In recognition of National Police Week and the upcoming 2024 election cycle, we sat down with Dr. Tracie L. Keesee, former Denver Police Department Captain, former NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Training, and former NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Equity and Inclusion, to recognize the work of law enforcement officers and the sacrifices they make, including their contribution to keeping our elections safe and secure.
Can you describe your current or past role in law enforcement?
My background is in policing. I spent 25 years with the Denver PD and then with the NYPD as their Deputy Commissioner of Training and then the Deputy Commissioner for Equity and Inclusion — I created that division for them.
I’m also the co-founder of the Center for Policing Equity, along with Dr. Phillip Atiba Solomon, and the organization is about 15 years old. We are a research think tank solely focused on issues of race and policing in communities. We are a science-based organization. I am, of course, just thrilled to be working with this group in regard to how we make elections safe.
With respect to your law enforcement experience and role as a member of CSSE, why do you think it is important that our elections are free, fair, and secure?
This is a democracy. Elections are supposed to be free and fair. This is who we are as Americans. You should be safe when you are going to exercise your rights. As law enforcement, we took an oath to uphold those rights and community members expect those rights to be protected. There’s no other way to talk about that. It’s an expectation of being an American.
When you lose the ability to vote, you also lose the ability to weigh in on your safety. That includes voting for sheriffs, voting for any kind of reform acts, any kind of council seat, and anything that has to do with your ability to be safe throughout your life. The other underlying issue is that safety has everything to do with your civil rights.
What value have you observed in partnerships between law enforcement and election officials? Feel free to share an example of how you have worked with election officials in your role in law enforcement.
We value the integrity of the process. We value equity, we value the rights of people, and we value your ability to exercise your rights. You see this in folks who do this work: they volunteer to do this. They get to election sites very early to sign you in. It’s what they do, and they do so at every election. They believe in how this works. Much like law enforcement, many are willing to put their lives on the line for your right to vote. And we’ve had folks who have done that. That is just incredible to me and sometimes we forget about that. We forget about the historical portion of this where people have died for this election process, for this right to vote. We often need to be reminded that for some folks, this did not come free.
Can you share some of your proudest accomplishments in your law enforcement experience where you feel you supported and advanced democracy?
I feel that on a daily basis — by allowing someone to exercise their right and providing their safety. You’re there to make sure the laws are applied fairly. That is what I did for over 30 years. Allowing folks to have access to justice and hoping that the system would work for them in an unbiased and fair way. Making sure that not only did I abide by the law myself, but hoping that others would follow my lead in implementing the law in a fair and unbiased way. That’s what a democracy is about: everybody’s rights.
Do you have any other thoughts that you would like to share about National Police Week?
National Police Week is a week that is important to all of us who’ve been in law enforcement because it is a way for us to remember those who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice. It’s a way for us to remember where we’ve been, but it’s also a reminder of how much it’s changed for the better and where we’re going. And it reminds us that safety is for everybody. We don’t select who gets to be safe.
Learn more about the Committee for Safe and Secure Elections here.