June 13, 2012

FBI NA #249 Recap



My intent was to give weekly updates during my time at the NA, however, plans were derailed by my having to dedicate so much time to catching up on the work that I needed to complete for the end of the session.  Being out of commission midway through with pneunonia really messed up my cadence – especially since I was on track to finish everything at the very last minute per my usual modus operandi. 

In week 9, I had successfully turned in my last paper and given my last presenation and was prepared to sit back, breathe a sigh of relief, and uncork another bottle of wine.  That didn’t happen.  Being a hobbiest photographer (that’s code for “wannabe”), I volunteered to be the class photographer.  My favorite place to be is behind the camera so I thought I could really capture the essence of our 10 weeks together.  I think I succeeded in that goal but I didn’t realize that the FBI NA Staff was looking for someone to do a slideshow compilation of the pictures for our graduation.  Well, to be clear, I did know this but I just assumed “someone else” was going to do it because I had a lot on my plate with earning my yellow brick and my purple brick and taking pictures in between.  There was no one else, so in typical “me” fashion, I volunteered last minute to put together the 19 minute slide show.

Now, if this sounds like a non-issue, then you clearly have never met me.  I devoted 4 days straight to researching the best slideshow software, compiling the perfect photos, gathering meaningful music to ensure a few tears, matching the music, adding transitions.. well, you get the idea.  I can tell you that the NA has pretty vigorous academics and yet I didn’t stress out hard-core until working on the slideshow. 

It would keep me up at night because I worried 1) that I would unintentionally leave someone out and 2) that it would fail to play during the graduation.  The latter might seem like an odd fear but I have been known to have technical difficulties right before a presentation.  Public speaking doesn’t scare me, but my powerpoint failing does.  Well, it all worked out and it played beautifully and it was worth all the time invested because it captures our 10 week journey pretty spectacularly (yes, my back is sore from patting myself).

But this isn’t about a slideshow or excuses for not completing my weekly blog like I promised my followers.  This is a recap of my experience at the FBI National Academy.  It’s only been 2 days since re-entry into the real world and I can tell you that I miss the people terribly.  I knew I would meet some great people and forge new friendships but I did not realize the breadth and the depth of the relationships that would be cultivated.  Spending 10 weeks in such close quarters was not very appealing to me as I packed my bags and headed for the academy.  Spending 10 weeks in such close quarters became the reason I will have friends for life.  It’s an accelerated process of building relationships and I have some clarity about that now.

Lifelong Friends

As for the NA itself, I learned a lesson that I’m going to apply to my own police department.  I got a bit frustrated with the rules at the NA.  Well, just one in particular.  We had to dress in our NA uniforms to walk to the locker room where we would then change into our PT clothes.  After PT, we would have to put our NA uniforms back on to walk to our dorms to shower if we didn’t shower in the locker room (and I never did because I freak out about mass showers.. but I digress).  So, I started being a little defiant and walking to the gym from my dorm in my PT clothes.  Now, I wasn’t the only one to do it but you can bet that I was the only one to get caught (story of my life). 

My FBI Counselor scolded me and told me to comply with the rules which clearly state that you cannot be in the halls in your PT clothes but he couldn’t tell me why.  I have had pretty good success in my life by respectfully questioning authority because I like to know why rules are being implemented.  If someone can give a reason (even if it’s a mediocre reason), I’ll comply.  But in this case, I was told “because those are the rules” and it was unsettling to me. 

My classmates quickly learned that if you snuck out the side door of the dorm building in your PT clothes, you are technically not in violaiton because you aren’t in the halls, but I have got to tell you how damn funny it was to see gaggles of NA students running accross the courtyard in their PT clothes from my window.  Police executives turned into delinquents and all for a rule that was inconvenient and non-sensical. 

This made me think about the police officers in my own agency who are constantly questioning a policy or a directive.  So many people complain about the “Y” generation but I identify with their need to attach meaning to something.  I’ve always thought that we (the Command Staff) should take the time to communicate the reasons behind the directives.  And if we cannot provide a logical answer for WHY we are adhering to a particuluar rule, then maybe it’s time to re-evaluate.  I’m going to remember this lesson as I lead in my own organization. 

For those of you attending an upcoming academy session in the future, the side door is off Jefferson dorm and you can sprint across the courtyard in your gym clothes to the side door near the gym.  Run fast so you are blurry.

Overall, the experience was the best I’ve had in my career.  The academics were challenging and the instructors were brilliant but the real learning came from the other 263 police officers that I met.  It was such an honor to be able to share ideas and best practices with them.  My biggest take away, however, was unexpected.  I learned that my police department is extremely progressive as I found myself saying, “we already do that” when my Labor Law Professor presented the most recent case law.  It seemed that a lot of departments are behind the times and I was (I am) extremely proud to be a part of an agency that is professional and progressive.  Sometimes you have to venture out to realize everything is good where you are.

I came back to work the Monday after graduation and I must admit that I was in a bit of a fog as I tried to assimilate back into the real world.  I found myself caught between the FBI NA world and reality and I probably should have taken a few days off to make the transition more smooth.  But there is work to be done and learning to be applied.  I look back on my National Academy journey fondly and continue on my own “Yellow Brick Road” of life where the obstacles are the same — but different

The 6 mile obstacle course:  “The Yellow Brick Road”

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