IACP’s Leadership in Human and Civil Rights award recognizes that protection of civil and constitutional rights is among the foremost responsibilities of police in democratic societies. As a result, the Human and Civil Rights Committee seeks to recognize programs and law enforcement efforts that exemplify the protection and promotion of civil and human rights.
Sarasota, FL, Police Department
The Sarasota Police Department (SPD) Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) Program is the product of years of development efforts, including extensive research and analysis of the law and model programs and policies across our country, and a commitment by SPD and the City of Sarasota to reduce the criminalization of homelessness.
The mission of the SPD HOT Program fully integrates the best practice of community policing, the enforcement of the rule of law, and the decriminalization efforts of diversion and deployment of social services needed to protect and serve the at-risk, vulnerable population of homeless individuals. The SPD HOT Program has transformed their relationship with homelessness and the homeless. SPD’s award-winning program leverages the deployment of partnering community resources into the program architecture, enabling law enforcement officers to educate about social services, encourage referral and diversion, and, yes, enforce the criminal code – the “three E’s” of the SPD HOT Program’s integrated mission.
From 2016 to 2017 the City of Sarasota experienced a 32% reduction in the homeless population, as measured by the annual U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Point in Time (PIT) survey. In a June 22nd, 2017, article published by the Sarasota Herald Tribune, a senior ACLU representative is quoted as saying that the City of Sarasota “doesn’t deserve the title of ‘meanest city’ anymore” as Sarasota was previously ranked in 2006, by the National Coalition for the Homeless.
The SPD HOT Program works, is cost-effective and readily implemented. The program leverages and engages the deployment of existing local community resources into the HOT Program architecture through a partnership policing strategy that enables law enforcement to address criminal conduct through criminal code enforcement while protecting the constitutional rights of an at-risk population through diversion and deployment of social services. Achieved through a program of education, encouragement, and, yes, enforcement.
Individual Achievement Category – Didi Nelson, Law Enforcement Coordination Manager
The Law Enforcement Coordination Manager for the United States Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Georgia, Didi Nelson has served 43 years in the criminal justice system in multiple capacities. She has consistently promoted fairness and equality in criminal justice and has participated in and led initiatives to protect human and civil rights.
Ms. Nelson began her career as a criminal defense paralegal. In 1987, she became the first person to serve as the United States Attorney’s liaison with federal, state and local police agencies in northern Georgia. She has held the position for 30 years.
To gain a better understanding of the issues and challenges facing law enforcement, and on her own time, she became a sworn and certified peace officer. She served with a County Sheriff’s Office Reserve Unit, working every aspect of the job. She became a certified law enforcement instructor and has provided training to over 50,000 officers during her career.
The award nomination was based on Ms. Nelson’s four decades of work, but highlighted her accomplishments in developing a training curriculum that addresses practices that constituted civil rights violations, such as racial profiling, while balancing law enforcement procedures and enforcement.
In the aftermath of September 11, 2001 and the backlash of prejudice against Muslims, Ms. Nelson expanded the training to include terrorism and profiling. She conducted the training throughout the country and for several national law enforcement groups.
Ms. Nelson’s achievements demonstrate how any agency or individual can develop training that promotes enforcing the law while protecting human and civil rights.
2015 - Douglasville Police Department of Georgia
Greater Phoenix Area Human Trafficking Task Force of Phoenix, Arizona
Chief WIlliam Brooks of Norwood Police Department of Massachusettes
2014 - Broward Sheriff's Office of Fort Lauderdale Florida
Dearborn Police Department of Michigan
Sergeant Andre Bottoms of Louisville Metro Police Department of Kentucky
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