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E-Letter from America - Part 5

The Association’s NEC representative for gender, Det Supt Sam De Reya, is swapping Devon and Cornwall Police for the USA as she spends the next 10 weeks at the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia.

She’s blogging her experiences for us here.

Week 5

I’m late with this blog due lots of course homework and papers due, a trip to Philadelphia and my family visiting. These are my observations as I finish week five…the time is flying!

US Law Enforcement

The US has more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies including federal, state and local policing.  This causes issues with consistency across agencies and working together across state borders.  This is why the FBI National Academy (FBINA) is seen as so significant for police leaders to develop and professionalise their leadership skills.  It offers important opportunities to build law enforcement networks, particularly between local and state police and the FBI.

Police Memorial Day

It’s a different culture here. Since the start of 2018, at least 54 law enforcement officers across the US have died while on duty, with 33 of the deaths caused by gunfire.  The FBINA Police Memorial included a service of remembrance, and then a ‘roll call’ of colleagues and friends of the NA students lost on duty.


Around 90 of the FBINA students stepped forward to read out the name, rank and date to remember their lost colleagues and friends, some delivering as many as four names.  A touching service and the beautiful remembrance garden is well worth a visit if you are ever in Washington DC.  The new National Law Enforcement Museum opens on 19th October next to the gardens. I am lucky to police in the UK and thankful for our tight gun controls.

The Academy 

The new FBI Agents train for 18 weeks and study and live in a separate building to the FBINA.  They wear black shirts and are half the age of the National Academy students: we are the old sweats in green!  The new Agents are extremely polite and without exception they acknowledge you as you walk around the site, referring to the NA students and tutors as Ma’am and Sir.  Very respectful…and it means a short walk of 100 metres can result in at least 20 + smiles, hellos and thank yous! 

Pride in service to country

Everywhere you look as you travel through the FBI Academy there are symbols which reflect their journey as an agency, their values and pride in their role as a Federal agency.  The words and references are everywhere.  The FBI Academy has their mission and values posted throughout the building and demonstrate absolute commitment to their mission: “To protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States.” The statements reinforce their key messages and what they stand for.


My experience is thatAmericans have pride in their law enforcement and members of the public openly thank their communities for what they do. But in certain states there has been a decline in public confidence and trust in the service particularly in some black communities.

A ceremonial square is at the heart of the Academy and acts as a place of memorial.  At Graduation it is a place for the families to attend for photos.  There are plaques around the square for those who have died or were lost on duty whilst serving with the FBI.

A cluster of plaques refer to agents who ran into scenes in the aftermath of 9/11 to save people and to sift through the rubble in theinvestigation that followed.  Medical conditions have developed such as leukaemia exacerbated by exposure to the poisonous scene and environment.  The FBI has had six funerals in the last six months linked to this issue, the ongoing legacy of 9/11.  The plaques are a reminder of the extended number of people impacted by this devastating event.


Once or twice a week we have a lecture from a guest speaker.  The most interesting so far has been the Slenderman case.

This involved two 12-year-old girls luring a school friend to a remote location and attempting to murder her to impress a fictional character ‘Slenderman’. They stabbed her 19 times and left her for dead in a forest.  Luckily she managed to crawl to the roadside where she was found and survived.  When the offenders were found they were put into the same car and left to speak to one another.  Some of the interesting points involved Wisconsin Law, which does not automatically allow parents access to children in custody.

The investigating officers interviewed both suspects without an appropriate adult or legal representative. Profiling of the lead offender included a review of the books she signed out of the school library which gave one of the clues she needed a safeguarding intervention.

The suspect interviews were shown as part of the presentation, and demonstrated the stark difference between UK and US process, policy and legal requirements.  They do not have a national Achieving Best Evidence (ABE) policy.  Although the defence challenged the interviews and the judge felt uncomfortable regarding elements of the interview practice he allowed the evidence to be included.  Both girls received custodial sentences with mental health treatment linked to the detention.

The US Marine Corp Silent Drill

Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon is a 24-man rifle platoon that performs a unique precision drill exhibition. This highly disciplined platoon exemplifies the professionalism associated with the United States Marine Corps.

The Silent Drill Platoon first performed in the Sunset Parades of 1948 and received such an overwhelming response that it soon became a regular part of the parades at Marine Barracks Washington, D.C.

