For 10 weeks from April through June Boynton Beach Police Chief Jeffrey Katz turned the department over to his three assistant chiefs while he became part of the less than one percent of the country’s law enforcement officers to graduate the FBI National Academy.
He did so June 10 in Quantico, Va. with more than 200 top cops from across the world.
Katz said the academy taught him about perspective, himself and his role, and he plans to put more of a focus on getting to know his officers better.
“I think the thing I learned the most from the FBI is kind of part of their culture. They have a saying, ‘Mission first. People always.’ I think what I really learned is you get so focused on the tasks that sometimes you don’t spend the time to develop the relationships with the people and I’m talking about more deep relationships,” Katz said.
He said he wants to get his command staff to Quantico to experience what he did.
Katz earned 17 college credits after attending classes in constitutional and employment law, media relations, physical fitness, leading and managing organizational change and development and psychology of leadership. He had midterms and finals. He completed physical fitness challenges. He followed orders and directions given by the top brass.
He was thrown back into the college days in having a roommate and shared a bathroom with three classmates. He wore a uniform that didn’t say police chief. He successfully maneuvered his way through the 6.1 mile obstacle course called the Yellow Brick Road, which isn’t attempted by everyone, and isn’t completed by everyone who tries.
Boynton’s police chief now has colleagues in places around the world such as Hong Kong, Australia, Munich and Jerusalem.
“If we have an issue, we have a concern, we need information, we can pick up the phone and call them. That’s a real strength of the program,” Katz said.
While he called the entire experience “remarkable,” there is a moment while at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. that stands out in his mind.
Katz saw his classmate from Munich, Robert, standing by himself outside the museum.
“And I thought to myself ‘jeez if I was in Germany and I was about to go to a museum that highlighted some stuff that America did that was horrible I would feel a little uncomfortable going in,’” he said.
Katz walked up to Robert, but before he reached him another classmate did. The classmate asked if he was alright and asked why he was standing outside.
“And he said I’m waiting for Ana. Ana is the police chief from Jerusalem. He wanted to go through the Holocaust museum with her. To me it kind of felt like history was not erased but the world healed a little bit. I thought wow how amazing.”
Coming back to Boynton was bittersweet, Katz said.
“I wanted to come home because I missed everybody but on the same token I realized that some folks that I had spent the last 10 weeks with I’d probably never see again,” he said.
When he returned to his police station, Katz was welcomed with a banner and a yellow brick cake.
Katz was nominated to be looked at by the academy by a law enforcement officer in Broward County. Locally, he was joined by Maj. Ann Marie Cardona of the North Miami Police Department; Capt. Eric Coleman of the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office and Capt. Darren Brodsky of the Plantation Police Department.
Boynton Beach’s City Manager, Lori LaVerriere, said she and the rest of the city are proud that Katz was selected.
“It was an honor that Chief Katz represented the City of Boynton Beach. By doing so he created, and will continue to foster, cooperative relationships with police executives from all over the world,” LaVerriere said in a statement. “I am confident that the training he received, and the cutting-edge ideas that were discussed among the participants, will be beneficial to the City, and its Police Department, for years to come.”