By Sue Botos
For the first time its nearly 80-year history, the FBI National Academy, an intensive program for U.S. and international law enforcement leaders, closed its doors due to the recent partial government shutdown. Unfortunately, Rocky River police Chief Kelly Stillman was part of the class sent home after only one week of what was to be a 10-week program.
“We were only there for one week, and that was extremely disappointing,” said Stillman upon his return. He and North Olmsted police Chief Jamie Gallagher had spent over a year going through the application process and were looking forward to representing the Westshore during the prestigious, invitation-only program at the FBI facility in Quantico, Va.
“Everything you hear about the academy is true. It’s nothing but the greatest thing since sliced bread,” Stillman commented. He added that his group of 255, including 24 international participants, will have the opportunity to resume their studies April 6 to June 13, 2014.
Although the stay was brief, Stillman said that quite a bit of networking between attendees had already taken place. “We really became a tightknit community. I can see why this is the chance of a lifetime,” he remarked. Aside from members of municipal police forces, representatives from federal, state and U.S. Marshals offices attended the program.
Stillman said that he was able to attend a daylong seminar about suicide bombers given by a presenter from Pakistan. “It was riveting. We were able to see videos that normally the public could never see,” he stated.
Topics to be covered once the program begins again include law, behavioral science, forensics, leadership development, communications, and health and fitness.
Although they were as disappointed as their American counterparts, Stillman said he felt no negativity from the international students, many of whom will be returning to Quantico in April. “Most were understanding of the situation,” Stillman said. In fact, Stillman said he has been corresponding with his roommate, who was from Singapore. Putting a positive spin on the situation, Stillman said the time until April can be spent keeping in touch with fellow participants.
“Ten weeks is long time to be away, but this is the chance of a lifetime,” Stillman said, adding that police personnel may only attend the academy once. “I wouldn’t be able to do this without the support of the mayor,” he added.
Mayor Pam Bobst remarked that despite the short stay, “Already Chief Stillman forged valuable relationships, and partnerships were started.”