Last month, Monroe County Sheriff Kevin Crook was among a group of 16 sheriffs and 38 police chiefs leading smaller departments from throughout the United States to be invited to the FBI’s first National Command Course (NCC) in Virginia.
Those invited to attend the one-week course had no more than 50 sworn deputies or officers in their departments, and this demographic of agencies represents 80 percent of the nation’s law enforcement. The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office currently has 30 sworn deputies.
“When we all introduced ourselves, I told them my job was to listen. I had less than two years in, and these guys had lots of years in. I knew on my way there, I was there to listen and advance our department,” he said. “If the department can prosper from me going, I can prosper.”
Crook was recommended for the program by a local FBI agent and he was Mississippi’s only representative.
One of his biggest goals in office is to develop future leaders in law enforcement and before leaving the FBI course, he asked employees to submit their upcoming career goals.
“I’ve got a four-, eight-, maybe 12-year window to develop as many good leaders as possible in law enforcement. Our department and departments we partner with, we’ve got to invest in the future,” he said. “I want to invest in our future and help them achieve their goals and developing them.
“To represent the state of Mississippi, or 80 percent of departments in Mississippi, is one of the greatest opportunities I’ve had to help me in my career to do what I want to do and leave this place better than I found it and impact people in a positive way in the meantime.”
An in with the agency
The networking from the NCC not only gave Crook insight on leadership from other departments but also a better working relationship with the FBI.
“We were introduced to several different resources and departments within the FBI. They’re here for us to partner with and use resources I was not aware of prior to this. It was eye opening to see that the FBI is open to partnering with local agencies. Years ago when I was in law enforcement, they had the reputation of being the best, holding their cards close and not really sharing information well with others. Now, post-9/11, the federal agencies realize the value of partnering and sharing information with smaller agencies to stop threats from happening,” Crook said.
He added most terrorist attacks stopped by law enforcement have been through local law enforcement officers.
“It could be pulling over a guy with a trunk load of fertilizer. At that point, they were able to contact the FBI and say something was weird and their resources could point that they’re connected to this guy. From that, they found out they had plans to blow something up,” Crook said.
Through the course, participants learned classroom lessons such as threat assessment and prevention, incoming technology, preventing targeted violence, the importance of people being active bystanders and the importance of being transparent. They also toured the FBI Training Center at Quantico, which included visits with leaders from different divisions such as hostage rescue and the lab.
“They were more than hospitable in inviting us there to train. For example, a ballistics engineer said, ‘If there’s a certain round of ammo you’re wanting to carry and want us to test, send us 200 rounds, and we’ll give you the results of ballistics testing for free.’ They’re actually sending us the results of everything they’ve been testing like helmets, vests and different rounds. They’ve been testing all of this to see what’s the best,” Crook said.
His biggest highlight was hearing Retired Gen. John Kelly, who served as White House Chief of Staff under Donald Trump, speak about leadership capabilities he learned through the U.S. Marines.
“There were a lot of similarities between the Marine Corps post-Vietnam as what law enforcement is facing now with criticism and national relations. It feels like the nation has turned on us, and the military went through the same thing. He walked us through how they built that back and offered insight to us,” he said.
Crook said most sheriffs and police chiefs have the same thoughts on what matters the most, including training and education, community policing and equipping resources.
“Whether we’re in New York, New Jersey or on the edge of Minneapolis, we don’t have the money that the bigger departments have to get the resources and training that we need. That’s across the board. I think the FBI saw, ‘We’ve got to help them. We’ve got to reach out to these guys,’” Crook said.