Commander Shawn Ellies, with the University of Pittsburgh Police Department, was elected to lead the Pittsburgh chapter of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), in January.

Commander Ellies will serve a two-year term as president, replacing Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Assistant Chief Lavonnie Bickerstaff.  NOBLE was founded in 1976 and includes chapters in six regions throughout the U.S. and internationally. “I’m honored to be elected to lead this organization, as it allows me even greater opportunity to continue serving the community, which is very important to me,” said Ellies.

A native of Pittsburgh’s Homewood neighborhood, Ellies said growing up there motivated him toward a lifetime of service. After serving in the U.S. Army Reserves, he joined the University of Pittsburgh Police Department in 1997. He currently serves as the Director of Security for the Integrated Security Division (ISD) of the Office of Public Safety and Emergency Management.    

Ellies has seen the effects of neglect in underserved communities such as Homewood.  “To be underserved and marginalized in this country often means living in a low-income African-American neighborhood, and those communities generally do not have resources.”

One of Ellies top initiatives with NOBLE will be working to increase educational opportunities for underserved youth. He has a special interest in setting up a tutoring program, particularly in areas of Pittsburgh with low academic scores. This support would go beyond academic subjects and include critical life skills, basic necessities, and scholarships opportunities. “Our goal is to try to give students opportunities and a better start — in learning and understanding,” he said. “Even though they passed their SATs and they’re bright, they don’t always have the necessary skills to navigate through the higher education system. We want to help them prior to going to college, so that they can be successful during their educational journey.”

Ellies said he will develop NOBLE’s efforts to further constructive conversations between law enforcement and the public. NOBLE is often requested by schools and community groups to talk about how police officers and community residents can improve relations. “It’s about trying to get young people to talk with us, to engage with us,” he said. “When you have an open and honest conversation with young people, they tend to see law enforcement in a different light.”

To help tap into communities and build trust, Ellies wants to strengthen NOBLE’s partnerships with local churches as well. “The nucleus in a lot of communities is the church. So we ask them, ‘How can we help the community?” The Pittsburgh Chapter of NOBLE has collaborated with local churches, and non-profits to support the community with events such as community clean-ups, providing and serving food to homeless veterans, and law enforcement training programs.

“I’ve always wanted to be of service,” said Ellies, “especially to those in the communities where I live, work and have established lifelong relationships.”