- By Sarah Peters Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
A Palm Beach Gardens officer who discovered his passion for police work in a teen career exploration program joined the upper echelon of law enforcement when he graduated from the FBI National Academy in December.
Maj. Paul Rogers, 37, handed off his responsibilities to head to the academy in Quantico, Va. He took upper-level college courses in executive leadership, management, media relations and counter-terrorism and completed a fitness class.
“It was an absolutely amazing experience,” Rogers said.
His coursework at the academy gave him ideas to bolster safety at special events in the city such as the upcoming Honda Classic golf tournament and pushed him closer to earning his bachelor’s degree in emergency management from Barry University, he said.
He joined the ranks of less than 1 percent of police officers in the United States when he graduated from the academy in December. A few other city police, including Chief Stephen Stepp, have gone through the academy.
The federal government pays the way for the police officers who get accepted into the highly-competitive program, Rogers said.
Rogers and his new colleagues spent a weekend in New York City learning about how police fight terrorism in one of the biggest targets in the U.S. A student in the class who was from the United Arab Emirates, a U.S. ally in fighting terrorism, explained trends in his country and how to stop them from happening here, Rogers said.
Rogers’ classmates came from as far away as South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Britain, France, Costa Rica and Argentina, he said.
Rogers didn’t know for sure if police work was for him when he signed up for the Police Explorers program as a 16-year-old in 1996. In the program, young people ages 14 to 21 train in law enforcement tasks, participate in competitions and help out at city functions.
“I decided for sure it was a profession I wanted to go into. It’s all about helping and giving,” Rogers said. “That is something that has always been near and dear to me.”
He became a full-fledged police officer in 2001. Rogers was a detective and then a sergeant assigned to road patrol and community involvement before he was promoted to major in 2015. He is responsible for the 9-1-1 dispatch center, community involvement unit and volunteer program.
“Maj. Rogers is a homegrown result of many years of police work,” City Manager Ron Ferris said in lauding him at a city council meeting.
Rogers also oversees the used of a drone city police bought for search and rescue and disaster responses. He learned some lessons at the academy applicable to that, too, he said.
The level of instruction was incredible, Rogers said. He also completed the grueling, 6.1-mile Yellow Brick Road obstacle course and biked more than 1,000 miles over the 10-week program.
“It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he said.