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SEARCH’s Board Honors Nearly 6-decade Career of Chief Harlin McEwen with its Top Practitioner Award for 2015


Chief Harlin McEwen

In a remarkable career spanning nearly six decades, Chief Harlin McEwen has strongly championed ways to improve the justice system ability’s to create and use information through public safety communications, criminal justice information systems, and policy development. 

The projects he has worked on continue to affect every level of government and every criminal justice discipline.  He’s been at the forefront of discussions that address such issues as:

  • Incident and justice information sharing, including adoption of national standards through the Global initiative
  • Public safety wireless interoperability and broadband
  • Identity, credential and access management (ICAM) 

“Wherever you find the nation’s leaders discussing [these issues], you are likely to find the Chief at the forefront of those discussions,” noted Mr. David Steingraber, Senior Policy Advisor at the National Criminal Justice Association, and an At-Large Member of the SEARCH Membership Group. “You will find him inevitably surrounded and collaborating with some of the most notable individuals in the business. We know Chief McEwen to always ask the tough questions, challenge others to think beyond the immediate future, and pursue issues others may avoid.” 

During his career and following retirement, Chief McEwen has supported justice and public safety information sharing efforts:

  • Life Member and Honorary President of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), chairing its Communications and Technology Committee for 36 years.
  • Governing Board Member representing the IACP on the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC), an effort he helped create to provide a unified voice for public safety telecommunications needs.
  • Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative, including Global Advisory Council (GAC) IACP representative, Global Executive Steering Committee (GESC), Chair of the Criminal Intelligence Coordinating Council (CICC), and Global Intelligence Working Group (GIWG).
  • Communications Advisor to the Major Cities Police Chiefs Association, the National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA), and the Major County Sheriffs’ Association.
  • Life Member of the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, the Association of Public- Safety Communications Officials-International (APCO), and NSA.

To honor his achievements and leadership, the SEARCH Board of Directors selected Chief McEwen to receive the 2015 O.J. Hawkins Award for Innovative Leadership and Outstanding Contributions in Criminal Justice Information Systems, Policy and Statistics—SEARCH’s highest practitioner honor. 

The Board’s selection took place in January at their 2015 Winter Meeting, held in Austin, Texas.  

Leadership and mentorship

Chief McEwen’s active leadership has also brought him into contact with countless law enforcement and public safety professionals, whom he has worked with and mentored. This includes many SEARCH Members and staff. 

Mr. Steingraber, who nominated Chief McEwen for the award, noted that as initiatives grow, priorities change, and technology evolves, Chief McEwen never loses sight of the core mission to support law enforcement, criminal justice, and public safety: 

“His vision for public safety and criminal justice in incident and information sharing interoperability has allowed the profession and the industry to expand and evolve, supporting innovative and unique growth of service, technology, and user community. 

Without question, his involvement improves … information sharing and interoperability. His contributions have vital significance to the criminal justice and public safety communities, and the safety of the officers on the street, as well as the citizens they serve and protect.”

– Mr. David Steingraber

Career Spans Decades

During a law enforcement career that began in 1957, Chief McEwen rose through the ranks to become Chief of Police for two New York municipalities, Cayuga Heights and Ithaca. Early on, he recognized the importance of implementing technology to support criminal justice and began to champion local and, eventually, national efforts. 

In 1996, he was sworn in as Deputy Assistant Director with the FBI.  During his FBI tenure, he provided executive oversight when new services were developed, including the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) 2000 Project and the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification (IAFS). 

Latest Efforts Focus on National Infrastructure, Standards

Since his retirement from the FBI in 2000, Chief McEwen has brought context, insight, and expertise to three major national efforts that support national justice infrastructure and standards development:

  • FirstNet. He chairs the FirstNet Public Safety Advisory Committee, which provides critical advice on how to best deploy and operate the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN). This network will enable public safety agencies to exchange information across jurisdictional and disciplinary boundaries, from virtually any location, using a wide variety of mobile devices.
  • Global. He is deeply involved in the Global justice information sharing initiative, which supports the broad-scale, standards-based exchange of pertinent justice and public safety information in a secure and trusted environment.
  • ICAM.  He is involved in national efforts to improve public safety and criminal justice information sharing/interoperability through secure access to available incident and criminal justice data. 

SEARCH will present Chief McEwen with the Hawkins Award at its 2015 Annual Meeting next July in Minneapolis.

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.
  • past Hawkins Award recipients have made outstanding contributions that have a broad-ranging impact, often affecting multiple states, justice disciplines, or branches of government.
  • the only nationally recognized, competitive award for contributions in the field of criminal justice information management
  • named for Orville J. (Bud) Hawkins, who was SEARCH’s first Chairman and Executive Director.
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