NUCPS Global Reach Grows

NUCPS Crash Reconstruction graduation in Kuwait

Northwestern University Center for Public Safety continues to expand and enhance our global reach and engage with public safety partners abroad. Over the last month, our faculty and instructors have participated in two international programs and their graduations: SPSC, in Kosovo; and, Crash & Reconstruction, in Kuwait.

"While our students in our Evanston and other U.S.-based classes are enthusiast and dedicated, our international students, like those in Kosovo and Kuwait, bring a heightened sense of excitement to our programs. Not only is teaching in their locations a unique experience for us – getting to know these students, their culture, and their work environments is inspirational and really gives staff an idea of the a global reputation associated with Northwestern and NUCPS,” says NUCPS Associate Director Victor Beecher, who returned from his first trip to Kosovo this month.

NUCPS has offered its SPSC program in Kosovo on a nearly annual basis since 2010. Just like other on-ground locations, the Kosovo SPSC program lasts a full 10 weeks. This month’s graduating class elected Rrahim Rexha, Director of Department, Department of Finances and General Services, Kosovo Academy for Public Safety, as their Franklin Kreml Leadership Award recipient. U.S. Ambassador to Kosovo, Greg Delawie, addressed the graduates, stressing the importance of the Kosovo – U.S. partnership and its benefits for both countries. Beecher and NUCPS Executive Director Dave Bradford were both on hand to congratulate each participant.

Kosovo SPSC student shakes hands with U.S. Ambassador Greg Delawie In Kuwait, NUCPS has partnered with the United Nations Development Programme to help build the state’s traffic safety program. NUCPS has a history of working with different Middle Eastern countries that reaches back to the early 1980s. In this most recent program in Kuwait, NUCPS partnered with the UN to bring Traffic Crash and Reconstruction programs to the Kuwait.

NUCPS Instructors Roger Barrette Adam Hyde worked with the Kuwaiti class. “It was a truly rewarding experience to work hand in hand and guide new crash reconstructionists in this highly specialized field.  During the entire program, NUCPS instructors and I were able to help forge the foundation for a new Kuwait traffic safety program that will be implemented over the next few years, with anticipated results of a reduction of fatal and injury traffic crashes,” remarked Hyde.

The Crash and Reconstruction programs are significant steps in Kuwait’s traffic safety mission of increasing safety while reducing fatalities, injuries, and damage. The NUCPS – UNDP partnership offered the participants the necessary foundation for proper crash analysis. Understanding best practices for proper crash analysis will provide high-quality data for other root cause analysis, including geographical, roadway design, and flow or incident time concerns. This research is critical to helping Kuwaiti officers understand what violations are being committed that lead to the serious crashes. As Hyde remarks, the data will “enable better prevention and countermeasure programs to flourish and it will aid in reducing the severity of the crashes that do occur.”

At the tail end of the 7-month program, Barrette and Hyde were given a tour of the Kuwait Division of Traffic and the opportunity to host round table discussions about local current and future traffic goals. The instructors also had the chance to visit a local police department, where they hosted lengthy discussions with the Public Prosecution Division, Investigative Division, and Technical Expert Division about current Kuwait crash incident procedures compared to U.S. methodology. According to Hyde, “The discussions which took place were a great launching pad to develop streamline collision investigations and best practices which are in line with those in place in other countries, such as the United States. Because we are one team, our resources will always be available to assist the Kuwait Police and its members as they embark on development of a new traffic strategy and try to get to the core of their crash problem.” Hyde and Barrette both believe the relationships that have developed through the program between the Ministry of the Interior, the United Nations Development Programme, and Northwestern University Center for Public Safety will foster opportunities to work together again in the future.

The Kuwait program began in October 2016 and culminated with the May 2017 graduation, where Ministry of the Interior, Division of Traffic, Assistant Undersecretary (Director General) Fahad Al Shwaye personally presented each participant with their certificate.

Pictured at Top: Kuwaiti graduates, NUCPS instructors, and Kuwaiti officials at the the completion of Crash Reconstruction.
Pictured above at Right: A Kosovo SPSC student shakes hands with U.S. Ambassador Greg Delawie at graduation.

