My Last Year

Within a couple of weeks, the IACA will announce the appointment of an Elections Committee, and we will begin receiving nominations for all five board positions for the 2013-2015 board term. For me, this process drives home that this is my final year a…

Within a couple of weeks, the IACA will announce the appointment of an Elections Committee, and we will begin receiving nominations for all five board positions for the 2013-2015 board term. For me, this process drives home that this is my final year as IACA president. Leading this organization has been the best position I have ever held, or could ever imagine holding, and I can't tell you how I'm going to miss it.

I think I can speak for all board members and all committee members, current and past, when I say that you never accomplish as much as you hope to. In recent months, my mind has turned to how much time I have left, and what I want to accomplish with the rest of it.

A long-forgotten document.

Our Vice President of Administration, Susan Smith, e-mailed me a few days ago and said she'd found a "strategic plan" that I'd put together as part of my 2006 campaign. I had forgotten about it and, when she mentioned it, I was afraid to look at it. I didn't want to be reminded of all the visions I had that didn't come true. But then, today, I had a phone conversation with her, and she said, "You really need to read it." So, with trepidation, I did. And within minutes, my trepidation vanished and was replaced with awe. I had really not taken into account everything that this great, all-volunteer association had managed to accomplish in the last six years.

I did the strategic plan as a SWOT assessment. Check out some of the things I wrote about the association in 2006:

  • "The IACA has never had much savoir-faire when it comes to managing its human resources...many of our committees suffer from lack of management...We generally rely on too few individuals to carry the bulk of work for the organization...We have generally failed to create and manage coherent, long range plans, including project plans and budgets." I'm not saying we're doing perfect in this regard, but wow have things improved. We have so many committees, and committee members, now that I struggle to keep track of them all. Each of them has a charter and budget, and the organization as a whole has a comprehensive budget.
  • "There is not a sense that the IACA is a very 'active' organization...We generally have few significant projects in the works at any given time." I had forgotten about that. Back in 2006, we were struggling just to manage our annual conference and our fledgling certification program. Since then, we developed our Professional Training Series, our international symposiums, webinars, publications, the Standards, Methods, and Technologies committee, our Crime Analysis Unit Development Center, online training, and one of the best web sites of any nonprofit organization.
  • "Despite our name, the IACA has never been truly 'international.' At most, we represent analysts in English-speaking nations, but we remain remote from even many of these." We still have a long way to go in this area, but I have to take pride in how far we've come. Our international membership has grown to encompass 41 nations. We've held our first international symposiums and established strong partnerships in Europe, South America, and the Caribbean. And we just formed an International Outreach Committee to better serve analysts around the globe.

Our first international symposium in Vancouver was a big leap forward for the association.

In the document, I proposed 21 action points for the coming years. I was surprised and happy to see that 14 of them have come to fruition, including a significant expansion in committees, an expansion of the leadership team, a better system of benefits for committee service, a crime analysis census (though we need to repeat it), a fundraising committee, a large Publications Committee, more partnerships with other organizations, a Professional Training Series, expansion of our certification process, more awards, more member benefits, better marketing of the profession to chief executives, the establishment of a committee much like our Standards, Methods, and Technologies Commmittee, greater internationalization, and continual improvements in our annual conferences.

Some of the ones that didn't happen strike me as a bit odd now. I proposed a gradual increase in the membership dues to $75 per year, concurrent with the introduction of new benefits and services. This will come as a shock to those board members who have heard me argue against any increase in dues for the entirety of my term. I'm not sure what I was thinking back then. I also proposed that we collect "historical documents, recollections and stories, and artifacts" of the profession and establish a Museum of Crime Analysis, which may be the silliest idea I've ever had.

The board and committees in the throes of strategic planning in 2009. Jim Mallard has just taken offense to something I said and is about to strangle me with his power cord. I still have the ligature marks.

Most of the other things that didn't happen have to do with organizational management, and I'm disappointed I didn't push harder here. I wanted yearly strategic planning sessions and formal training in nonprofit management for board members. We made an attempt at strategic planning in 2008, but I bollixed it all up, and it never went anywhere after that. This is an organization of 2,500 members, with a budget of nearly $300,000 per year, run entirely by well-meaning but untrained volunteers. It's a miracle we haven't had management, liability, tax, contract, or other problems faced by such organizations, and I would really recommend some kind of formal training for the next board.

I should mention that, when it comes to the successes of the past six years, I am not in any way taking credit. I'm glad to have been there, and to have facilitated what I could, but nearly every one of our accomplishments has been due to someone else's hard work. In some cases, I think I probably got in their way. In the chaos of day-to-day management, we sometimes forget what excellent, dedicated people we have serving on our board and committees. I don't say that to flatter. I look across this association and I see such intelligence and talent that it's staggering.

Together, we've accomplished great things, and we've raised the profile and professionalism of this field. In my last eight months with you, I want to try to squeeze out a little more. In addition to the continued progress of our many committees, I'm setting the following things as personal goals for the remainder of 2012, and I welcome any advice or assistance that you care to offer.

1. It's high time that we had a wiki. There have been attempts made on this before, but nothing that's come to fruition. I want a place where we can collectively pool our knowledge on the terms and concepts of our field--a place where, if you're attending a conference or reading a publication or Discussion List posting, and you encounter an unfamiliar phrase, you can quickly look up a concise, informative, and free definition.

2. While this field has made a lot of progress in various technical areas, I think we've continually lagged in the application of advanced statistical models to our data. There are better ways to measure change than percent change, better ways to predict the future than simple linear regression and moving averages, and better ways to evaluate than...well, really anything that most of us are doing. 49 years after the origin of the profession, it's absurd that we still haven't come to a resolution on issues like the minimum sample size we need for a spatial and temporal forecast, or whether we can use standard deviation as a predictive measure. I'd like to find a way to gather statisticians and practitioners and take a good look at what we're not using, what we're under-using, and what we're mis-using, and work towards better statistical literature for our field.

3. We had a professional census in 2008, but it only covered the United States, and it's four years out of date by now anyway. We need a method for an ongoing, regularly-updated survey of how many analysts exist, what their job functions are, how much they get paid, and other key variables.

It's a modest but reasonable list, and if I can make progress in all of them, I'll consider my last year a success.

I look forward to spending the next eight months working with you, and I hope I see as many of you as possible in Henderson. Thank you for being such a great association of which to be president. If you need to get more info of this, please send me a message.


Christopher W. Bruce
International Association of Crime Analysts