Thursday, October 4, 2012

Week 1 - Settling in...

As I approach the end of my first week here, I am finally beginning to feel as if I am getting settled in to a routine.  I have attended all but one of my classes at this point and have attended some more than once.  On Monday there was a "drop/add day" to give students the opportunity to change their schedules.  Although I had originally planned on being content, I got restless and decided to tweak things.  I had originally signed up for three graduate level classes with the rest being undergraduate.  I then read that those students who took at least four graduate level classes would receive a graduate certificate in criminal justice from the University of Virginia.  Although I already have a masters degree, I still like to get "stuff" so I embarked on a mission to change my schedule around to squeeze in another graduate class.  I was able to accomplish this by simply switching my undergraduate statement analysis class to the graduate section at a different time with a different instructor.  It was rather serendipitous in that I now have someone who I have heard is one of the best instructors at the NA.  Since I also have her for Investigative Analysis of Verbal and Nonverbal Behavior, I'm taking a double leap of faith.  Switching this resulted in a conflict for Psychology of Leadership but allowed me to pick up The Law of Police Operations which is primarily focused on constitutional law such as search and seizure, use of force, and protests/freedom of speech.  It should be a good complement to my labor law class.  I also added a special five-week criminal justice research class.  So, after a couple of switches I am now taking:  The Law of Police Operations, Labor Law Issues for Law Enforcement Administrators, Solving Ethical Dilemmas in Law Enforcement, Interviewing Strategies Through Statement Analysis, Investigative Analysis of Verbal and Nonverbal Behavior, Criminal Justice Research, and Fitness in Law Enforcement.  While I had been advised to not "load up" on graduate classes since I won't be putting them towards a masters degree like many here, I am looking forward to the challenge.  Since this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, I want to take advantage of every opportunity.

I am very excited about all of my classes and have to say that the instructors all appear to be second to none.  Most are FBI agents with 20-30 years of experience.  One example is my Labor Law instructor who, after graduating law school, began her career as an agent, later became the general counsel for a large field office, and is now the Unit Chief for Legal Instruction at the FBI Academy.

While I am excited about classes, I am equally excited that I have been blessed with a good roommate.  Not having lived with anyone other than my wife and children since college, I was a bit apprehensive about being "stuck" in such close quarters with a stranger.  I am relieved to say that he couldn't be more normal in his taste of music/food/television, sleep habits, hygiene, etc.  Considering my first college roommate experience (let's just say we didn't even survive the entire first semester), I couldn't be happier.  He is an Inspector with the Santa Cruz, CA District Attorney's Office.  He is also a former deputy sheriff, so he and I share a common past and have had some enjoyable conversations.

Everyone I have met here has been both friendly and professional - without exception.  The new agent trainees are all very courteous and even helped us move our luggage and other belongings in on the first day.  I am looking forward to next Wednesday night which is known as flag night.  All of the NA students from each state meet under their respective state flags in the cafeteria.  The new agent trainees who have just learned about their first field office assignments will then come in and proceed to the state flag of their assignment to be welcomed to the state and make what will likely be their first contact with state/local law enforcement.  There are three of us here from SC, as I am joined by a lieutenant from the West Columbia Police Department and the Deputy Chief of the Winthrop University Police Department.

The NA does a fantastic job of fostering relationships and encouraging networking.  I have already had so many opportunities to meet so many people from so many different places.  We have students from 29 different foreign countries to include Afghanistan, Iraq, France, the Ukraine, Finland, Nigeria, Canada, the United Kingdom, Poland, Argentina, Germany, Mongolia, and Taiwan.  What I have noticed is that while laws and tactics may be different, police officers are the same everywhere.  We have several very funny guys from the New York area who have taken to picking on each other in typical cop fashion.  As they exchanged good natured insults, I wondered to myself if the foreign students would understand the nuances of the humor.  As I turned to my new Polish friend next to me, he was already laughing and answered my question before it was asked by saying, "Cops are the same everywhere!"  The American students here represent 49 states plus the District of Columbia (West Virginia appears to not be represented for some reason).  They represent municipal, county, and state law enforcement agencies that range from small towns with fewer than 10 officers to New York City with more than 40,000 officers.  We also have several federal students representing all branches of the military and such agencies as the Uniformed Division of the Secret Service and the Pentagon Police.  What's so great is that as we sit in the cafeteria or talk before class, there is no segregation based on agency type or size or geographic region.  There is no disconnect between the 30 year old officer with 8 years of experience and the 55 year old officer with 30 years of experience.  While I have known the bonds and camaraderie of a shift of officers or deputies who work with each other and depend on each other in life threatening situations, I am still amazed at how quickly and naturally over 260 strangers from 49 states and 29 countries have begun to bond.

Traditional NA photo at "the sign".

Fitness is big here - even amongst the deer who frequent the track.  They are clearly in on the secret that the gun fire that can be heard in the area is not directed at them.

It's getting late and for the first time in 10 years, I have homework, so I better run.  Next time I will provide a glimpse into some of the physical training we are doing here.

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