Improving Performance & Wellness: Mindfulness Training Comes to Law Enforcement

 

Mindfulness and law enforcementNFL teams participate in yoga. The U.S. military has embraced acupuncture. Olympic Gold medal-draped swimmer Michael Phelps introduced mainstream America to the Eastern practice of cupping. And popular, westernized mindfulness training is now making appearances in law enforcement agencies throughout the U.S. with the goal of providing officers with internal tools for reducing stress, improving on-the-job performance, and lessening the risk of long-term, job-related health problems.

Mindfulness involves maintaining a moment-by-moment, nonjudgmental awareness of our thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and our surrounding environment. Thoughts are focused on what is being sensed in the present moment, rather than dwelling on the past or imagining the future. 

From night shifts, emotional victims, dangerous apprehensions, and exposure to disturbing crime scenes—not to mention all the paperwork—it’s no surprise that an officer is at risk for significant stress-related illnesses. Insomnia, depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks, chronic fatigue, and strokes are just a few of the common side effects of a law enforcement career. The benefits of mindfulness training (also known as Mindful Based Stress Reduction, or MBSR) for law enforcement have the proven potential to not only improve an officer’s health but his or her job performance and family life.

University researchers, including those at Northwestern University Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, have performed thousands of scientific studies that empirically support the benefits of regularly practicing mindfulness. These scientifically-proven benefits include:

  • Reduction of stress, anxiety, and depression;
  • A decrease in blood pressure and chronic pain;
  • An increase in awareness, clarity, and acceptance; and,
  • An improved immune system.

Regular mindfulness exercises can help all types of public safety professionals develop internal skills for handling the stress of the daily grind. When officers are able to reduce stress and anxiety and utilize tools for processing difficult emotions, they are less likely to react with intimidation, aggression, or violence in ambiguous situations. By helping officers de-escalate intense situations, mindfulness training can result in fewer misread situations, accidental shootings, and implicit bias – and improve attention spans, cognitive resilience, emotional intelligence, and community relations. (Suttie)

One of the leading advocates of mindfulness practice for public safety professionals is Lt. Richard Goerling, a former police lieutenant, crimination investigator the US Department of Transportation, and a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Coast guard involved in immigration and narcotics enforcement. Goerling has worked with the Pacific Institute for Community and Organizational Wellness at Pacific University in his efforts to bring mindfulness training to police officers. In an interview published at copsalive.com, Goerling explains why mindfulness works better for police officers than other forms of emotional and behavioral training, such as self-talk or visualization. “I think the simplicity of [mindfulness] is how it can be translated to meet the needs of its audience is what sets it apart from other emotional regulation techniques. We can teach offiercs mindful driving, mindful listening and how to be mindful while searching a building . . . We can teach them skills via mindfulness to regulate the psychological and biological response to stress. That means a better police-citizen encounter on the individual level, which leads to a better police-community relationship. In some respects, the application of Mindfulness to law enforcement is almost a community healing salve.” (Lewis)

The reduction in stress and anxiety alone help reduce the risk of depression and high blood pressure – and a less stressful work life most often leads to an improved family life. In the article “Why Every Police Officer Should Be Practicing Mindfulness (and How to Do It),” author NUCPS Crime Scene 2 graduate Ricky Rhodes, a retired lieutenant from the Tigard (OR) Police Department, stated that after beginning mindfulness training as an active duty officer, he discovered he was “better able to hold my attention during long patrol shifts and found my mental acuity became much more refined. While on-duty, I found that I was not second guessing myself in situations that required quick response time. . . . Not to mention, my sleep quality had a noticeable improvement.” (Rhodes)

Mindfulness reduces stressBacking up research studies, Goerling states, “Training cops in mindfulness, I believe, will reduce the incidents of force, and the incidents of force that do occur will be more effective and probably better executed. Officers will perform better before, during, and after a force transaction, and their recovery time as a result of injuries will be reduced. What it comes down to is they are going to be better warriors. Mindfulness also mitigates the effects of acute stress, which means it can prevent cognitive failures while under that stress. So from that stand point, is that risk reduction or liability mitigation? Absolutely. But more importantly as a social policy, I think we want our cops to be well.” (Lewis)

Colorado Springs Police Department Officer and NUCPS alum Jason Newton created his SPSC #373 staff study, “Implementing Mindfulness into an Officer’s Life,” with the goal of eventually obtaining permission to offer the program to his department. Following his SPSC graduation, Newton completed his study and received the go-ahead to test his program in Colorado Springs.

