Throughout his 15-year career at the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office, Cmdr. Kevin Halweg has been to various conferences and training seminars, but nothing as extensive as the FBI National Academy that he recently attended.
From April 1 through June 8, Halweg was one of 264 people in this training program that former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover started in July 1935 to form strong partnerships between local, state, federal and international law enforcement officers.
The students in this 249th session of the FBI National Academy program came from 48 U.S. states and 24 countries. Besides local law enforcement officers, there were participants from four military organizations and five federal civilian organizations, according to Halweg.
The training takes place at the FBI’s Quantico, Va., facility where all its new recruits go. Halweg was the ninth member of the sheriff’s office to graduate from the FBI National Academy. The most recent was Sgt. John Pilz in 2005.
“You never want to stop building on your knowledge,” Halweg said. “I knew many people that had gone not just from our agency, but other agencies in the past. Just the opportunity to develop personally and professionally was the biggest aspect of it.”
There were several course options Halweg could choose from. He took courses in executive leadership, managing organizational change and development, officer-involved shootings and legal issues impacting law enforcement operations.
He went to Hogan’s Alley, which is the FBI’s tactical training facility, and was put in the middle of a shooting incident. Afterwards a fellow officer who was not part of the training exercise asked Halweg for his recollection of what happened. Then he watched the video tape and learned there were details he missed.
Halweg said this exercise was meant to show supervisors like himself that officers involved in a shooting will not always remember every detail. Another important aspect after a shooting incident is watching out for the officer. Even if the shooting was justified, some will have difficulty sleeping or have personal problems and supervisors need to be mindful of this.
“When your people are in an incident like this, the fact that they don’t remember facts is perfectly normal,” Halweg said.
The legal issues course covered hot topics such as when are search warrants are needed and the use of infrared and thermal imaging cameras, for example. These cameras are useful when investigating marijuana manufacturing operations inside homes because the lamps used to help grow the plants give off heat. A search warrant is needed for officers to use infrared or thermal imaging cameras.
The most fun portion of the FBI National Academy for Halweg was the physical fitness training. A block of time was set up each day for circuit training and there were challenge runs every Wednesday that got progressively difficult.
The final run was on a nearly seven-mile trail. The first half of the course utilized a trail built by the U.S. Marines over steep hills and through the woods. Along the way, runners must climb over walls, run through creeks, jump through simulated windows, scale rock faces with rope, climb over a cargo net and more.
The Marines placed yellow bricks at different points along the trail to show recruits the way to run. Thus, the trail became known as “The Yellow Brick Road.” Every person who completes the course receives a yellow brick. Halweg earned one of these. After running through half of the “Yellow Brick Road” course, they ran about 3.5 miles over hills to the finish line.
Halweg said the atmosphere at the FBI National Academy was similar to college because he shared a dormitory room with a deputy chief from the Everett, Wash., police department. They shared a bathroom with two others in an adjoining room. They were busy with classes every day and spent their evenings preparing for tests, papers and individual or group presentations.
Halweg and his roommate found time to watch the NHL playoffs though because both are huge hockey fans.
During the weekends, Halweg traveled around an area of the country he had never been to. He went to Gettysburg, New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., for example. He managed to come home for a couple of weekends.
The highlight of his weekend excursions was traveling to Ground Zero and going to the 71st floor of the new One World Trade Center tower being constructed. The reason he went to that particular floor is because that is the highest he could go.
Halweg said being in the area where the greatest national disaster of his lifetime happened on Sept. 11, 2001 was very impactful to him. One classmates was with The Port Authority Police Department when 9/11 happened and he spent months digging through debris at Ground Zero.
Through this experience, Halweg said he gained a lot of new friends who he can call or e-mail if he has questions. Everybody who has gone through the FBI course is listed on a website so alums can contact others with questions.
“You learn quickly that if I’m dealing with a new problem here, chance are somebody that I went to school with here has dealt with it before, and I can call Jerry from Colorado or Mark down in Miami. There’s so many people you can reach out to know,” Halweg said.
Sheriff James Stuart said there were several excellent candidates from the sheriff’s office who applied for the opportunity to go to the FBI National Academy, but he ultimately felt Halweg was the best choice.
“(Halweg’s) position as a division commander will also allow him to use his new training and insights to better lead our organization into the future,” Stuart said. “I am hopeful that we will continue to have additional opportunities for other members in the future.”
Eric Hagen is at firstname.lastname@example.org