Salem Police Department Lt. Treven Upkes. (Courtesy/FBI)
For 10 weeks last fall, two local law enforcement agents went back to school.
They went to classes every day, bunked up with roommates and ate at a cafeteria.
No, this isn’t the plot of “21 Jump Street.” Marion County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Chris Baldridge and Salem Police Department Lt. Treven Upkes both went to the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia, a professional study course for law enforcement managers around the world. Both had to be nominated to attend the free training.
Baldridge said it was an eye-opening experience.
He said instructors would throw out an idea and let the class dissect it to figure what was and wasn’t working for each department.
There were times when Baldridge thought ‘This would not work for us,’ but would hear another classmate explain how it worked for their agency.
And Baldridge would reassess, “I didn’t even think to think about coming at it from that angle, from that direction.”
He took classes on public speaking, leadership and constitutional law.
“It’s really kind of an intensive training and you’re completely immersed,” Baldridge said.
He said the last time a Marion County Sheriff’s Office deputy went to the academy was more than a decade ago.
But the education wasn’t just mental.
Baldridge said he learned about functional movements and healthy eating, part of a wellness focus at the academy.
“It’s a complete program that focuses on keeping the body healthy so the mind can stay healthy,” he said.
Both Upkes and Baldridge said it’s a hot topic within the law enforcement community.
Marion County Sheriff's Office Lt. Chris Baldridge. (Courtesy/FBI)
At the academy, they spoke with law enforcement members from around the world. Nearly 30 countries were represented, and more than 200 people attended.
Upkes said the academy showed him how well the Salem Police Department is doing relative to the rest of the country. He said Salem is trending ahead of the curve by having a peer-support team to help with wellness and mental health.
He said there are a few things the department could do to enhance officer wellness, but “We’re not playing a lot of catch up.”
Upkes was most excited to attend a class on intelligence-led policing, which focused on using data to manage crime fighting resources.
He had to write eight to 15-page research papers and later defend his thesis during a presentation paper.
But Upkes’ real victory came on international night, when the international students would prepare food from their countries.
Each year, there’s a competition to eat the most fertilized duck eggs, called balut eggs.
Upkes won after eating three.
“It was a low bar, but I did win it,” Upkes said, adding that it tasted like a hardboiled egg.
After leaving the academy, Upkes said he has a peer and mentor group he can rely on to ask for help with tough subjects.
He said it’s important for the community to understand that the area’s officers take the profession seriously and are constantly working to improve through education.
“You’re always having to prove yourself and learn more and be evolving with whatever trends we’re seeing to keep people safe, but also to learn to be responsive to what the community wants,” Upkes said. “In the end its about me learning things to come back to make things safer.”
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