For 12 weeks, St. Francis Police Sgt. Jake Rehling ran the obstacle course at FBI’s Quantico, Va., training facility, trained with fellow law enforcement leaders and studied for his college-level classes.
Since his return to the St. Francis Police Department in December 2011, Rehling has been putting to use the skills he learned in the FBI National Academy.
He trained on youth issues, domestic violence situations, legal issues facing law enforcement and in law enforcement management.
After attending the FBI training, “I take a different angle on things now,” said Rehling, who is the first St. Francis police officer to attend the FBI Academy in the department’s history.
Prior to being selected for the FBI-paid training program, Rehling had to go through an intensive application process, which started over three years ago.
The FBI is very selective and wants to train people who will become leaders in their agencies. Only three people from Minnesota were selected for his class, Rehling said.
Rehling has been working with the school liaison program and passing along the information he learned in the FBI’s youth violence/predators class since his return.
The class covered the current trends with youth including chemical uses, mental illness, upbringing and poverty as well as youth violence, like school shootings and child exploitation, Rehling said.
While St. Francis police see a lot of juvenile cases, most of them are civil cases, custody battles and other disputes, he said.
“Kids are impacted by the emotional aspect of (dealing with things) when their parents split up or (parents) are drug addicts or alcoholics,” said the 13-year department veteran.
Taking the FBI class, which was very in-depth, has given him an understanding of the difficulties impacting children, including attention deficit disorders and Asperger syndrome and why they happen, Rehling said.
The FBI behavioral science unit instructors gave officers an insight into the “why” of what kids are doing what they are doing, he said.
“We really learned what makes kids tick,” Rehling said.
Having that knowledge helps law enforcement to identify potential situations, like kids acting out, misbehaving and/or dabbling in narcotics or alcohol, and what may or may not drive the youth to become criminals, according to Rehling.
The training will help them as officers to catch the reason for the behavior and intervene before it becomes criminal, Rehling said.
“We were trained from the best of the best,” he said.
Rehling’s FBI class also trained with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
“It was eye opening. The training helps us recognize the potential dangers,” Rehling said.
During the DEA training, the drug trends in the various parts of the country and in other countries were highlighted.
In the Midwest, there is an influx of heroin, Rehling said.
Interstate 35 is a straight shot for the Mexican drug cartel, he said.
In St. Francis, officers are seeing some heroin use, especially in people in their mid-20s, as well as methamphetamine use, Rehling said.
Getting control of the drug problem starts with at the patrol level, where officers are catching the people carrying the drugs and using them, he said.
The information the local law enforcement departments gather helps the DEA get a big picture view of the drug problem, Rehling said.
Many of the class subjects Rehling took were in management and leadership.
Taking these classes was more than just enhancing his education, it was also about networking and learning from fellow law enforcement officials from around the globe, Rehling said.
The 250 students were from 42 states and 25 different countries.
Rehling’s FBI class included several chiefs of police, an Afghanistan police general and officers from Fiji, England, Philippines, Japan, Czech Republic, Colombia and Mexico.
“We got to bounce ideas off of each other and see how things are handled in their agencies,” he said.
The professional connections and friendship have continued beyond graduation, according to Rehling.
Many of the issues, from funding to training, that St. Francis deals with are similar to things a department in Clear Water, Fla., and it is nice to have people he can bounce questions off, Rehling said.
Attending the FBI National Academy gave him a better idea of what the FBI, DEA and other police agencies do and the resources they have to help other law enforcement agencies, he said.
It was an amazing opportunity and it gave him a different prospective on law enforcement, Rehling said.
Earning 17 college credits from the training has also encouraged Rehling to return to college and pursue a master’s degree.
Rehling is enrolled online with Bethel College and is studying police management and criminal justice. He expects to graduate in September 2013.
Tammy Sakry is at [email protected]