GILFORD — After spending three months in Quantico, Va. at the FBI Academy, Lt. Kristin Kelley has a new appreciation of a lot of things — his family, his job and his community.
Kelley returned last week from the prestigious school armed with new tools that will help him be a better leader in the Police Department, a trusted official in the eyes of the people he is there to serve, and a better husband and father to his young family.
"You have to have a strong moral compass to do this job," he said yesterday from behind his desk that was piled with books and binders he acquired from the academy.
"My desk doesn't usually look like this," he said, asking not to have his photo taken while sitting behind it.
Kelley took four classes during his three-months at Quantico — management psychology, conflict resolution and leadership, ethics and business development.
His fourth class was one he wanted to take but wasn't necessarily part of his mission at the academy — the psycho-pathological behavior of violent offenders.
He said he actually found it fascinating not only because of the subject matter but the course was taught in part by agents of the FBI's Behavior Analysis Unit, who taught students not only about the inner minds of violent offenders but how its own teams are organized and effective.
Kelley also took a class in media relations — a topic that is always near and dear to the heart of the person designated by the department to speak to the media.
"It's not the content, but the messaging," he said.
He said the police have to listen to what the members of the community are saying, what information they want to known and understand and to keep the public's trust about what they are being told.
Kelley said much of the insight he gathered was from stories shared in class about media relationships — some of which have failed miserably and some of which were successful.
"When bad things happen we have to let the people know that they can trust us with their lives and safety," he said.
As to his role as administrator, he said the academy provided top-notch instructors and provided speakers who taught them how to cultivate the best they can get from a diverse group of employees.
"Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses," he said. "It's our jobs as managers to make sure that people strengths are matched with they job they do."
He also said part of his job is to prepare the people behind him for the day he retires. "We as leaders must cultivate the next generation of leadership," he said.
He noted that any department that fails to function when one of its leaders is gone for three months needs to take a hard look at itself. As to Gilford, he smiled and said his absence was barely noted.
He said Gilford has a great team of police officers and civilian employees who know their jobs and will continue to do them despite what happenstance and circumstance throws its way.
When asked what Gilford is doing right, he said that in his opinion most of the people of Gilford feel that the police are truly out there to help them.
He said his whole reason for being a police officer was to help the people in his community stay safe and to assist them through the hard parts.
"We also want people to know we are humans, too," he said.
As to family, he said many conversations he had both in class and with the friends he made were about priorities — like keeping your family first and preventing police burn-out.
He said knowing when an officer under his command is facing burn out or family issues is key to being a good leader. He also said learning how to better help his employees in crisis is one of the most important things he learned.
As to his own family, he said he never knew how much he would miss them and they him.
He mentioned coming home once and finding it nearly impossible to remove himself from his home and go back to Virginia.
"I know now how hard my wife works to keep our household together," he said.
From his short time away from home, Kelley said he learned a little bit about how deployed military personnel feel.
"I can never understand what a deployed service member really goes through, but as far as family and home, I think I got a small taste of what's it's like," he said. "And my hat and heart goes out to all of them."