Learning to lead: Police captain attends FBI Academy
"People shouldn't be managed, they should be led."
This was just one of the take-aways Alexandria Police Captain Scott Kent came home with after attending an 11-week training at the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia.
Kent, who left for the training on Oct. 1 and came home Dec. 17, is one of three Alexandria Police Department leaders who've had the opportunity to attend the academy.
Former Police Chief Chuck Nettestad and current Police Chief Rick Wyffels also attended the prestigious academy.
The FBI National Academy, according to Kent, is for law enforcement executives who are at the rank of lieutenant or higher and have at least 20 years experience.
"Only 1 percent of law enforcement ever get the chance to attend," said Kent. "It's rare to have three from one department attend. It's an honor to keep the legacy going."
Kent actually applied to attend the academy in 2014 but was put on a waiting list. His name finally came up and he was afforded the opportunity this past year.
One misnomer, according to Kent, is that people think after law enforcement officers attend the academy, they become FBI agents. That is not the case, he said. The academy takes place, however, at the same location where there is new agent training for FBI cadets, but that is not what he was there for.
"It was a unique environment to learn and share with other police executives from all over the world," said Kent.
While there, Kent participated in classroom training, which were college graduate-level courses that he did earn college credits for, along with physical fitness training. The classes he attended were sponsored through the University of Virginia and included such topics as leadership, communication and cyber crimes.
"The training really covered a gamut of topics," said Kent. "And I even had to write a couple of 10-page reports."
Kent believes that the academy also taught him ways to be a better leader and to not just "manage" his employees.
"I am not a manager. People don't need to be managed, they need to be led. Things get managed. People can't be managed. Situations can be," he said. "I think differently now and hope to do things differently, lead the team differently."
Kent talked about the idea of being content or what he referred to as lukewarm. He said to think about a pot of water and how at 211 degrees, it's just a pot of lukewarm water, but that one degree change in the water to 212 degrees and it becomes something different. It becomes a pot of boiling water. It becomes something better than what it was with just one small change, he said.
"If you're content, you're average or lukewarm," he said. "You have to get to or should want to get to that boiling point. To become better."
He said he feels the academy did that for him.
He said it helped him not only become a better police officer, but also a better person, husband and father.
Away from home
Although Kent is thankful for the opportunity to attend the training, being away from home was hard. Kent lives on a "farm" with his wife, Amy, and three active teenage children who are involved in sports and other extra curricular activities.
"It was hard to be away and miss out on so much at home," he said. "I talked to them every day, but it wasn't the same as being at home."
Kent said he often felt like the children's book character "Flat Stanley" as he would video chat with his family through his iPhone. He said the family would set the phone down on the table or on the counter during dinner or when they were just sitting around talking so that he could still take part in day-to-day family life. Flat Stanley is a "person" made out of paper that elementary kids take with them while they do their daily activities.
"It (video chatting) was a way for me to take in what was going on at home," said Kent. "I learned to just be present and take in what was going on around me without having a million other things going on."
Kent said being away from home like that, although it doesn't even come close to comparing with those who are deployed overseas, was hard, but that it taught him to appreciate his family and the time he does get to be home.
"I learned to just be present," he said, which in this day and age is hard for anyone to do because of cell phones, televisions and other technology. "I found out it's OK to just sit there and have a conversation."
Alexandria Police Captain Scott Kent writes about the value of the FBI Academy Experience on Page A4