The Origins of the National Conference of Law Enforcement Emerald Societies

by Patrick F. O'Brien

    The origins of the National Conference of Law Enforcement Emerald Societies can be traced back to earlier organizations in the New York and New Jersey area. 

    The Grand Council of United Emerald Societies was formed in 1975, out of the New York City region was the first attempt to unite all emeralds under one banner. Due to the large number of Irish organizations in different professions in the New York region, there was a need for organizations to communicate and network with each other.  The Grand Council was comprised various emerald societies of police, fire, corrections, board of education, sanitation, transit, utility, and telephone professions. A large majority of these organizations were from the tri-state New York region; however, today they have affiliates in the Boston and Los Angeles.

    In 1994, the Grand Council of Police and Fire Emerald Societies of New Jersey was formed. This is a statewide organization focused on the police and fire professions.   Each county within the state had a chapter and members were comprised of the police and fire professions. 

    The origins of the National Conference of Law Enforcement Emerald Societies has an interesting past, winding through various states.  A path traveled was through Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC.

    Since the inception of Police Week in Washington DC in 1982, large numbers Emerald Society members and Pipebands attended the various activities in the nation’s Capital.  Patrick O’Brien a Police Emerald Society member in Washington DC attended these events. Government Leaders would give high praise to the exceptional work of members within various ethnic groups in public safety.  However, the Irish was never mentioned; although, half the names on the wall of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial were of Irish decent.  O’Brien felt there was a need to have national organization in Washington DC to preserve the legacy and accomplishments of the Irish-Americans in public safety professions.    

    In 1993,  O’Brien was the President of the Police Emerald Society of Washington DC solicited the help of Vice President Brian Manion of starting a national organization of public safety emerald societies. In 1994, Pres. O’Brien and V.P. Manion solicited the help of Thomas Hoban (Philadelphia E.S.) and William “Billy” O’Brien (Boston ES) of starting a national emerald society. In the 1990’s, Thomas Hoban and William O’Brien were the “roaming ambassadors of the emerald societies” visiting different cities and attending various events. Through the efforts of Patrick O’Brien and Brian Manion, the Washington DC Police Emerald Society provided funds to help start a national organization.  

    The founding meeting was held on May 14, 1995, at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill in Washington DC.   In attendance was Mr. Mike Mitchell (Florida Pipes and Drums), made a presentation of his idea of having a commemorative display case of public safety pipe bands.  Through this idea, became the origins of the National Memorial March.    Eighteen Emerald Societies were in attendance and tentative approved By-Laws for the national organization. Officer Thomas Creegan (NYPD-ES) made a proposal that was approved that the organization be named the National Conference of Law Enforcement Emerald Societies (NCLEES). Louis Walker (Nassau Co. PES) was a strong advocate of the idea and helped garner support for the young national organization. Mr. Michael Donegan (Legal Counsel for NY Emeralds) was an early supporter and became the first legal Counsel for NCLEES. 

    Over the years, NCLEES has been recognized by the United States Congress, City of Omaha, Nebraska, City of San Francisco and the City of Boston.  Many members of Congress and local leaders have attended and spoke at NCLEES events.  

    Through the efforts of the following individuals help establish NCLEES during the formative years: Barney Ferguson, John McLaughlin, Ray McGowan ( NYPD-ES), Mike Newton (Baltimore ES), Joseph Dowling, Brian Manion (PESDC), Louis Walker (Nassau Co. ES), Thomas Hoban (Philadelphia ES), William O’Brien (Boston ES) and Mike Flannery and Jimmy O’Connell (Illinois ES). 

    The cornerstone of NCLEES is to unite Emerald Societies under a national banner. To recognize the accomplishments of Irish-Americans in the public safety fields. To preserve history of Irish –Americans in this country.  To uphold and defend the constitution of the United States of America.