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E-Letter from America - Part 3

The Association’s NEC representative for gender, Det Supt Sam De Reya, is swapping Devon and Cornwall Police for the USA as she spends the next 10 weeks at the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia.

She’ll be blogging her experiences for us here.

Day one, week one:FBINA Session 273

It is my first day of lessons with classes starting at 0730 and finishing at 1700 or later Monday to Friday. I take five academic courses and a fitness module as part of the course.

First class – Leading At-Risk Employees
This class explores staff members suffering from alcohol/drug abuse, PTSD, stress/anxiety, depression and suicide within the law enforcement community.  Most importantly, how do leaders and organisations support people through the complex and extraordinary role we have chosen as a career?

I am the only female student in the class.  The student introductions are always interesting, this is my fourth so far, standing up to explain who I am, what we do and who we are.

There is a mix of US Police Captains, Chiefs of Police, County Sheriffs and Lieutenants along with the international students.

The US officers love to state their sporting allegiance, which will be their home state football or baseball team (or sometimes, soccer team) and rigorously rib each other about the most recent results.  They are all asking about the World Cup and are wishing us well in the UK…more of that later.

One of the discussions focused on US new recruits and the impact of the millennial generation.  They highlighted a general stereotype of student officers purchasing a huge truck and a new gun as part of celebrating their first pay packet!  What do UK new recruits buy with their first pay packet?

The group was asked how many organisations had programmes to review and support US officers after they had discharged a firearm on duty to ensure they were psychologically ready to go back out on patrol.  About half the group put their hands up.  The firearms culture here is eye-wateringly different to ours and will be something I am sure I will cover again and again in my blog.

Bill is the lead tutor for this course: should I be concerned?

Physical Fitness Class
This will involve health and wellbeing classes: three a week for two hours’ duration.  They focus on good practice for physical health and broader wellbeing through our law enforcement careers.

The facilities are incredible and make you feel part of something really special.  Lots of strength training and stretching and less about wear and tear on the body. It’s all about your best ‘mile run’.

I do all my physical training with my Section 3, all 45 of us, three women in total.  The physical assessment starts at 1130: it is 87F with 58% humidity (cold for Virginia at this time of year apparently – hmmmm……). They provide terrible sports clothes, so bad I can hardly attach the photos, which are mandatory and involve two layers of short. They are just not designed for the female physique.

We attend the huge gymnasium for the first day to stretch and gain measurements for the start of the course including weight (eek), waistline, standing jump etc etc.   We enter to Metallica blaring through the speakers, which makes me properly laugh and then the theme tune from Superman …cheesy!

Then out for a one mile run on the track.  I have 11 minutes 30 to complete the run and come in at 9.11. It is soooooo hot. The run is a worry for some and everyone encourages the others to get through and many run extra laps in support of their peers.  The three ladies get through.  The target now is to drop a minute from my time in increased heat by week eight.  The whole exercise cements the group’s team ethos, brings people together and makes me feel excited about these classes for the future.

The Yellow Brick Road
The Yellow Brick Road is a 6.1 mile obstacle course where each mile is marked with yellow brick markers.  It may sound like fun but it is actually a Marine-built run that requires students to climb over walls, run through creeks, jump through simulated windows, scale rock faces with ropes, crawl under barbed wire in muddy water, manoeuvre across a cargo net, and more.  Receiving the yellow brick is seen as a significant professional and personal achievement. Roll on week nine.

We are not allowed to practice on the course or visit it.  The only time we will see it is when we take the challenge in week nine.  All of our phys development will lead up to that day and that event to ensure we have the strength and the skills to pass the assault course.

So far there are other coloured bricks, invented by the students for stair climbing, swimming 34 miles, cycling and smoking cigars and drinking grey goose whiskey.  I think I will stick with the only official one and by my reckoning, the most important, the Yellow Brick road.

More on the classes in next post…

CNN news of President Trump’s visit to UK
Went to the boardroom for a beer tonight to be greeted by ‘TRUMP DOES NOT FEEL WELCOME IN LONDON’ with protest footage.  First question was ‘why don’t the Brits like us anymore?’ and ‘I thought we were allies’.  I explained that the protests were against Trump and not the US people and then spent some time translating the British banners in particular ‘Feed him to the Corgis!’

Being an international student
OMG it is officially exhausting being an international student.  It is Thursday and I am absolutely shattered.  Not that I am complaining!  So far we as a group of 24 internationals have provided 14 introductions, spoken at the welcome night, have been overcoming jet lag (not that bad actually) and had to get used to early starts and late finishes and events every night as part of our responsibilities.  The reason it is so tiring is because people are friendly, welcoming and want to know more about the UK and our policing. Equally my fellow students hold fascinating roles as leaders across the US and internationally in front line policing, anti-terrorism, at a county and local level in rural and urban environments. It is also imperative that I speak to as many people as I can to represent our country and force, ensure the value of having me here is felt and I learn from and share experience and knowledge with the other 228 students.

I have made instant connections with a number of students including the Police Commanders from Bermuda, Qatar, India, Peru and Cypurs.  My ‘roomy’ Efvy from Florida is great and really laid back. She is the Chief for the Bureau of Insurance Fraud under the Division for Investigation and Forensic Services.  Thank goodness, as that room is very very small.  She also has a car and is generous with her time, which helps to get off site.  This is really important as you can spend all day without stepping outside due to the climate control and glass corridors, which connect the buildings. It can feel a bit like life on another planet.

Food is a bit too plentiful….it is delicious…..I have heard the FBI Academy canteen described as the FBI cruise liner, minus the alcohol.  We can have alcohol but only in the ‘Boardroom’.  I need to get back to normal eating habits after french toast, bagels, crispy bacon and maple syrup this week.  I am not on a cruise…I am not on a cruise…

First weekend off
Weekend off has included study, laundry and visits to historic Civil War sites in Fredricksburg and Gettysburg, the latter on horseback.  The numbers of people they lost in the bloody battles is incomprehensible.

Everyone of the students stay over for the 10 weeks and are not allowed to go home Monday to Friday.  The majority of students have families and the youngest child to be left at home by an officer is five weeks old.  This makes my time away from my family more tolerable as we are all in the same boat.

At the end of the weekend, it feels like my first week has flown by.