The Marines execute a series of calculated drill movements and precise handling of their hand-polished, 10-and-one-half pound, M1 Garand rifles with fixed bayonets. The routine concludes with a unique rifle inspection sequence demonstrating elaborate rifle spins and tosses.  A third of US law enforcement staff are military veterans.

Bringing back the learning

There are many similarities between UK and US and international policing, but also many many differences.  Having completed discussion forums and papers relating to gun legislation and racial issues I am grateful to be policing in the UK with national requirements and standards.  The size of the US, the State system and quantity of organisations involved here make consistency very difficult.  Our community policing and connection and engagement is also something I have reflected on in comparison of others and think we do well.

Leading employees at risk has been a great course to reflect on the issues facing people in law enforcement (LE), predominantly the impacts of exposure to trauma.  One of the things I will be looking to increase is my understanding of how we prepare our people better for the trauma they face as part of every day policing.  There is a need to be more proactive in identifying people at risk and supporting those diagnosed with PTSD. The course has unpicked the various requirements of proactive health and wellbeing programmes to support resilience in modern day policing.

Law enforcement image has been a real eye opener regarding effective communications and messaging in general through social media and at times of critical incidents.  They teach a great model for media interviewing involving delivering against four areas ‘call to action, public safety, policy and kudos’.  Assessments include critiques of social media postings, police press interviews and press conferences.  As part of our current assessments my group are reviewing the Exeter fire of 2016 and we are planning for live press conferences, where we plan from a scenario.

As part of counter terrorism class we reviewed some active shooter cases and looked at the profile of offenders.  School shooters are more prevalent than terrorism in the US with 16 incidents of shootings in schools in the first five months of 2018. There are a number of campaigns and volunteer groups supporting education and training across partnerships.  Activity to safeguard communities including identifying threats, looking for signs using the US, ‘See Something, Say Something’ promotion, improving security in schools (School Shooter drills), arming teachers (a Trump solution) and police operational responses.

This is one awareness film produced by the Sandy Hook School charity.  Definitely worth a watch.

We have discussed the importance of threat assessments and the need to work with our partners and communities to identify early threats and take positive action.  Similar to the UK CONTEST strategy in relation to identifying individuals who may be a terrorist or on the way to radicalisation and then a multi-agency response to intervene to prevent escalation or acts of violence


There are also provocative campaigns across the US regarding increasing gun control. Some of the changes being championed include increasing the age of gun ownership to 21 years, improved background checks to identify those with mental health issues, and improved information sharing between law enforcement and medical practitioners.  There is strong opposition to these changes as many Americans see this as an infringement of their civil rights and the 2nd Amendment.  I have been involved in some interesting debates relating to UK gun control.

All of these inputs and conversations with other LE organisations confirm the importance of protecting front line resources and the UK neighbourhood policing model. As a result of the academic learning and the range of speakers I have listened to relating CT it is added to my list of ‘Must know more about this topic’ on my return to the UK.

Race hate and the deep-seated racial issues in US has been impacted from law enforcement applying laws, which saw black and white segregation, no marriages between black and white people, the Klu Klux Klan and Jewishsegregation.  There have also been some recent officer shootings involving black community members.


We have a set of challenges on a Wednesday where the whole 228 NA students exercise together,  always a fantastic sight.  This week was a 5k run in the blistering heat.  Great fun.  All the challenges are named after the Wizard of Oz leading up to the Yellow Brick rRoad, like ‘You’re not in Kansas anymore’.  This week it’s the ‘Wicked Witch Hunt’.

I have had two ‘I am definitely in the United States’ moments this week:

  1. Being in the back of a ‘mini van’ with 8 Americans heading along the I-95, with all the occupants male and female singing Celine Deon at the top of their voices.
  2. Enjoying a weekend off sitting on the porch of a wooden cabin on a rocking chair overlooking the Potomac River.…fun times.

Last word for this week

Big up to my ‘roomy’ Efvy Chief of the Bureau of Insurance fraud, Division of Investigative and Forensic Services, Tallahassee and our neighbours and friends Naimah from Bermuda  and Jules Captain Corrections Bureau, Hays County Sheriffs Office Texas.  As International students, Naimah and I rely heavily on these guys to run us around, keep us focused on academic deadlines and act as our translators.

More soon!