In April, Newton led his department through its first mindfulness training program. The Colorado Springs officers learned mindfulness techniques for dealing with stress, focusing better on the job, and connecting more meaningfully with their families, friends, and the people they serve. According to Newton, the training was so well received that the program will be part of Colorado Springs Police training, beginning with the department’s next recruiting class.

For those who are hesitant to initiate a program in their agencies, Goerling has a message: “I think one of the biggest misperceptions out there is ‘How can you be a warrior and practice the nonjudgmental and non-reactive tenants of mindfulness?’ Well, because mindfulness isn’t a practice of pacifism. This is a practice of being self-aware. . . . The best police officers across the nation are those who are nonjudgmental. They may use force, they may arrest somebody. . . but that’s not a judgmental action. That’s really the best nonjudgmental action we can ask. What we want to train out of officers is the emotionality of judgment, and mindfulness can do that. My experience has been that the boots on the ground can be convinced that mindfulness has real value. . . .  The barriers that we see in trying to implement mindfulness are in the  . . . people who frankly have forgotten what it’s like to be traumatized by the job. . . . who are not on the street everyday, who’ve forgotten the cost of hyper-vigilance and chronic acute stress . . . We don’t speak to their physical, spiritual, psychological, or emotional wellness. When you have cops that are not well, you don’t have police-citizen encounters that turn out well, and that is going to cost this nation.” (Lewis)

Getting Started in Mindfulness

Interested in mindfulness but have no idea how or where to start? The best place to start is guided mindfulness training, which involves the verbal instruction of a teacher or practitioner either in person or through a recording. If your department or agency offers the opportunity for mindfulness training, you are all set. If not, you still have plenty of high-quality options for guided mindfulness. Some practice mindfulness in groups at meditation centers, yoga studios, and even religious centers; some individuals find it more convenient—or prefer--to train alone with an app, podcasts, or YouTube videos. 

Yes! There’s an app for that! The huge number of apps that are available can be overwhelming. Here is a list of highly rated mindfulness apps that are based on science and not advertising. All are available for both Apple and Android devices.

  1. Calm: Free & Premium versions available.
  2. Headspace: Free.
  3. Stop, Breath & Think: 30 free sessions.
  4. The Mindfulness App (from Mind Apps): Free & Premium versions available.
  5. Buddhify: iPhone, $4.99; Android, $2.99.
  6. Mental Workout: Mindfulness Meditation: Free & Premium versions available.
  7. Aware – Mindfulness Meditation: Free.
  8. Take 10 Mindful Minutes and Take 5 Mindful Minutes: both free.

Online Resources - In addition to the sources cites in this article, plenty of high-quality mindfulness resources are available online, including:

  1. Greater Good in Action – Science-based Practices for a Meaningful Life (greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness)
  2. www.mindful.org
  3. www.mindfulnet.org
  4. verywell.com
  5. the-guided-meditation-site.com

Stream Your Mindfulness Routine! YouTube Videos

  1. Mindfulness in Law Enforcement: MBRT (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=giT7bBFu7lw)
  2. Richard Goerling Mindful Policing (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JXqjrWcBdJ4)
  3. Mindfulness with Jon Kabat-Zinn (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nwwKbM_vJc)
  4. Mindfulness Meditation – Guided 10 Minutes (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6p_yaNFSYao)
  5. Guided Mindfulness Meditation Series 1 – Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8HYLyuJZKno)    

Read up on Mindfulness and Techniques -  Popular Mindfulness Publications

  1. Books by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn: While relatively new to mainstream western society, mindfulness is based on a wellness practice used in Eastern cultures for more than 2500 years, dating back to the early teachings of Buddha. Most of today’s secularized mindfulness exercises are based on the MBSR program that Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s developed in the 1970s. Recently, Kabat-Zinn revealed that his MBSR program is not only based on a Buddhist meditation called Vipassana (often translated into English as “clear awareness” or “insight”) but that his idea for MBSR came to him while he was meditating.(Fossas). His most popular books is the bestselling Wherever You Go, There You Are.
  2. Harris, Dan. 10% Happier: How I tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress without Losing My Ede, and Found Self-Help that Actually Works.
  3. Hanh, Thich Nhat. The miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation.
  4. Germer, Christopher. The Mindful Pat to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions.
  5. Williams, Mark. Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World.

