By Jeff Gallatin
North Olmsted police Chief Jamie Gallagher and Rocky River police Chief Kelly Stillman became a part of history recently in the shutdown of the federal government.
Gallagher and Stillman were part of a group of police officers sent home from the FBI National Academy because of the government shutdown. The FBI holds the 10-week academy every year for police officers from around the world. The academy provides intense academic and physical training designed to make the officers and their departments better police.
“It’s the first time they’ve ever had to send officers home early since they started the academy in 1935,” Gallagher said.
The Westshore duo had only been at the academy for a few days when they were sent home. Gallagher noted that when academy officials saw the potential budget problems developing, they did try to make some initial arrangements to keep the class together.
“They thought about having us stay and do some weekends and extra time, but when they saw how things eventually weren’t happening, they made the decision to send us home,” he said.
Gallagher said FBI officials have assured the officers they will be brought back.
“Right now, they’re working on making arrangements for us to come back in April,” he said.
Gallagher said even in the few days they had, the experience was invaluable.
“We’re going to be getting a lot out of this,” he said. “The classroom work looks pretty intense, and the physical work will get you in shape if you’re not in it.”
He said the exposure to different departments and cultures will also be beneficial.
“We’d made friends with an officer from Turkey, which has a large and experienced national police force,” he said. “Chief Stillman also had become friends with an officer from Singapore.”
Westlake police Capt. Guy Turner, who is a graduate of the academy, said the officers will gain a lot from the experience – even if it’s later than expected.
“You make contacts from all over the country and the world,” he said. “That’s invaluable in terms of access to a variety of police methods and ideas, as well as contacts. You have them as a resource; if you have a case that reaches into other areas you can reach out to the contacts you’ve made.”
He said the shutdown could have some unfortunate side effects.
“Many of the police officers are from other countries, including some that don’t have a lot of resources and some that don’t have a real strong opinion of the United States,” he said. “This isn’t going to give them a positive impression of our government and how we operate. That could hurt relations or cooperation with them in the future, unfortunately.”