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E-Letter from America - Part 4

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:

Getting into the pace 

My day involves a 0600 wake up, cup of tea, dressed and out for breakfast, a long walk across the campus to class for 0730, two  two-hour classes to 1130 and then another two two-hour classes and lectures in the afternoon.

We finish at 1700 for dinner and then homework or fitness depending on whether you had it as a class that day.

International student welcome

The international welcome was a great evening.  We were invited with our supporters and roommates.  Each of the 25 international students were asked to speak and introduce their country.

I had a lot of material to draw from including Brexit and Trump’s visit to the UK.  India, Singapore and the US ribbed me mercilessly regarding colonial rule which I tried not to take personally.

Seminar in managing the law enforcement image

The aim of this course is to understand and evaluate the factors that affect law enforcement image, looking at effective external and internal communication and providing meaningful communication.

‘The ability to communicate well is a lawful enforcement leadership essential for modern policing” said our speaker Gail Pennybacker, and award-winning news reporter who worked in Washington DC for 30 years. She provided a powerful insight to the mindset of the press and meaningful use of social media.

We also heard from Ken White, a communication strategist for the US Marine Corp managing their public affairs, delivering the Marine image and managing operations as an advisor.  This included delivering a crisis communications strategy for Iraq, working with national intelligence agencies and Federal law enforcement.

One of our first assignments is looking at good, average and bad social media postings: I am surprised that many of the organisations represented at the Academy aren’t using social media platforms as part of their communications strategy.

Practical sessions are on the agenda this week to practice the communications strategy we have been taught. The focus is on how you deliver messages and speak to the community, not the reporter, when you are speaking to camera. Different scenarios are provided for each student, we have 10 mins to read and plan for a recorded interview with a reporter in front of the class.

Critical analysis of present-day policing

This class focuses on issues facing modern law enforcement, leadership and management, emphasising on problem solving.  It is run like a ‘think tank’ to share opinions on difficult topics and to challenge our thinking.

Topics discussed include ‘Why do leaders choose not to lead?’.

We also watched and then discussed two clips. One was the use of Smart cars by NYPD in central New York and one was a terrible police stop where officers detained a black male driving his own vehicle.  It showed them using excessive force and arresting him for resisting arrest despite the male committing no substantive offence.

I was relieved as we opened discussion that this behaviour was unanimously completely unacceptable to my peers and no-one stepped forward to defend the officers involved.

At the end of the footage the police department delivers a statement saying ‘the officers had acted within policy and done nothing wrong but the department were reviewing policy’.  Watch it and see what you think.

And how do you think the Smart cars went down initially in NYPD? Find out here.

Key issues that come up regularly in class are no different for law enforcement across the world.

  • Officers and staff health and wellbeing including risk of stress and PTSD
  • Overworked staff
  • CT and cyber crime threats
  • Increasing violence
  • Standards and ethics
  • Recruitment and retention

‘Patch and Pin’ Night
This is a National Academy tradition and involves each of the agencies swapping their organisations badges, pins, caps and coins.

I came away with 160 patches, 45 pins and 10 coins, which I will be putting into a frame for my office on my return.  I am sure my children will also be happy with the NYPD caps I received.

Law enforcement approaches to counter-terrorism 

This is probably my favourite class due to the trainer, who looks and sounds like Ray Ramano from “Everybody Loves Raymond’ (his reference not mine and it is true) but also because of the amount I have learnt so far.

We have had a run of stand-out speakers including FBI Unit Chiefs as specialists on ISIS and Al-Qaeda, the history of terrorism, international intelligence and current threat assessments.

The outputs for this course include contribution to learning forums, presentations and academic papers.

My first paper is due on the reality of de-radicalisation, in particular for the thousands of extremists returning from Syria to their home countries.

 Fitness continues with more sprints, circuits and strength work

 Our instructor informs me that the last English representative ran a 5.45 minute mile and knocked a further 30 seconds off his time by week eight.  Mentioning no names…Detective Superintendent Ian Hunter…No pressure then!

On a Wednesday the whole National Academy completed a fitness challenge. Last week was a 3K run and then off to the gym.  It felt like a fun run except there was no t-shirt or medal at the end.  This week a session named ‘The Cyclone’: full on 17 minutes of intense non-stop exercise.  Everything hurts!

This week we have moved to AC/DC for motivation…


This weekend consisted of some study, laundry and a trip to the cinema…but not any cinema.  This cinema had leather lazyboy type seats, a table and food and drink (including alcohol) served to your seat throughout the movie.  A movie, a burger and a beer later I spotted this astonishing vehicle on the way home…yes it is a coffin!

Weather is better in UK than here: we are into our sixth day of rain.

Policing in the US feels so familiar to UK policing but with some stark differences. Since I arrived at the Academy, 10 US Law Enforcement Officers have lost their lives through police shootings and violence on duty.  Many of them were just responding to low level calls and traffic stops.