Southampton Village Police Chief William Wilson returned to work last week fresh from an 11-week trip to Quantico, Virginia, where he graduated from the FBI National Academy Program on December 12.
Chief Wilson graduated from the 235th session of the academy along with 255 other law enforcement officers, earning him the distinction of being an academy graduate and 18 credits from the University of Virginia. All 50 U.S. states were represented, as well as 26 foreign countries and four branches of the U.S. military.
Chief Wilson started his training on September 27 and studied labor law, constitutional law, terrorism and counter-terrorism, and statement analysis, a course on how to detect deception in written statements. The chief said that by using a formula and checking out the grammatical features of a written statement an officer can detect with “pretty good certainty” if a subject is lying, though he did not offer any further explanation of what he learned: “I don’t want to give too much away.”
The terrorism course looked at case studies of terrorist attacks and the history of domestic terrorism and attacks abroad. The counter-terrorism course was on preventing such attacks.
“I don’t really think we’re real high up on the radar of any terrorist organizations,” Chief Wilson said of Southampton Village. But he pointed out that he was part of the team from Southampton that responded to Manhattan during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. “Any disaster that strikes Manhattan has the ability to affect all of Long Island,” he said.
The class Chief Wilson said he found most valuable was on labor law, which he said taught federal statutes and what he needs to do to protect Southampton Village from litigation.
“I may never have to use any of the tools I learned at the academy, but I wanted to learn them,” Chief Wilson said.
The officers of the 235th session were split into six sections. “My peers elected me section representative, which I thought was quite an honor,” Chief Wilson said. He and five other representatives each had to give a speech before the entire session, so one could be elected section president. Ultimately, Chief Wilson lost the presidential race to a fellow Long Islander, Nassau County Police Sergeant Keechant Sewell.
On top of their coursework, the academy students were also required to take part in a fitness program. “You do a lot of running and a lot of working out,” Chief Wilson said. He lost 19 or 20 pounds, he said.
Police forces have a very high rate of stress-related illnesses and heart disease, the chief said, explaining that the National Academy wants the leaders to go back home with methods for keeping their officers in shape.
The workouts led up to the Yellow Brick Road, a 6.8-mile run, including the Marine Corps obstacle course.
During one of the fitness exercises, at the finish line, one runner collapsed and had a heart attack right in front of him, Chief Wilson said. Other students rushed to his aid and restored his heart rhythm with CPR and a defibrillator, he said.
“I can’t say enough about the people I was there with,” he said. He later added, “I would go again for another 11 weeks if they would have let me.”
Attending the academy is free, including room and board. The village was responsible to pay the chief’s salary while he was in Virginia, but he said part of it will be reimbursed through a grant.
The National Academy opened in 1935 “in response to a 1930 study by the Wickersham Commission that recommended the standardization and professionalizing of the law enforcement departments across the United States through centralized training,” according to the FBI’s website.
Chief Wilson said J. Edgar Hoover, the first director of the FBI, started the academy as an alternative to creating one national police force. “He felt there was value in keeping law enforcement local,” he said.
The chief said he first applied to the academy in the mid-1990s, when he was promoted to sergeant.
Before Chief Wilson’s trip this year and Captain Thomas Cummings’ time at the academy last year, only three members of the Southampton Village Police Department ever attended the academy: former chiefs Donald Finlay and James J. Sherry and former Lieutenant David Betts.
Chief Wilson said he will send another member of the village department as soon as the opportunity arises.