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SPD continues tradition of excellence

Superior Deputy Chief Matt Markon traded his police work for classwork over the last 10 weeks as a participant in the FBI’s National Academy Program.

When he left for the semester of classes in Quantico, Va., there were 3 feet of snow on the ground in Superior.

“To get out to the East Coast where the temperatures are in the 70s and it’s nice and the trees are green already was a bit of a culture shock,” Markon said.

It’s a legacy that’s been handed down through the generations at the Superior Police Department. Past academy graduates include former Police Chief Floyd Peters and Police Chief Charles LaGesse, who attended the spring semester in 2005.

“It’s an opportunity to get high-level training for a leader in our department for minimal cost to the city,” LaGesse said. “And we gain that networking in the organization.”

After more than 20 years out of the classroom, Markon found himself writing a dozen papers and participating in numerous presentations and practice interviews. He was among 220 participants from 46 states and 17 foreign countries to graduate June 13.

Markon had a particularly rigorous schedule because he came into the program with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Superior. He earned 16 credits through classes in media relations, legal issues for command-level officers, behavioral science, physical training, conflict resolution and officer-involved shooting communication strategies. Wednesday was physical training day, with running, calisthenics and obstacle training in the morning, with the afternoon open for homework or speakers like the commander of the USS Cole and “Black Hawk Down” author Mark Bowden.

“I was looking forward to PT,” Markon said. “I was in rougher shape than I wanted to be getting in there. I feel physically better having gone through it.”

He shaved a minute off his one-mile run time by the eighth week and completed the Yellow Brick Road challenge, a 6.1-mile run paired with a Marine Corps obstacle course.

“Part of the challenge is you survive it,” Markon said. “We ran it on a 96-degree day on a high humidity index.”

One of the biggest things Markon brought back with him was the realization that the Superior Police Department is already doing things well.

“The way that we take care of our people within the department is probably already on the forefront of what the FBI itself would say is the best practice in this career field,” he said. An officer-involved shooting that took place in Superior in 2012 was used for one of the class presentations.

“And we got kudos from the other people in the class saying ‘Wow, you guys were really thorough on that,’” Markon said.

The 10-week course allowed the deputy chief to rub elbows with law enforcement officers from departments of all sizes, including the second officer on the scene of the Sandy Hook shooting.

“People from across the country are in this NA session so they’ve got experiences that the rest of us only hear about on the news, but they’re the ones that lived through some of it,” Markon said.

He also found that other departments struggle with the same issues Superior does.

 “You learn not just from the instructors but you learn from being with a group, closely being with a group of law enforcement professionals that share their experiences,” LaGesse said. “I think there’s value in the formal education they’re doing and there’s value in learning from others.”

And, the chief said, “It isn’t over.” The network of contacts made at the academy comes back with the graduate. They also become eligible for continued training and networking as members of the Wisconsin FBI National Academy.

Markon said he’s eager to put his new training into place, whether looking deeper for patterns that could mark serial criminals or tackling a press conference. And he’s made a renewed commitment to physical fitness.

“I’m going to do the Harbor House 5K this weekend,” Markon said. “I’ll keep doing them over the summer because now I’ve got it in my blood to keep fit and make time for that.”

LaGesse said he nominated Markon for the academy because he “is a senior member of our leadership team with a distinguished career here and I’m just proud to have him go and represent our department.”

He’s also glad to have him back.

“We’re ramping him up pretty quickly,” the chief said.

Eventually, Markon will be able to nominate a fellow officer to the program and continue the legacy.