Cooper moving to No. 2 spot in Kingman Police lineup
Veteran officer completes FBI National Academy
KINGMAN - On his desk is a yellow brick. It isn't gold, but Kingman Police Capt. Rusty Cooper treasures it just the same.
The brick signifies that Cooper completed a grueling 6.1-mile obstacle course through a hilly, wooded trail the Marines built at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va.
For a man of 47, the feat was a personal triumph and one that added meaning to his time at the FBI National Academy. The fact that this final test was entirely voluntary makes it that much sweeter.
More than the physical training, however, is the training Cooper received that will help him succeed as the next chapter in his career is set to begin.
The Kingman Police Department is restructuring in an effort to become a leaner, more efficient law enforcement agency.
Cooper has responded by turning himself into a leaner, more efficient police officer in advance of taking over as the department's deputy chief of police on July 1.
To do that, Cooper spent 10 weeks earlier this year at the FBI National Academy, where he underwent advanced training in several areas.
For Cooper, attending the academy was a lifelong goal.
"It's something I've always wanted to do," said Cooper. "I've always had that desire." After more than 20 years as a police officer, Cooper began the application process early in 2012.
"We have a good working relationship with the FBI in Arizona," said Cooper. "I started talking about it to an FBI special agent and decided to try."
Cooper said Chief Robert DeVries was supportive.
"He's always been a very forward thinker," said Cooper. "He even recommended me in the application."
The eight-month process was arduous, said Cooper. In order to be nominated by the FBI's special agent in charge of Arizona, Cooper was vetted, his character was investigated, and coworkers and other personal references were interviewed.
"I was fortunate," he said. "Sometimes it can take years to get in. It's very prestigious to attend the academy. Less than 1 percent of police in the country are able to attend."
Cooper is the first Kingman police officer to go to the academy in 20 years. In addition to the physical training, Cooper and his classmates took classes in the law, behavioral science, forensic science, understanding terrorism and the terrorist mind-set, leadership development, and communication.
The relationships he made with law enforcement officers from around the country and internationally have already paid dividends. He said he sent emails to several former classmates regarding an issue at KPD.
"Within a couple of days I received a lot of replies and had my answer," he said.
The ability to network, he said, is crucial.
The most difficult element of attending the academy was being gone from Jessica, his wife of nearly 26 years, and their family.
Cooper began his career with the KPD shortly after he graduated from the police academy in Tucson in 1991.
Cooper rose through the ranks. He started off as a uniformed patrol officer and soon made patrol sergeant.
A promotion to detective sergeant followed. He held the position for nearly a decade before another promotion elevated him to the lieutenant over the Patrol Division. Five years later, he was promoted to captain. He's hesitant to describe his move to deputy chief as a promotion.
"We're restructuring," he said. The moves are from the top.
A current lieutenant will not be promoted to fill Cooper's captaincy. Instead, a civilian will be hired at a lower salary to handle the department's grants, perform other paperwork and serve as the department's full-time public information officer.
Another captain, Scott Wright, will retire at the end of May. The vacancy his retirement creates will not be filled, said Cooper.
Currently there are two lieutenants. A sergeant from the department will likely be promoted to a third lieutenant position over the Patrol Division.
There are 54 sworn officers at the KPD; 43 of them are in uniform. The remainder is comprised of detectives; flex officers and five school resource officers.
Twenty volunteers perform non-law enforcement duties.
As the department struggles to streamline operations in the face of citywide budget woes, Cooper said the academy taught him Kingman's problems are by no means unique.
"All the agencies across the nation seem to have the same struggles," he said. "Retention, keeping officers, maintaining and upgrading equipment ... the community expects a professional law enforcement service. They expect to be protected, but to do that we need to keep up with equipment, the criminal element and technology. There's a price that comes with that."
Cooper said the KPD has "actually gone backwards" in maintaining certain types of equipment, and that in turn has affected efficiency and response times.
In the budget for 2013-2014 is the purchase of a mobile data computer system, which Cooper said will allow officers to remain in the field to write their reports, get dispatched and favorably impact response times.
Supervisors will be allowed to monitor an officer's movements, something Cooper said is part of a changing philosophy in law enforcement.
"There's a new emphasis on effective leadership," he said. "I took several classes that focused on leadership and effective communication."
Cooper said police officers must walk a fine line regarding people's constitutional rights and be careful not to violate them. "We're held to a higher standard, and we should be," he said. So the need to take someone's liberty must be justified - such as when an officer has a reasonable belief that a crime was committed and the subject probably committed it, for example.
"We don't take this lightly," he said. "What we do have to do is be in the framework of the Constitution."
Cooper said he spent downtime in Washington, D.C., which is 35 miles from Quantico.
While in the nation's capital he took in some of the sights, but a planned trip to the White House was canceled when the sequester brought tours to a stop.
"Fortunately," he chuckled, "the sequester didn't have an impact on the academy."
He saw Marine One, the presidential helicopter, and he got a "behind-the-scenes" look at the FBI's Hostage Response Team, which played a role in the recent capture of one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects.
He said his time at the academy would prove invaluable.
"What's really important to me is I learned how to be more effective in developing leadership skills in subordinates," he said.
"That's something my chief believes in. You need a succession plan. Obviously, none of us in command will be here forever. Chief did this for me and I want to do it for my subordinates."
About that yellow brick:
"I'm proud of that. The brick is legendary," he said, patting his stomach. "My new fitness level is something I want to maintain."
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