Lake Oswego Police Lt. Clayton Simon's biggest takeaway after graduating from the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia, was the importance of community, camaraderie and networking.
There were about 255 people in his session, representing 32 countries.
"The value there is the wealth of experience you get from all over the globe," said Simon, adding that it helped him analyze himself as an officer — the things he'd been doing, what he was missing and simple aspects the Lake Oswego Police Department could adopt through networking. "That to me was a driving force … You're not always the expert on everything. It's great to have access to experts."
Simon graduated from the 10-week session March 13 with three other Oregon officers. During his time training, Simon said it was essentially like graduate school for officers — he took classes, completed assignments, wrote papers and attended events.
"There is a highly competitive process local law enforcement officers must go through to be selected for this honor," read the LOPD press release sent out earlier this month. "That process includes a nomination by a supervisor; interviews with the candidate and co-workers to determine leadership skills and abilities; a background check; a determination of physical fitness; and the support of former National Academy graduates within the candidate's organization."
Simon joined the LOPD in 2005 as a patrol officer before becoming a motorcycle officer and crash reconstruction technician in 2011. Three years later, he was promoted to sergeant and then lieutenant in 2018. He now supervises in the Traffic Division and police involvement in City-sponsored special events.
"His unit responds to all serious injury/fatal crashes in Lake Oswego and handles most matters that are not patrol- or investigation-related," the press release read.
During his career in the LOPD, he administered Oregon's STOP demographic requirements for the city, as well as the department's e-ticketing program and coordinated the development of the Adult Resource Officer position, among several other projects.
During Simon's time at the FBI Academy, he took both required and elective courses including fitness, forensics for middle managers — which Simon said was applicable to agencies the size of LOPD — contemporary issues with police and media relations, and breaking barriers and building communities.
During his forensic class, Simon said he learned what resources the FBI can bring in to help police solve cases and they talked about evidence found in more nationally known cases.
He said he also found the breaking barriers class to be "incredibly valuable." In that class, they dove into national and international issues and discussed communities that have been disproportionately affected by law enforcement.
"The class is made up of people from all over the country," said Simon, adding that the class often resulted in heated conversation and helped break down stereotypes. "It was interesting to hear what folks at their home agencies are doing to build those relationships or establish those communication avenues."
During the fitness class, Simon said the officers had challenges every week like timed mile runs and obstacle courses where people climbed cargo nets, "which was a lot of fun," he said.
They did high-intensity exercises as a group, which Simon said the shared tribulations helped build camaraderie with everyone.
"Doing what you can to be physically and mentally fit to deal with the rigors of the job is extremely important," Simon said. "Not all of us are in our 20s anymore."
Simon was also able to travel and explore New York and Philadelphia, as well as "top secret" places that the FBI had access to like their crime lab and Hogan Alley — a training facility operated by the FBI's Training Academy.
But the three months away from home didn't come without challenges. Finding his way around, getting back into the swing of school and being without his immediate and extended family was difficult — though Simon said they were all very supportive.
Simon said he is grateful toward the FBI Portland office, the LOPD and the law enforcement agencies that allowed their people to complete this program even during the COVID-19 health crisis.
"It certainly takes a village and I appreciate them allowing me to do this," he said.
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