 

Sources:

Fossas, Andres. “The Basics of Mindfulness: Where did it come from?” 2015: Jan. 27.
Lewis, Max. “From Buddha to the Blue Line.” 2013: April 10. copsalive.com
Rhodes, Ricky. “Why Every Police Officer Should Be Practicing Mindfulness (and How to Do It).” 2017: Feb. 20. intimesoft.com.
Suttie, Jill. “How Mindfulness Is Changing Law Enforcement.” 2016: May 18.

 

Combat the Effects of Shift Work on Your Health

impact of night and swing shifts on healthToday's law enforcement professionals recognize that stress is part of the job but not all are aware of the negative impact that stress from shift work has on long-term health. Recent research confirms that job stress and shift work impact the health of all officers in general, but those who work night and afternoon (swing) shifts are affected at much higher rates and are much more susceptible to chronic fatigue. Over time, stress and fatigue may cause significant cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, weight gain, and Alzheimers disease and memory problems.

According to a National Institutes of Health (NIH), police officers who work swing and night shifts experience more physical dangers, more psychologically damaging events, and greater administrative pressures compared to their day-shift counterparts. The increased stresses identified in the NIH study exist regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, and rank. While both shifts experience significantly more stress than day-shift officers, the difference in associated stress did not differ significantly between those officers working the swing shift and those working nights. 1

Night and swing-shift officers are also at great risk for chronic fatigue, a consequence of poor sleep quality compounded by pressures from family obligations and the desire to participate in what is, essentially, a day-shift world. As anyone who has worked a night or swing shift has experienced, time is scarce for unwinding, spending time with a spouse and children, socializing with friends, and generally enjoying time off between shifts. Off-duty officers often feel forced to choose between participating in activities and regenerating with critically needed sleep. When demands are not well managed, officers may find themselves suffering from the consequences of long-term chronic fatigue:

  • Reporting late for duty;
  • Personal relationship problems;
  • Higher rates of citizen complaints;
  • Paperwork mistakes;
  • Stressful relationships with superiors;
  • Trouble communicating with fellow officers;
  • More work-related accidents; and,
  • Early retirement due to burnout. 2

Between the law enforcement industry open acknowledgement of employee stress and the health care industry's increased attention on the importance sleep many helpful resources are available online to assist over-stressed, under-rested police officers better adapt to shift work. Although the following articles all have similar titles, these NUCPS hand-curated resources offer multiple strategies and tips for the night and swing-shift officer:

  1. Shift Workers (Healthday)
  2. Shift Work: How to Handle Sleep, Life (webmd.com)
  3. Top 10 Tips on Surviving Nightshift (LifeInTheFastLane.com)
  4. 10 Nutrition Tips for Shift Workers (dieticians.ca)
  5. Health Tips for Night Shift Workers(U.S. News & World Report)
  6. 10 sleep tips for shift workers (Best Health Mag)
  7. Tips on Adjusting to a Night Shift - (Houston Chronicle)
  8. Tips for Managing Shift Work (HealthCommunities.com)
  9. Sleep Solutions for Shift Workers (University of Pittsburgh)
  10. Tips from Shift Workers (The National Sleep Foundation)
1Ma, Claudia C., Andrew, Michael E., Fekedulegn, et al. Shift Work and Occupational Stress in Police Officers. Safe Health Work: 2015, Mar, 6(1): 25-29. Published online www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.
2 Basiska, B. A., & Wiciak, I. Fatigue and professional burnout in police officers and firefighters. 2012. Internal Security, 4(2), 265-273.

Behind the NUCPS Challenge Coin

NUCPS Office Manager Deborah MagyarFrom the heart of her own command center, Northwestern University Center for Public Safety Office Manager Deborah Magyar designs and manages the production of an array of NUCPS products, from branded shirts and back packs to coffee mugs and challenge coins. Like many public safety and law enforcement agencies, NUCPS has its own challenge coin and Magyar has taken NUCPS's challenge coin one step further for graduates of SPSC.

