Sutherly says he came away with new understanding
By Joe Beck
Street smarts get a police chief only so far in running a 21st-century law enforcement agency.
Strasburg Police Chief Tim Sutherly considers the 10 weeks he recently spent at the FBI National Academy in Quantico as a useful guide to changes in fields as varied as constitutional law and technology that can affect his department's crime fighting efforts, for better or worse.
Sutherly returned to his job last week armed with fresh information that he said he believes will make him and his department better equipped to cope with new trends in law enforcement and society.
"It'll help keep us up to date," Sutherly said. "The only thing we know for sure in law enforcement is that it constantly changes. You have to keep up with change or you get run over by it."
Sutherly was one of 264 students from around the world who graduated from the academy on Sept. 21. The interactions with classmates from 49 states and 24 countries were a memorable part of the experience, he said. The austere living arrangements - two- person dormitory rooms and four people sharing a communal bathroom - surprised him, but also created plenty of networking opportunities.
"I learned as much from the other people as I did in the classrooms," Sutherly said.
He came away with an understanding of the towering problems law enforcement agencies in other nations and parts of the United States confront and an appreciation for the more manageable limits of policing in Strasburg.
"I heard horror story after horror story of situations they deal with regularly, from large scale corruption at all levels of government, economic disaster causing huge cuts in manpower to natural disasters demolishing all municipal infrastructure," Sutherly said.
A student from the West African nation of Ghana welcomed living in a dormitory as an improvement from conditions in parts of his country, Sutherly said.
"He thought we were living like kings," Sutherly said.
An FBI agent in the Winchester office nominated Sutherly, 44, to the invitation-only academy training. The acceptance process included an extensive background check, physical exam and other vetting processes.
The courses included 440 hours in the classroom, physical training and enrichment programs. The need for law enforcement agencies to find creative ways to use their money and personnel to maximum advantage during budget crises in local governments was a common topic, he said.
"Almost every class I took had some aspect of critical thinking," Sutherly said.
The courses also included physical training that culminated with a 6 1/2-mile run and obstacle course called "The Yellow Brick Road." Participants received a yellow brick, one of which now sits on Sutherly's desk.
"It's a reminder of how easy it is to get out of shape when you sit behind a desk all day," Sutherly said of the run and obstacle course.
Graduation from the academy counts for 17 graduate level credits at the University of Virginia. Sutherly said he plans to use those credits in his work toward obtaining a master's degree in police administration from the University of Central Florida.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org