Craig police officer completes FBI training

A graduate of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's National Academy, Craig police Sgt. Bill Leonard returned to work this week to endless questions about the 12-week course.

Down to the $5 Marine Corps haircut.

"There were days you'd take four or five showers after running and have to go into class ten minutes later," Leonard said.

Leonard, who is going on 18 years with the department, was among 254 law enforcement officers who graduated March 21 from the FBI's Quantico, Va., academy -- the second Craig officer in three years to earn the honor.

Officers from 49 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and some 26 foreign countries took part in the elite school, which had Leonard on a waiting list for four years just to get in.

"It provides you with training in management areas that's very hard to find in other places," said Craig Police Chief Walt Vannatta, also an academy graduate.

"More importantly, it plugs you into a network of law enforcement professionals you can go to for the rest of your career and get information at any level," Vannatta said.

Leonard and others studied, ate and sweated alongside the bureau's trainees in a day-to-day college-like environment, minus the keggers and big on physical fitness.

Participants were welcomed with a nearly two-mile "challenge run" -- made more challenging each week and culminating with a shot at the facility's nine-mile "Yellow Brick Road," which included a three-mile muddy obstacle course.

"I had started working out when I knew I was going," Leonard said. "I ended up losing 12 pounds, and I'm in better shape than I've been since the police academy 20 years ago."

Leonard said homeland security was a dominant theme throughout the training. Suggestions on that topic could find direct application in Craig sooner than later, he suggested.

"As alert levels (the color-coded threat system) move up and down, we're supposed to know what that means," he said.

Right now, there is not much in place for Craig and other rural departments.

"We need to have a plan in place and be able to put information out to the public so they'll have an expectation of what we're going to do, and what's expected of them," Leonard said.

Paul Shockley can be reached at 824-7031 or at pshockley@craigdailypress.com.

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