With innovations in printing and manufacturing, creating custom color challenge coins is easier and more economical than ever. Prior to 2015, NUCPS sold its challenge coin to students, alumni, and friends of the Center. Since then, however, Magyar has helped SPSC classes design their own unique challenge coin to purchase for graduation. According to Magyar, most classes take advantage of her offer for a custom class coin; others are traditionalists and opt to purchase the Center's coin. Challenge coins from agencies throughout the U.S. line the desks or bookshelves of NUCPS staff but Magyar's collection is the only one to feature all the designs of SPSC's custom coins. Last week, the SPSC course in Kosovo elected to design its class challenge coin and will be the first SPSC challenge coin to ship to Europe.

Collecting and exchanging challenge coins first became popular among public safety and military professionals in the years following the Vietnam War. During Vietnam, the Army's Special Forces created challenge coins with unit insignias stamped on one side of common currency. These replaced the live .50 caliber bullets and artillery shells that were being used in Bullet Clubs. Slamming down a challenge coin on a bar is a much safer alternative to slamming down live ammo in challenge. Since then, police, fire, Secret Service, and even White House Military Aides have all created their own challenge coins as long-lasting representations of allegiance.

The origin of the challenge coin is based on ancient military history, when the Roman Empire presented soldiers with coins to recognize their achievements and was reintroduced to troops at the onset World War I. According to the most common story, a wealthy air lieutenant presented hand-struck bronze medallions to his unit. One young pilot placed his medallion in a leather pouch that hung from a chain around his neNUCPS Challenge Coins customized for SPSCck. Soon after receiving the medallion, his plane was shot down. He was forced to land behind German lines where he was captured and his ID confiscated. The pilot escaped but without ID to prove his allegiance, he was nearly executed by the French, who thought he was a saboteur. In one final, desperate attempt to prove himself an ally, the pilot pulled the medallion from its pouch. One French captor recognized the insignia, and the pilot's life was spared. The French, being French, gave him a bottle of wine instead of shooting him.

Upon returning to his unit, all members of the pilot's squadron began carrying the medallion at all times. To support the use of this accidental discovery of secret identification, a challenge was created: A squad member would ask to see another member's medallion. If the medallion was produced, the challenger bought his fellow member a drink; if not, the challenged had to buy the challenger a drink.

"I feel honored to help bring these challenge coins to those that protect us night and day," Magyar reflects. "What is better than to know something you are a part of provides a sense of deep camaraderie in others. As each person is unique, so are the coins that are designed by their teammates."

Office Manager Deborah Magyar has worked at Northwestern University Center for Public Safety for ten years. In addition to a flair for challenge coin design, she has a background in television advertising production and graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a B.A. in Film. Shop among her NUCPS-branded products, including our official Challenge Coin, in our NUCPS Store.

COMPLETELY REVISED & EXPANDED! Pedestrian/Bicycle Crash Reconstruction

The expert staff at Northwestern University Center for Public Safety has completely revised and updated our earlier popular pedestrian crash reconstruction course to incorporate bicycle-vehicle accidents and investigating pedestrian crashes in an era of distracted driving.

In addition to human error, cell phones, texting, and other distractions--among motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists--are statistically significant causes of devastating injuries, which occur most frequently in crosswalks and near intersections. These may involve:

  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Crushed or Broken Bones
  • Internal Injuries
  • Soft Tissue Damage
  • Spinal Cord Injuries & Paralysis
  • Serious Pavement Burns
  • Knee, Neck & Back Injuries
  • Pedestrian or Cyclist Death

In densely populated areas, heavy car, truck, and bus traffic mixed with bicyclists and pedestrians significantly increases the odds of vehicle-pedestrian and vehicle-bicycle accidents. Approximately 75% of fatal or serious bicycle accidents occur in urban areas. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that ERs treated more than 494,000 bicycle-related injuries in 2013. Crashes involving bicyclists are expected to increase in number as cycling continues to grow as both forms of recreation and of preferred transportation.

NUCPS has answered this important area of crash investigation by incorporating cycling accidents into our new Pedestrian/Bicycle Crash Reconstruction. The revised course also includes:

  • All new case studies;
  • Updated information on pedestrian strides and bicycle cadence;
  • Nighttime visibility and conspicuity; and,
  • Pedestrian/bicyclist strategy and tactics.

