Roosevelt County Sheriff Darren Hooker was one of 266 law enforcement officers to graduate from the FBI National Academy Program last month.
Hooker, who returned from training just before Christmas, said he is ready to put into action what he learned while at the academy in Quantico, Va.
"The ability to look at different things from different perspectives and to know that no matter where you are in an organization, your opinion matters, counts and can be used is something that I want to be seen in my office and future endeavors," Hooker said.
Hooker was one of two New Mexico law enforcement officials to be chosen for the fall training program.
"I saw him (Hooker) as a leader and he seems like he's very in tune with his community," Albuquerque FBI Agent Richard Price said when Hooker qualified for the program in July. "He's sincere and empathetic to other people. He's a people person and from what I've heard, he's good at diffusing situations. Those are the kind of people you want in this profession."
Hooker said the three-month training session revolved around improving leadership skills with many vital and experienced law enforcement officials guest speaking and sharing experiences as well as trainees.
"The experience itself is something that could never be replaced or replicated," Hooker said. "The ability to have that many law enforcement professionals together in one place to share their professional experiences and knowledge is something that can't be replaced."
Hooker said Wednesdays were referred to as "challenge day" with trainees starting with a 1.8 mile run and building to a 6.2 mile run with an obstacle course by the end of the three months.
Hooker said there was a different guest enrichment speaker each Wednesday, such as Bobby Smith, a Louisiana state police officer, who lost his eyesight from being shot in the face.
"He came in and talked about how you shouldn't take anything for granted — your law enforcement professionals and so on," Hooker said. "I was crying just listening to his story and thinking of the adversities he faced and how that could be any of us in law enforcement or anyone in the world."
Hooker said he wouldn't trade the training experience for anything and feels he will be a better leader because of the training.
"A topic would be brought up and would immediately spark conversation or debate," Hooker said. "The networking, the ability to pick up the phone and call somebody from NYPD (New York Police Department) or LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department), you just can't put a price on that."
Hooker said the networking benefits continue after training, because he and other trainees continue to keep in touch, regularly asking each input, advice and more on their law enforcement and leadership tactics.
"It was a great experience, bottom line," Hooker said. "I'm glad that my office was able to operate effectively while I was gone and that there were people to step up and take care of things. My family was also very supportive the entire time I was gone."