PO police chief finishes FBI training

Port Orchard Police Chief Al Townsend has spent the past 10-weeks at the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) National Academy in Virginia — and now he’s ready to come home.

“I’ve spent a great deal of time on the phone with my wife and 9-year-old son,” Townsend said. “It’s been difficult to be away for nearly 12 weeks. I did have the opportunity to fly home for a two-day weekend approximately mid-way through the program. It’s a long time to be away, and I’m looking forward to seeing them next week.

“In addition,” he said, “it’s a long time to be away from the department. I miss the interaction with the officers, staff, and the community. We have such a good group of professional employees it is difficult to be away. However, Acting Chief Mark Duncan has done a tremendous job filling in for me, which has allowed me to completely focus on the activities of the academy.”

According to Townsend, the academy program itself ends Friday, culminating with a graduation ceremony. Townsend’s wife and son will be attending.

After graduation, Townsend said he will spend a week touring the East Coast and then start his drive back to Port Orchard. He will officially return to work on Oct. 3.

“I had the pleasure of being here at the hottest time of the year when temperatures reached over 100 degrees and the humidity was almost as high,” Townsend laughed. “Each week, in addition to participating in classroom lectures and group discussions from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and some evenings, we were expected to participate in physical training approximately four times per week.”

Townsend said the entire 10-week course is based upon challenging participants’ mental, emotional and physical abilities. The academy is situated on the U.S. Marine Corps base in Quantico, Va.

“The FBI National Academy has been an excellent experience to develop new ideas, learn about new programs, hone my skills in personnel management, communications and leadership techniques,” Townsend said. “It also taught me new innovations in crime scene management and forensic science.”

The academy also trains new FBI agents, Drug Enforcement Administration agents and the final portion of training for the FBI Police. In addition, it hosts many civilian FBI employee classes and inservice training programs.

On an average day, Townsend said, there are approximately 700 students in the facility.

“It was an excellent opportunity to learn of the services that the FBI can provide local law enforcement if we ask them. On the other hand, some of the ideas they provide us, while excellent, require the financial resources to make them happen,” Townsend pointed out. “While it would be nice to bring some of these new programs and ideas back to the department and implement them, the reality is that our department cannot do so without the additional resources to make them happen. To implement new programs and to train personnel in the operation of the programs or skills, you need someone with the time to organize and implement. That takes money. The FBI has a much larger pool of resources than does the Port Orchard Police Department.

“One thing is for sure,” Townsend said, “for our department to make more improvements and to develop new innovative ideas, we need to enlist in a middle management position that the department currently does not have. So much of my time is spent handling the day to day operations that making time to develop and implement new ideas gets pushed to the bottom of the list and never seems to reach the top. With a commander or similar position, I could delegate many of those day to day operations to him/her and spend more time working with the public and working on ways to improve the way we police.”

Townsend said his time at the academy was harder intellectually than he had anticipated.

Townsend finished his masters degree before leaving Port Orchard for the academy. “Even with that recent experience,” Townsend said, “the academic demands were at times daunting. There were several research papers required and each class had exams, much like my experience in my masters program.”

Townsend said he hopes to bring many of the leadership, communication and management concepts he’s learned back to his supervisors.

“When it’s all over,” he said, “I will not only be a better police administrator and leader, but a better person, father, and husband.”

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