In 2013, one crash-related pedestrian death occurred every two hours in the U.S., according to the CDC. Because pedestrian visibility is a critical question in pedestrian-vehicle crashes, our course moves outdoors for a special lab session that addresses illumination, glare, and visual acuity, among other topics.

Learn more about this reconstructed Reconstruction Class.

Add an SPSC Badge to your Signature


Are you a proud School of Police Staff and Command grad? Would you like to let the world know. Now you can include SPSC in your email signature. Either download and embed the image or link to it online. Here's how.

To embed the badge in your signature, download the JPG from this link: SPSC signature graphic

Then drag and drop the graphic to your desktop and then cut and paste the JPEG into your existing email signature.

OR

To add the badge as a link, without embedding it, follow these email-client specific instructions.

Instructions for Outlook 2010 and 2007
Instructions for G-Mail

Have questions, send us an email at nucps-alumni@northwestern.edu

NUCPS Alumni Recognized with the IACP's 40 Under 40 Award

The September issue of Police Chief Magazine features recipients of the IACP's inaugural 40 Under 40 award. The award recognizes law enforcement leaders from around the world for their contributions to their agencies and communities

We're proud to see two NUCPS graduates included in the list of honorees.

Trooper Deborah Huff, Nevada Department of Public Safety - Highway Patrol Division

Deborah Huff

"I want to be able to pass along my passion and motivation for DWI enforcement to the next generation."- Deborah Huff

Trooper Huff is committed to the detection and apprehension of impaired drivers. She serves as the major incident reconstruction team investigator for Highway Patrol Division of the Nevada Department of Public Safety. She's a graduate of Northwestern's traffic crash reconstruction curriculum.

Assistant Chief of Police Jesse A. Wellen, Watford City (ND) Police Department

Jesse Wellen

"I chose law enforcement because it is a self-fulfilling career, where you take pride in the work that you do and the difference you can make helping others."- Jesse Wellen

A graduate of the School of Police Staff and Command Assistant Chief Wellen was a decorated soldier in the U.S. Army before joining the Watford City (ND) Police Department. In addition to his duties as assistant chief, Wellen commands the detective division.

We congratulate Deborah, Jesse and the rest of the awardees on this honor.

A Look inside the School of Police Staff & Command Online

Chief Dale CallChief Dale Call, formerly of the Westport, CT Police Department, addressed graduates of the School of Police Staff and Command on-ground and online at the 2016 spring graduation. If you ever wondered what it's like to participate in the SPSC Online, take a look at Chief Call's remarks.

Any parent of most children of a certain age lived through the annual Harry Potter ritual, whether it was the latest book or the latest movie. And if you did, then you have to know, if by no other means than osmosis, that Hogwarts had four houses. And you must know that on every other day, there would be an online quiz about what house you belonged to, and you must know that the house that no kid wanted to be was Hufflepuff. I overheard a lot of these conversations around my kids and their friends no one wanted to be a Hufflepuff because it just wasn't as cool as the other houses. For some reason, a lot of people consider online degrees and programs as the Hufflepuff of education not cool, not flashy, not the same as being in a classroom. Well, maybe those of us who have done the online program are members of Hufflepuff, but that's a good thing to be.

Why? Because in the world of Harry Potter, a Hufflepuff has strong loyalties, a disinterest in public glory, is hardworking and fair-minded. Hufflepuffs are fierce friends with the other members of their house. Hufflepuffs are the most egalitarian, coming from a wide variety of backgrounds and places. That's a pretty good description of the students in the online program.

Hard working is an apt description. I spent 11 weeks away from home attending the FBI National Academy, and I spent 22 weeks at home, online with Staff and Command. The 22 weeks online was much, much tougher. I've had a lot of experience with online learning, but the online SPSC experience is a lot more intensive. We quickly discovered that what we thought we'd be doing and how much time we thought we'd be spending online, paled with what was really required. To my wife's delight, I learned what stress eating is at 11 PM on a Sunday night trying to complete a paper or finish up a discussion board! Balancing a full day's work, family obligations and the intensive work demanded by the program is simply not for everyone. You earn that piece of paper at the end of the class.

