‘Highlight of my career’
by Sean Cote
Sun Press Intern
Chief Ed Belland of the Medina Police Department completed a 10 week training program at the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va., bringing back a better understanding of how to maintain a professional working and investigative environment for both himself and his officers.
Starting as a patrol officer in Medina in 1991, then becoming chief of police in 1997, Belland said, “It was an honor … it was definitely a highlight of my career.” The program, Belland described, is like “boot camp for executives,” combining rigorous academic coursework with an intense physical fitness regimen.
Belland was nominated for the program by Orono Police Chief Stephany Good, but had to wait two and a half years to be accepted, since fewer than one percent of officers nationwide are accepted into the program, which runs four times each year. Typically, 250 officers are chosen from across the nation and internationally for each session. During Belland’s attendance, 27 of them were from abroad.
All students room in military-style dorms and are completely immersed in the program. From the time a student wakes up to when he or she goes to bed, the schedule of a typical officer is entirely filled by studying, exercising, going to class, and more. “You have no idea how good my memory became,” Belland said. “It’s incredible how much you remember taking tests when you have no distractions.”
Syllabi for classes are handed out during week two of the program for subjects from media relations and law enforcement management to labor law and investigation procedures. Belland took five classes, one of which was labor law: “There was this attorney out of New Orleans, La., who could run through everything … from the FMLA to the VLA. If I needed to know what to do if an officer had to leave for active duty overseas for a year or more I learned what I could and couldn’t do.”
Another course Belland described is media relations, which taught how to deal with reporters. He said that he taped live interviews in front of a television camera and learned how to properly manage the sharing of information, which could help or hinder an investigation.
Of all the courses Belland attended, he said his favorite was stress management, which taught how to “deal with the day to day” stresses of police work, for both officers and entire departments. Jean G. Larned, from the Behavioral Science Unit of the academy, lectured about officer suicide, which is prevalent across the country, but the course helped Belland learn overall how to keep both his officers and himself from suffering the crippling effects stress inflicts on the mind and body due to what they see and experience out in the field and at home, be it a homicide or a divorce.
Officers in the program must also complete physical conditioning, starting with daily, 20 minute, high intensity exercise routines with a weekly challenge lasting about 45 minutes. The exercises vary, from climbing stairs and hills to two mile runs, coupled with a healthy diet. At the end of the program’s run, officers are given the option to complete the “Yellow Brick Road,” the most grueling of the fitness challenges, which consists of a 6.1-mile obstacle course originally built by the Marines.
For the city of Medina, Belland’s training improves his administrative duties and professionalism in running his department. He said, “We have a very safe community, but we have every crime,” including assaults, thefts, and DUIs, although there are no reported homicides in Medina. The program is intended to provide standardized training for all officers to adopt in their own departments across the country, as professional standards are not always the same from state to state.
“Minnesota has a challenging system,” he said, and described how, in another state, a police officer needs only a high school education, while in Minnesota at least two years post-secondary are required. Belland, who has both a bachelor’s and master’s degree, intends to push his officers to be more professional when conducting investigations, patrolling the city, or responding to emergencies.
“I’m going to use the knowledge I gained to better serve the citizens of Medina.”