SEARCH Board Selects Retired Executive Director Ron Hawley for 2013 O.J. Hawkins Award

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Ronald P. Hawley
The SEARCH Board of Directors is pleased to announce the selection of retired SEARCH Executive Director Ronald P. Hawley for the 2013 O.J. Hawkins Award for Innovative Leadership and Outstanding Contributions in Criminal Justice Information Systems, Policy and Statistics—SEARCH's highest practitioner honor.

Mr. Hawley, who retired in January 2013 after nearly 10 years as SEARCH Executive Director, is being honored for dedicating his entire 40-year career to the field of criminal justice. In particular, he is recognized for actively supporting and enabling justice information sharing at the state and national levels and for his efforts to ensure SEARCH remains a pivotal player in the justice community.

Prior to his SEARCH tenure, Mr. Hawley spent more than 30 years serving the State of North Carolina in a variety of investigative, operational, and leadership roles in justice and information technology. During that time, he was the governor-appointed representative to the SEARCH Membership Group, an elected member of SEARCH's Board of Directors, and later was an At-Large Member appointed by the SEARCH Chair.

Practitioner Honor

The O.J. Hawkins Award formally acknowledges an individual's service, dedication, and contributions that have improved the justice community's ability to develop and use criminal justice information. In particular, past recipients of the O.J. Hawkins Award have made outstanding contributions that have a broad-ranging impact, often affecting multiple states, justice disciplines, or branches of government.

It is the only nationally recognized, competitive award for contributions in the field of criminal justice information management, and is named for Orville J. (Bud) Hawkins, who was SEARCH's first Chairman and Executive Director.

Mr. Hawley was nominated for the award by SEARCH Member At-Large Dr. Al Blumstein, J. Erik Jonsson University Professor of Urban Systems and Operations Research at the H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management, Carnegie-Mellon University.

Statewide Justice and IT Leadership

Just before joining SEARCH in 2002, Mr. Hawley served for 2 years as the governor-appointed Chief Information Officer (CIO) of North Carolina, where he managed the operations of the Office of Information Technology (OIT) and helped develop statewide IT policies and procedures, and the enterprise architecture implemented by the state.

He began his career at the North Carolina Department of Justice, where he worked for 26 years, rising to the position of Assistant Director. In this role, he helped oversee the planning and implementation of an integrated statewide criminal justice information network.

"These positions enabled [Ron] to actively support and enable justice information sharing, and to recognize the value of creating and nurturing partnerships among different levels and bodies of government, the public, and the private sector to achieve information sharing goals," stated Dr. Blumstein in his nomination letter.

Organizational and National Leadership

It was during his tenure at the North Carolina DOJ that Mr. Hawley first became involved with SEARCH, as a governor appointee to the Membership beginning in 1993. He quickly became an involved and effective leader, becoming elected to the Board of Directors in 1995 and serving as Vice Chair from 1998-2000. Once he was appointed to be North Carolina's CIO, he continued his involvement with SEARCH as an At-Large Member.

He served on SEARCH committees and working groups, including the National Task Force on Privacy, Technology and Criminal Justice Information and as Chair of the NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) Working Group, whose mandate was to study state and local policies governing the disclosure of noncriminal justice data to conduct background checks on prospective gun buyers as mandated by the Brady law. He also effectively worked on SEARCH's behalf before the U.S. Congress, communicating the value of SEARCH's assistance and training efforts in the field.

His leadership qualities as a SEARCH Member were recognized by the Board when he was selected the 1998 recipient of SEARCH's top Member honor, the Board of Directors Award for Meritorious Service (now called the Cooper Award).

Mr. Hawley joined SEARCH Staff in 2002, as CIO and Director of Systems and Technology. The following year, the Board unanimously selected him to serve as Executive Director, following the retirement of then-Executive Director Gary R. Cooper. He assumed the helm of SEARCH staff when the organization was on the cusp of a period of transition.

The changes and challenges that faced SEARCH between 2003 and 2013 were significant, noted Dr. Blumstein. SEARCH had been one of the few and earliest advocates for justice information sharing, and it was a time of thought leadership that allowed SEARCH to bring together many of the best minds in the country to lay the foundation for the privacy and information sharing standards in place today.

Dr. Blumstein said Mr. Hawley's leadership has ensured that SEARCH remains a key player in the justice community: "Whether it's working with emergency communications officials to bring about a national public safety broadband network, or keeping law enforcement abreast of the latest tools available to fight high-tech crime, or helping the states as they grapple with how to provide the best service as changes in criminal-history-record law and policy continually present challenges, Ron has poised SEARCH to be a key player in each of these efforts."

Mr. Hawley also—

  • Worked with the SEARCH Board to institutionalize a new system of Board policy governance that paved the way for an efficient and successful Board—and organization. He was instrumental in helping craft the policies that now guide the Board in its work.

  • Was devoted to the mission of the Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative, serving on a number of its committees including as SEARCH's representative on the Global Advisory Committee and as a member of the Executive Steering Committee. Dr. Blumstein noted that GAC members have spoken eloquently about Mr. Hawley's service to Global and commitment to the national justice community—"particularly the courage he showed in challenging Global to work more effectively and to focus on the right issues."

    Through his leadership, Mr. Hawley brought many other SEARCH Staff into the Global collaborative effort, encouraging them to serve as dedicated leaders and contributors who offer expertise necessary for the success of Global.

  • Showed foresight and vision in his early advocacy of the FBI's Law Enforcement National Data Exchange Program (N-DEx)—which he was able to support during his service on the FBI Criminal Justice Information Services Advisory Policy Board (CJIS APB), particularly its Information Sharing Subcommittee.

    Mr. Hawley is credited as being an influencer who had worked to educate Members and others about the benefits of this important information-sharing tool that aims to put the right information into the right hands at the right time. Today, N-DEx enables local, state, tribal, and federal agencies to quickly "connect the dots" between data that may seem to be unrelated.

SEARCH presented the 2013 O.J. Hawkins Award to Mr. Hawley at an awards dinner during the Annual Meeting in Sacramento July 23.


The SEARCH Membership Group, which governs SEARCH, is comprised of one gubernatorial appointee from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the territories, as well as eight at-large appointees selected by SEARCH's Chair. This national body of state-level professionals is widely representative of the various disciplines within the justice system, and many are responsible for operational decisions and policymaking concerning the management of criminal justice information, particularly criminal history information. The Membership Group fosters cooperation and communication among justice system professionals in identifying and implementing solutions to common problems.