Last summer CPD Sgt. Lee Gibson learned invaluable lessons and invaluable leadership taught by leading experts in a variety of fields, including one who spends most of his time grazing in one.
Gibson was selected as one of 23 law enforcement representatives from nine different jurisdictions from across the Commonwealth to travel to Richmond for the National Criminal Justice Command College. A partnership between the Virginia State Police and the University of Virginia, the Command College is a credited course offered through the University that, in most years, hosts 1-2 officers and provides leadership, collaboration, and networking training to those seeking mid and upper-level management in their departments.
The intensive ten-week course combined a rigorous classroom schedule with guest lectures from leadership gurus whose varied perspectives provide a unique, 360-degree view of leadership that takes students from the world of law enforcement to the world at large, and include representatives from the public and private sectors, teaching lessons in business sense, people sense, common sense, and yes, even horse sense.
One morning, Gibson and his 23 classmates, representing nine different agencies in the Commonwealth, found themselves down on the farm getting an up-close-and-personal look into the relationship between horse and trainer. “They showed us the ways they build the relationship between horse and trainer to create trust,” Gibson said. “And it’s not just the horse’s trust in the trainer, the trainer has to learn the ins and outs of the horse as well. It sort of puts the lessons in basic terms that all make sense and that you can easily translate to real world situations we might encounter.”
The intensive classroom experience and guest lectures are supplemented by networking opportunities that come both during and after school hours, Gibson said. The professors were really amazing, but they also spent a lot of time encouraging us to network within our class, so that we have these professional relationships in nine different agencies. You end up with this lifelong network of 23 people who are able to share so many situations. We had everything from corporals to captains in our class, so it is also nice to tap into this experience when topic and situations come up.
While many participants went home on weekends, Gibson chose to stay, both to catch up on classwork and to take advantage of these networking opportunities. “You really wind up learning more about each other outside of the classroom as you do in it.”
Gibson is incredibly thankful for the opportunity to be chosen by his department. “It is an honor to get the approval and to get selected to go because to me it shows that the department has some faith in you that you are going to do things down the road in a way that pays off for them.” In addition, the class brings the important benefit of expanding its participants’ perspectives outside of their own departments. “It is really cool to break down the walls of your own agency and to tap into some other agencies and styles rather than just rely on what we have always done in the past.”
Gibson also shared heartfelt appreciation for the support provided by the Charlottesville Police Foundation that made it possible for him to have what he called a “career altering” experience. “The basic nuts and bolts training that is required for all officers takes a significant chunk out of our training budget,” he said, “so for the foundation to be able to step in is really important, and in many ways essential, offering this world-class training that is invaluable for people interested in moving up the leadership ranks. It is just another way that the Foundation is always there behind us and helping us out, which we all appreciate so much.”