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Police chief gets advanced training at FBI National Academy


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PPD Chief Kelly Swihart

Petersburg Police Chief Kelly Swihart is participating in an exclusive training opportunity with the FBI National Academy (NA) this fall.

Swihart described it as "a total immersion into leadership training" and said that "less than 1 percent of law enforcement officers will ever attend."

According to the NA website, participation is by nomination and invitation only. That plus the acceptance of candidates from countries worldwide makes it difficult to get into. For those who make the cut, like Swihart, the program enhances their professional skill set and their network of peers.

Swihart has a full schedule at the academy. He's taking courses in everything from drug enforcement strategies to labor law, from leadership to conflict resolution and communications for officers in crisis to fitness in law enforcement.

"Each class meets multiple times each week and will consist of a minimum of 44 hours of instruction," he said.

Swihart anticipates that this advanced training will bring many benefits to his work in Petersburg by teaching him new concepts and helping him brush up on others.

For one example, "Drug enforcement strategies will provide up-to-date technical information that will help us address the illicit drug issues in our community, and hopefully improve quality of life for our residents," he said.

Though he said he's finding the technical information valuable, Swihart said the opportunity to network has proven even more invaluable.

"I believe the most important aspect of the NA is networking. My session is made up of 216 students from 49 states and multiple countries, including South Korea, the United Kingdom, Lebanon, Taiwan, Jordan, Belize and others," said Swihart.

Because of the diversity of backgrounds and experiences of his peers in the NA, Swihart said he'll be able to look to them for advice.

"I feel confident that my classmates will have already experienced most challenges we face in law enforcement and would gladly offer advice or assistance if asked," he said. "We've committed to learn from each other and assist each other where able."

Swihart said he first learned about NA shortly after starting his career in 1996. When he was promoted to sergeant in the Wasilla Police Department in 2007, he said he decided he wanted to try for further training and was initially leaning toward attending Northwestern University, which offered a staff and command course for law enforcement.

A colleague at the Wasilla PD suggested the NA for advanced training instead and helped Swihart begin the process.

"After I submitted the application, it was processed and referred to FBI agents in Alaska for the background investigation and recommendation," explained Swihart.

Along with prestige and exclusivity of the program also comes financial support.

"The training is free for the most part-travel, lodging and meals are all provided," Swihart said, though the Borough did shell out about $500 for uniforms and incidentals. This, Swihart noted, was far less expensive than the cost of he attended Northwestern's program, which comes with about a $10,000 price tag.

There are other costs associated with his absence though. Borough Assembly members during Monday's meeting, for instance, were puzzling through funding for new radios for the police and fire department. Swihart's knowledge on the matter was missed and the discussion was tabled until his return.

Swihart said he felt grateful to the borough for letting him attend the training. Borough Manager Steve Giesbrecht said in an e-mail that he's supportive of the training and sees it as valuable for the Borough.

"He gets to make some really good contacts throughout the law enforcement world and some world class training in things that are hard to get here in Alaska," Giesbrecht said.

Captain John Hamilton and Chief Clerk Dispatcher Angel Worhatch are jointly serving in Swihart's absence.


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