A lot of my classmates paid their tuition themselves in order to improve their abilities and expand their knowledge. One of my NA classmates, who had also been through SPSC, told me that the NA was where you went to build connections, but Northwestern was where you went to learn. I get that now. The ones who stick with the untold hours in front of a computer and deal with the subsequent carpal tunnel syndrome they understand what JFK meant when he wrote "Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other." This is a program where you learn, and the leadership follows.

Although online is a lot of work, it also has advantages. In the online environment, the awkwardness of speaking out in class doesn't exist. After the first couple of weeks there is a lot of open and honest discussion and more often than not those discussions branch off into other discussions. Very few of our classmates sit in the back of the class and just observe; you just can't do that online. No, most of us are vocal. About everything. And opinionated about everything. On controversial topics (and on some that weren't), there wasn't always a lot of consensus. And here, that's a good thing, and a stimulating thing, to have happen. Rank meant very little in these discussions: there was no such thing as chiefly wisdom just because some of us wore them on our collars those stars didn't mean much to anyone else!

Chief Dale Call Attending online also gave us the ability to instantly put into practice what we learned. You're still at work, so anything that is new, or better, or just plain interesting can be implemented right away. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least 4 or 5 changes or additions I made within my own department based on something I learned in the class.

Online means, if you are a little forward thinking, that you not only have the course material to refer to in the future, but you also have every discussion you had on every topic available as well. I actually saved the majority of discussion boards, because, frankly, there is a lot of good stuff in there (and maybe just a little because I'm a packrat and hate to throw anything away). My classmates came from all over the country with experience from less than ten years to more than thirty years. Everyone had valuable insight from their different perspectives on the issues of the day.

Although we did not share a physical classroom, our bond grew as we got to know one another in our virtual world. We built strong friendships with people we may never meet in person. Yesterday I was talking to Bill Bonaguidi of Class 379, who shared a sad story that really illustrates the strength of those bonds:

When Bill was deciding whether to attend SPSC in the classroom or taking the online version, his Chief described the strong relationships he formed in the on ground course. He was worried Bill wouldn't get that online. Nevertheless, he allowed Bill the opportunity to take the online class for which Bill is very grateful. Bill told me that, without a doubt, the 22 weeks spent communicating with his classmates online formed a bond that will last for the rest of his life. He knows he can reach out to any one of his classmates for assistance and they would immediately jump to assist. I couldn't say it any better, so I'll just let Bill say it:

This bond is certainly unique. In my case, I never spoke with my classmates over the phone or in person. All communication was via discussion board, email, or text. One might think that a friendship would not develop in this manner, but a sad story about one of our classmates from Class 379 illustrates the point.

Commander Joe Groom of the Aurora, IL Police Department quickly established himself as leader in our class. His experience, wisdom, and compassion for our profession was evident in every post. I had the honor of working with him on our last group project. His work was impeccable. At the end of the project, we agreed to make an effort to meet in the near future since our departments are not that far from each other.

A short time after we completed the class, I reached out to Joe, via email of course, and told him I'd be in the area of his department for a project I'm working on. Unlike Joe, he didn't respond. I thought that maybe his email was caught up in our new SPAM filter at work, but I couldn't find a response.

The next week, I went to my meeting and called Joe at work when I finished. When I introduced myself and asked for Joe, there was an awkward silence followed by, "I'm sorry, Joe passed away last week. I learned that Joe suffered an unexpected heart attack while exercising on his treadmill. At that point, I experienced the emotions of losing a lifelong, good friend. These were powerful emotions that quite frankly surprised me.

Without a doubt, not only did we learn a great deal from our online experience as our brothers and sisters did in the classroom, but we too developed strong and everlasting friendships with our professional colleagues.

Rest in peace Joe. I would have followed you anywhere.

Finally, I just want to take a moment to speak to the staff, course directors, and instructors working with the online SPSC. Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric once said, "Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others." The experience of each online class is built into to the next class's experience. The courses are always being tweaked and improved upon. Suggestions and recommendations are listened to and taken seriously. They've been through SPSC and they stick around to help grow others. Regardless of what rank or position they held in law enforcement (or still hold, given the number of instructors who are active officers), all are leaders, all are invested in growing others. That investment lets us grow and in turn, it allows us, or rather it requires us, to do the same when it is our turn.

So, congratulations to the members of the various online classes here today and the more than one hundred law enforcement professionals from throughout the country who are not. The future of law enforcement leadership is in good shape. Thank you.