Police officers get training in Loxley

By Barbara Grider
Staff Writer
Posted 6/12/07

LOXLEY — One of the things that Mike Murphy, Loxley’s new police chief, said he hoped to do was offer more officer training to his department and he wasted no time in doing just that, organizing a two-day training session, May 21-22, at the …

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Police officers get training in Loxley


LOXLEY — One of the things that Mike Murphy, Loxley’s new police chief, said he hoped to do was offer more officer training to his department and he wasted no time in doing just that, organizing a two-day training session, May 21-22, at the Loxley Fire Department building.

The two free sessions allowed local law enforcement officers to gain 12 hours of continuing education credit. Each of the two sessions was attended by about 25 local law enforcement, court and parole board personnel.

Officers from Fairhope, Bay Minette, Robertsdale, Silverhill, Daphne, Brewton, Foley, Summerdale and Chickasaw, as well as personnel from the Alabama Board of Pardons and Parole and officers of the Loxley Municipal Court, joined Loxley officers for the two-day training session conducted by Robert T. Thetford and Dr. Lou Harris of the Institute for Criminal Justice Education Inc. in Montgomery, a non-profit organization that trains 1,000 officers a year for 24 different agencies on a regular basis.

Thetford, who has over 25 years of experience as a prosecutor, special agent and legal counsel with the FBI, is also an instructor with the Alabama Department of Public Safety and a guest lecturer at the U.S. Air War College. He also has a law practice in Montgomery specializing in mediation procedures and consulting for police agencies and private industry.

Harris, who is currently chair of the Criminal Justice and Legal Studies department at Faulkner University in Montgomery, where he created the Legal Studies Department in 1993. He was a special agent with the FBI for 25 years. He has been an APOST-certified instruction since 1987.

Subject matter covered during the training sessions included trial preparation and courtroom testimony and interview and interrogation techniques. Each of the classes, which ran from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, allowed participants six hours of approved continuing education.

Trial preparation and courtroom testimony instruction included information on the new expert witness rules, checklists and trial preparation files.

The segment on interview and interrogation techniques offered training on the primary “dos” and “do nots” of basic interviewing, along with advanced concepts of interviewing, such as identifying motives for crime types and strategies for conducting successful interviews with subjects, witnesses and victims.

Although the Alabama Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission requires only 12 hours of continuing education a year, officers usually get between 24 and 60 hours a year.

Murphy said offering the classes in Loxley gave not only his officers a chance to get additional education hours locally, but also allowed nearby departments to participate, saving time and money.

Harris used role-playing to demonstrate the effective use of active listening during an interview. He said law enforcement officers are trained to “ask questions,” which they must do, but that they also need to learn how to listen without asking questions, which he said is especially valuable when interviewing victims.

Harris said there are three levels of communication — superficial, surface and personal/intimate. He said reaching level three (personal/intimate” is the goal when interviewing victims. He said in order to do that, the interviewer must build rapport with the victim.

Whether interviewing witnesses, victims, informants or perpetrators, he said the techniques can be used in any interview. He also said the technique is very effective for “multicultural interviewing,” or interviews with people whose native language isn’t English.

“You must be patient, take time and take it slow. You can’t start out at level three. You have to work your way to it,” he said.

Loxley Magistrate Kay Hicks, who is also a Baldwin County District Court Magistrate, which means she handles both misdemeanor and felony cases, said she found the classes to be very informative.

“I do a lot of interviewing of witnesses and victims. We take statements from them and the interview process is very important. I’m really glad I had the chance to take these classes,” she said.

Gene Whitson, a probation officer from Bay Minette, who participated in the role-playing, said the things Harris demonstrated made him stop and think about what he does when he is interviewing somebody

Although he noted that most of the interviews he conducts are with perpetrators, not victims, he said he felt the training he got in effective interviewing techniques would help him do his job more effectively.

Loxley Police officers who took the class were Cliff Yetter, Chip Cason Kerry Mitchum, Aaron Glass, Allen Hinton and Jason Hadaway.

Hadaway said continuing education classes are very important for police officers, who must keep up laws that frequently change, as well as learning new techniques to help them do their jobs better.

“You are always trying to improve to help you do a better job. The classes were very informative and helpful and they were interesting, too, which is good. Those were really good teachers who make it interesting,” he said.

Hadaway said he was pleased that the Loxley Police Department hosted the classes and invited other area law officers to attend. “Usually, everybody else hosts classes and we have to go somewhere else. I think it’s good that we hosted the classes. It kind of helps put us on the map for law enforcement,” he said. He also praised Murphy for organizing the continuing education courses, saying, “I think Chief Murphy is going to do a lot for us.”

Murphy, who was sworn in as Loxley Chief of Police on April 2, worked for the Escambia County (Ala.) Sheriff’s Office for almost 21 years. He graduated from Southwest Alabama Police Academy in Bay Minette; from the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va.; and from the 10-week Northwestern University Center for Public Safety’s School of Police Staff and Command. Murphy also earned a master’s degree in criminal justice from Troy State University, said continuing education of vitally important for all law enforcement personnel.

“Things change very quickly in law enforcement and we have to keep up with those changes. I was excited about the opportunity to bring these experienced trainers into Loxley and to make the classes available to other agencies in the county,” he said.

Murphy said he was pleased with the number of people who signed up for the classes and that he has gotten positive feedback from many who were in the classes. He said he hopes to bring Harris and Thetford to the area for more training sessions.

“They are top notch. I hope to bring them back before the year is out,” he said.