Law enforcement officers from across the state of Alabama came to Opelika for a week-long training seminar recently sponsored by the FBI’s Mobile Division and co-hosted by the Opelika Police Department, the Auburn Police Department and Lee County Sheriff’s Office.
The Southeastern Law Enforcement Development Seminar (SLEDS) is an annual conference that provides leadership training for the next generation of officers.
This is the first year the training seminar has been held since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Several lieutenants, sergeants and captains from the OPD, APD and LCSO participated along with others from across the state.
Opelika Police Chief Shane Healey said this training program is designed for officers who are in middle management and who are working to move up the ranks and become captains or chiefs in the future.
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“I think it’s important because not only do they get great training, but they connect with people they can call in other places and say, ‘Hey, I have this problem. Can you help me? “Healey said. “For us in our career, who you know is just as important as what you know.”
Special Agent Paul Brown, the FBI’s mobile office manager, said the goal of the week-long training was to raise the bar for education in the law enforcement community and establish essential partnerships with other officers and departments.
“It’s great for all of us. I think we have an impressive lineup of people who can come and share their expertise and experiences,” Brown said. “There’s no way any of us can do this job alone.”
Brown said participants receive a wide range of different training that involves leadership skills, ballistics training, cybersecurity training, developing the right kind of culture within their agency and more.
“We are talking about people who have experienced a significant critical incident. For example, the head and management of the FBI talked about the hostage-taking at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas,” he said.
This training also helps officers prepare for the world as it is today.
“If we don’t continue to study this, involving our tactics and our techniques, we won’t be as effective,” Brown said.
Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones added that keeping officers informed about training and education is an essential part of law enforcement.
“What we do and how we do it is fluid, always has been, and no more than today where we are constantly faced with challenges, faced with the obligation to adapt to changing problems of society,” Jones said. “The only way we will be able to cope with this rapid change is through education and training and that is exactly what it is about.”
Jones said participating officers learn from experts in the field and receive some of the best training in the country.
“It’s the relationships that are built through these training sessions where they network, they get to know people,” Jones said. “When they have problems or problems, there will always be someone who has solved that problem somewhere.”
Auburn Police Chief Cedric Anderson said it was a wonderful opportunity for officers to learn, network and take what they learned back to their own departments.
“When you have the opportunity to train for law enforcement, that’s always important, but it goes beyond training,” Anderson said. “It develops the next generation of leaders for every agency represented and to me, that’s so important.”
David Wilson, executive director of public safety for Foley, Ala. and former chief of police, has been in law enforcement for approximately 40 years. He attended SLEDS as an officer cadet and returned as a teacher this year.
“You’ll see these officers taking this course, they’re going to do great things in their careers later on thanks in part to some of the training they’re getting here,” Wilson said.
Wilson described this training school as one that every officer wants to go to at some point in their career.
“We have a severe shortage of candidates wanting to become police officers due to the circumstances and the things that we have all seen in the media nationally,” he said. “Without lowering the standard for law enforcement, we must always recruit quality candidates into our ranks and direct them properly.”