In recognition of National Police Week and the upcoming 2024 election cycle, we sat down with Neal Kelley, CSSE Chairman, former San Bernardino Police Officer and Riverside County Deputy Sheriff, 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?
For a combined total of six years, I served as a police officer (patrol, vice, special detail) for the San Bernardino Police Department and later served as a Deputy Sheriff (patrol and court services) for the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
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?
Elections are the cornerstone of democracy and are likewise the fabric of a stable and healthy democracy. Without truly free, fair, and properly run elections, society would fragment and eventually lead to chaos.
If you have also served as an election official, how does your law enforcement experience inform or influence that work?
Serving in law enforcement influenced my work as an election official a great deal, perhaps similar to how military experience might influence one’s work. It provided me with the tools to handle difficult circumstances, increased my awareness of security issues, and assisted me in addressing criminal complaints related to elections.
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.
In 2018, I decided to pause our approach to election security and created a partnership with our Sheriff’s Department and local District Attorney. The partnership still exists today. In addition, I brought our regional fusion center on board and formed a working group, which met weekly in the run-up to our major elections starting at 45 days out. At the table were the aforementioned along with DHS, the FBI, and intelligence teams from city police agencies in Orange County. From this, we were the first county in the country to produce a public election security playbook that was featured on the home page and Twitter feed for DHS. It was a game-changer for how we protected the election process in Orange County, and the impact of this partnership is still evident today.
Do you have any other thoughts that you would like to share about National Police Week?
I want to express my gratitude for people in law enforcement, I have tremendous respect for the work that they do on a daily basis to keep our communities safe, which includes assisting local election officials in many jurisdictions around the country.
Learn more about the Committee for Safe and Secure Elections here.