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Assistant Chief reflects on FBI National Academy experience

by | Jun 30, 2022 | Latest

The Sachse Police Department’s first ever command officer to attend the FBI’s National Academy says his experiences and connections will be useful for the remainder of his law enforcement career.

Assistant Police Chief Steven Baxter is a 28-year veteran of law enforcement with his last five years spent serving Sachse in his current role. He recently returned from the FBI National Academy, hosted in Quantico, VA, and likened the experience to going back to college.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been to school,” Baxter said. “It was cleaning the cobwebs out of your mind and sharpening yourself mentally by writing 10-page papers and making them flow.”

The most recent session of the National Academy, its 282nd, had individuals coming from 47 states and 26 countries. The session lasted for 10 weeks and Baxter referred to it as a “unique experience.”

Baxter was the first officer to attend the academy as an officer representing the Sachse Police Department.

“It’s truly an honor,” Baxter said. “Maybe 1% of law enforcement personnel get to go to this conference.”

Beginning at 7:30 a.m. each morning and concluding at 10 p.m., Baxter lived in a dorm with a roommate and attended classes that advanced his development as an officer and pushed him physically. He took a total of six courses including a leadership course and one period of physical training.

Baxter said he took courses focused on technology in law enforcement, public image of law enforcement agencies, a forensics class and a behavioral analysis class in addition to his leadership and physical training courses.

The focus of the technology class was the use of body cameras and different ways technology can be used by officers and the department, said Baxter. He also described the course as being research and writing intensive which required him to polish skills he honed when he was in school.

Baxter said the class also focused on some of the controversies of technology in policing, such as facial recognition software or other technologies that could infringe on the privacy of residents.

“You start diving into these things, like the cameras, and dive into the implications of them,” Baxter said. “There are strategic implications as well including what kind of pitfalls we might see.”

There was also a class focusing on the public image of police departments which involved going over several case studies, said Baxter, adding there were tips on conducting news conferences and interacting with the public in positive ways.

Additionally, the assistant chief was able to learn about different resources the FBI can assist local departments with, such as forensics and behavioral analysis.

Baxter said an example of the FBI assisting with forensics was the case where the department discovered human remains off of Merritt Road earlier this year.

One of the classes in which Baxter said he learned the most was his behavioral analysis class because it challenged him to reflect on his thought patterns on the job, including being aware of personal bias.

“It’s teaching you to be aware of your biases and keeping an open mind,” Baxter said. “In investigating or doing any kind of process in police work, you have to make sure that you have a clear mind and are evaluating everything equally.”

While the academics were time intensive, Baxter also had a set of weekly physical challenges to complete so that he could try and conquer the “Yellow Brick Road,” a 6.1 mile course that runs through the woods, has an obstacle course and involves a road run. Attendees who complete the course earn a yellow brick, one that Baxter can now display.

In addition to completing the course, Baxter said he was able to shave 40 seconds off his mile time using techniques and training he learned at the National Academy.

While he returned with improved physical fitness and more knowledge of policing, Baxter said an invaluable resource are the different officers he met from across the country and around the world. There were various culture nights, including one where he represented Texas to his classmates, which gave Baxter perspective on different methodologies employed by different police departments in the U.S. and around the world.

Baxter said he also has plans to meet up with some of his fellow graduates that are friends, after returning to Sachse.

“You’re able to build relationships that will last a long time,” Baxter said. “I’m in a couple of text groups with people I ate lunch or did physical training with for 10 weeks.”

Baxter also sat in on weekly lectures offered at the National Academy which involved professionals from different law enforcement backgrounds that provided unique perspectives to attendees. He also volunteered during the national celebration of Law Enforcement Week during his time at the academy.

“It’s more than the classroom, more than talking to people,” Baxter said. “It’s these bonding moments that we’re able to get along with people who are not only close to us but also far away from us.”

While he has a wealth of experience to lean back on from his time at the National Academy, Baxter said he is reluctant to push for too many changes within the department, adding that he will have conversations with Police Chief Bryan Sylvester.

Baxter said he wants to be a resource but not flaunt his experience as the beacon of changes which could clash with Sylvester’s vision for the department.

Sylvester, himself a graduate in the 235th Session of the National Academy while an officer in the Richardson Police Department, had a chance to offer his thoughts on Baxter attending the academy.

“I, and the department, are very proud of Baxter’s achievement and of his being the first Sachse command officer selected for the national academy,” Sylvester said. “This milestone in our organization is testament to our department’s commitment to professional development of our staff at all levels, ensuring that we as an organization remain progressive and able to proactively meet the needs of our citizens now and into the future.”

For more stories such as these, subscribe to The Sachse News.

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