Guardians of the March: Origins of Black Law Enforcement Associations

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February 23, 2024 | 2:00pm Eastern
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The New York Police Department Guardians Association, founded in 1943, played a key role during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963. The Guardians were part of the legion of 1,500 unarmed, off-duty police officers tasked with providing protection for the event’s speakers as well as the 250,000 demonstrators who assembled on the National Mall during what is regarded as one of the most momentous displays of civilian activism in United States history. Their role in the March on Washington was featured prominently in the recent award-winning Netflix biopic Rustin.

This Black History Month, the National Law Enforcement Museum will host a program to highlight the triumphs of the Guardians Association and the experience of the officers who are members of the fraternal organization – both past and present. We will examine their achievements, the hardships they’ve faced, the impact they’ve had on the experience of black law enforcement officers in the NYPD and beyond, and their influence on organizations like the National Black Police Association (NBPA) and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE).

Introductory Remarks

  • Gary Smith, Senior Director Assets Protection, Target Corporation

Keynote Speakers

  • Rodney Bryant, President, NOBLE
  • Willie Williams, National President, National Black Police Association


  • Ronald Hampton, Former Executive Director, National Black Police Association


  • Haneef Nelson, NYPD (retired)
  • Terry Watson, Founder, Strategies for Justice, BWMP LLC
  • Ali Al-Rahman, Ph.D. Professor, SUNY Nassau
  • Charles Billups, NYPD (retired)
  • Sgt. Patrick Gordon, NYPD, President, The Guardians Association’s NYPD Chapter


Ronald Hampton

Former Executive Director, National Black Police Association

Ronald E. Hampton is the former Executive Director of the National Black Police Association and a retired Twenty-three veteran of the Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department. Additionally, he served as a Law Enforcement Fellow at the University of the District of Columbia’s Institute for Public Safety and Justice. Presently, he is serving as a family support worker for the Georgia Avenue Family Support Collaborative working in schools with families and students.

Mr. Hampton is reputed for his outstanding community work with the citizens of the Third Police District in Washington, D.C. in crime prevention and participation and relations. Due to his extension experience and knowledge in community relations and policing he has been afforded education and training opportunities locally, nationally, and internationally. Additionally, he was involved in designing and delivering community policing and problem-solving training for residents in public housing, as well as overseeing a project dealing with intervention and crime prevention through alternative community sentencing. 

Over the years Mr. Hampton has worked with the U.S. Department of Justice, the American University’s Washington Semester School Criminal Justice Program and Amnesty International USA on a range of criminal justice and human rights issues. Also, he has served as a consultant-educator to the Presidential Carter Center of Emory University Human Rights Program which has led to work in Ethiopia, Guyana, Britain, Canada, and the Bahamas. In 1996, Mr. Hampton led a People-to-People Delegation of Law Enforcement members to South Africa. Lastly, I have the pleasure and honor of serve as the President of the D.C. Autism Society. Additionally, convening a group of individuals interested in the total re-imgaging of public safety and law enforcement. 


Haneef Nelson

NYPD (retired)

Haneef Nelson is a native New Yorker, born in Harlem. He’s an Author, Poet and Lecturer. The author of the book series, The Poet And The Teacher. A former Marine, retired Detective of New York City Police Department; and Associate Executive Director Harlem Hospital. He has a degree in Health Systems, is a Certified Fraud Examiner, Sports Educator and Assignor.

He is the former President of SUBOA, (Sports United Benevolent Officials Association) former President of Cerbus (Black Police Officer, New York City Police Department) Former President National Council Of Police, founding member of National Black Police Association, Executive Secretary of PBA of New York City Police Department.

He lives in Mount Vernon New York with his wife Marilyn. He has four Children, Four Grand Children, five Great grand Children and he served as a member on the Board of Ethic for the City of Mount Vernon. He is a member of Greater Centennial AME Zion church and serves in the music Ministry, Vice President Men’s Ministry, Chairmen of the Board of Trustees and is a member of the Board of Greater Centennial Credit Union, the Alternate Delegate to Annual Conference.

Terry Watson

Founder, Strategies for Justice, BWMP LLC

Terry Watson is a professional speaker, author, and trainer who specializes in the topics of disability equity in education, racial justice, and law enforcement. Mr. Watson has more than 15 years of working in higher education and more than 25 years of providing workshops on the topics of bias and discrimination, addressing generational trauma, and confronting racism. Mr. Watson is the founder of Strategies for Justice, BWMP LLC, a platform for people of color in law enforcement to engage their communities and build trust through their narratives.

As the Assistant Director of Student Disability Services for Penn State University World Campus, Mr. Watson works closely with faculty, designers, and student-facing units. In this capacity, he helps shape practices, procedures, and policies to include individuals with diverse abilities. In his training workshop, Beyond Accommodations, he examines pedagogy through the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) lens and provides insight into inclusive practices. Through this training, Mr. Watson addresses the needs of student populations and prepares participants to develop institutional competencies.

Mr. Watson has also been presenting The Battle With Moses People since 2014. In this spoken-word presentation, he describes the lives of Samuel J. Battle and Moses P. Cobb, who were instrumental in breaking down the racial barriers for police officers in New York City in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Through this historical lens, he engages participants in the dialogue of what happens when #BlackLivesMatter meets #BlueLivesMatter. Cobb and Battle (both ancestors of Mr. Watson) are known for their perseverance and integrity as they dealt with racism and injustice inside and outside the force. The Battle With Moses People challenges the perspectives of others while encouraging civil discourse from all.

