the Nazis, from neutral professionals to instruments of the “Final Solution.” The example of the German police hits home. “Without clear values and commitment to what is just,” said one participant, “you could lose your path and become a person you never intended to be.”
Since the launch of the program in Washington, DC, over 100,000 law enforcement professionals have participated, and it has been a required course for all FBI New Agents since 2001. Now a growing number of ADL regional offices are offering the program, in partnership with local Holocaust institutions. LEAS programs exist in Houston, St. Louis, St. Petersburg, Los Angeles and Nassau County, NY.
The regional programs replicate much of the original. Officers tour the museum and reflect on what they’ve seen. They analyze images that begin by showing police under the Nazis performing seemingly typical police work, but end with them contributing to genocide. The program culminates with a discussion led by ADL on what keeps law enforcement in America today on the right path, holding true to their values.
While some officers aren’t initially sure what they will get out of the day, by the end, many are deeply affected. “It is a privilege to watch the transformation that often occurs,” said Florida Regional Director Hava Holzhauer.
Here’s what some officers have taken away from regional LEAS programs:
“How power can be abused.”
“Never become detached from humanity, and overall remain empathetic to the suffering of others.”
“To remember what is right, and that I’m here to serve all people, not just some.”
“Every person is equal.”
“Positive change requires people to stand up against injustice and inequality.”
Said David Friedman, ADL Vice President, Law Enforcement, Extremism and Community Security: “Law Enforcement and Society is a blueprint for building trust between police and the people they serve, and for translating the ideals of our Constitution into reality in every interaction between an officer and a member of the community.”