Neb. Police Sergeant Ready to Share FBI Training Ideas

Sgt. Steve Rathman back from academy in Virginia

By Sarah Schulz, The Independent (Grand Island, Neb.)

Grand Island, Neb. Police Sgt. Steve Rathman is steeped in new information on media relations, death investigation management and contemporary issues facing law enforcement officers.

The stack of black binders containing that information and bearing the FBI Academy logo are sitting on a shelf in his desk, ready for other officers to look through, he said.

Rathman returned from the Quantico, Va., academy on Saturday. He'd been on the East Coast since Jan. 8.

He plans to send out a memo to his fellow supervisors informing them of the classes he took in Quantico and offering the materials for them to study.

"The training shouldn't end just because I'm back," he said.

Police Chief Kyle Hetrick, who is also a Quantico graduate, approached Rathman about attending the academy back in 2000.

"This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Rathman said. "This is my job. My career goal is to advance within the department."

Police Capt. Robert Falldorf, also a Quantico graduate, said the training at the FBI academy is "top-notch." There are already plans to send another Grand Island sergeant to the academy, which officers can attend for free.

Falldorf, who is the administrative division captain, said he can already see improvements in Rathman's supervision.

"You can tell a little bit of a difference in this short amount of time," Falldorf said.

While at the academy, Rathman took courses on media relations, managing death investigations, forensic science for managers, legal issues for command level officers, and contemporary issues in law enforcement. He was also required to take physical training courses.

The media relations class was the most interesting course, he said.

"It was an eye-opener," he said.

The class was taught by a woman who has worked in broadcast journalism and was a public information officer for the Minneapolis Police Department. Rathman said he learned how the department and the media can work together, and how officers can use media outlets to provide the community with information and help stop rumors.

The death investigation class reemphasized some of the techniques that Rathman has learned during his 12 years in law enforcement. The class was taught with managers in mind, as were all of the classes he took while at the academy.

Rathman was named the administration division sergeant in December. He had been a night shift sergeant since 1998 and has been with the Police Department since 1996. Prior to that, the Grand Island native spent four years with the Hall County Sheriff's Department.

The contemporary issues class focused on changes in the field. The class consisted of 24 Americans and an officer from Italy, all of whom ranged in age from their 30s to their 50s. Rathman said the age differences and various backgrounds led to many round-table discussions on changing issues in law enforcement. The group touched on the use of technology, training, hiring and studied suicide bombers in Israel, he said.

The academy is open to American and international law enforcement agents, both civilian and military, he said. There were 24 international students in Rathman's class, including people from Spain, Australia, France, England, Estonia, Bosnia, Jamaica, Belgium, Chile and Jordan, he said.

The wide variety of officers gave Rathman the opportunity to exchange ideas and network with the men and women from other agencies.

In addition to that socialization and the classroom discussions, Rathman was required to complete seven research papers, including one on the Irish Republican Army and a case study of "suicide by cop." For the latter, Rathman used the November shooting death of a Grand Island woman by police. Using examples from the "real world" helped bring the Quantico experience home, which will be helpful in training other officers, he said.

Other FBI Academy graduates are:

Police Chief Kyle Hetrick

Police Capt. Kerry Mehlin

Police Capt. Pete Kortum

Police Capt. Robert Falldorf

Police Sgt. Clyde Church

Sheriff Jerry Watson

Chief Deputy Sheriff Chris Rea

Sheriff's Capt. Rodger Williams

Sheriff's Capt. Gregg Ahlers

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