More recently, Mr. Watson authored his first book, Welcome to the Sick Mind of a Sane Person: Deconstructing Racism and White Supremacy, and helped pen (Senate Bill S7209) also known as Cariol’s Law (, which proposed legislation to have a mandatory stature on police bystander intervention, provide protection from retaliation, require external investigation with mandated reprimanding for abuse or misconduct, create a required reportable registry. In addition, Mr. Watson has interviewed law enforcement officers around the country to document their narratives in a book called The Battle Continues With Moses’ People (pending publication). Mr. Watson is also the host of the web series Moses’ People Speak: Race, Conversations, and Law Enforcement.

Locally, Mr. Watson also serves as State College NAACP Educational Planning co-chair. Chair for Community & Campus In Unity, and the Co-Chair for the Commission on Racial/Ethnic Diversity (CORED).

Ali Al-Rahman

Ph.D. Professor, SUNY Nassau

Ali is the Chairperson of the non-profit The Positive Enlightenment Foundation, a nonprofit organization that seeks to keep young men and women off the street, and educates ex-offenders during their transition from incarceration to civilian life. The foundation’s program, uses the violence reduction techniques used on Rikers Island by the Institute of Inner Development (IID) program, which was developed by Ali during his career at the New York City Department of Corrections.

Previously, Ali was Commanding Officer and Chief Administrative Officer of two of the largest correctional facilities on Rikers Island in New York City. During his twenty twenty-three-year career, he reached the highest civil service positions in the New York City Department of Corrections. As a Corrections officer and later as a Captain Ali and his colleagues founded the Brotherhood of Islamic Police Officers, a group that seeks for equality for Muslims in the New York City Department of Corrections. Their efforts led the city to supply halal meals, hire Islamic Chaplains, conduct Jumah services, and recognize the two Eids.

During his career, Ali appeared on many television and radio programs to speak on public safety, civil rights, and politics. Ali is the author of “We Learn by Trial,” his memoir as dictated to Don Durant with a foreword by news journalist Dominic Carter.

Ali al-Rahman holds an A.S. Degree in Correctional Administration and a B.S. Degree in Sociology/Criminal Justice from Regents College, University of the State of New York, an M.S. in Social Science from Long Island University, and a Doctorate in Social Science from Columbia Pacific University.

Charles Billups

NYPD (retired)

Charles Billups is a Law Enforcement Consultant on New York Policing and New York Correction policies and he serves as a Criminal Investigator for different New York law firms. Billups is a past member of the NYCLU Advisory Task Force Board on Police Brutality and Community Policing, and many other organizations in the law enforcement community in New York State. Billups retired after 25 years in law enforcement, and as a New York State Municipal Police Instructor.

Billups currently serves as the Chairperson for the Grand Council of Guardians, Inc., an umbrella organization, formed in 1974, that consists of over a dozen African American fraternal organizations in the field of Law Enforcement throughout New York State. His post-retirement work focuses on his passion for bridging the gap between Black Law Enforcement and the communities of color that they serve.

Sgt. Patrick Gordon

NYPD, President, The Guardians Association’s NYPD Chapter

Patrick Gordon is a native New Yorker who grew up in Brooklyn NY, and attended New Utrecht high school as well as Metropolitan college of New York. In 2009 he began his career as an NYPD Traffic Enforcement Agent, assigned to Brooklyn North Traffic enforcement division, in 2012 he was promoted to the rank of Police officer in the New York city police department, in December 2019 promoted to the rank of Sergeant and in February of 2022 promoted to Sergeant Special Assignment in the NYPD.  He is currently assigned to The Office of the Chief of Department. He has also been assigned to the 79th pct., 88th pct., PSA 3, Strategic Response group, 83rd pct., Patrol Borough Brooklyn North, Community Affairs Bureau and Office of the Police Commissioner. 

Patrick is also the sole owner and operator of Bedstuy Karate Do, a martial arts school/ afterschool program that services over 110 families in the Bedford Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn.  Being the owner of Bedstuy Karate do has provided him with a number of benefits, from being able to financially support his community through giving back to the community via, toy drives, scholarship, feeding the community and etc.  as well as meeting people who have served as life mentors (LT. LARRY FRANCIS, LT. TYRICE MILLER, SGT GREG GREEN).  He has also served as the Chairperson for NOBLE NY community outreach and has had the awesome privilege of orchestrating many of the programs carried out by NOBLE NY community outreach committee, these events included a 1300 back to school book bag and school supply give away, a thanksgiving community dinner hosted by NOBLE NY which fed nearly 300 people, a police and community Christmas event that supplied over 1,000 children with free toys and electronics as well as a 54 bike give away. He has served as the instructor for a free NYPD entry exam course hosted by NOBLE NY, where we’ve offered courses to young people taking the police exam.

Patrick has been a vocal advocate serving as President of the NYPD Guardians Association and previously served on the Board of Directors for the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, New York Chapter. Patrick has been outspoken in assuring the black community within the NYPD continue to strive for promotion, remain competitive and have healthy and beneficial careers. He currently holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Emergency Management and Business Continuity & a Masters of Public Affairs, Public Administration from Metropolitan College of New York.

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Feb 23, 2024 @ 02:00 PM


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