NIA prepares participants mentally and physically for next stage of career

Posted on by Polk Newsroom

The STEM-based National Public Safety Innovation Academy (NIA) gives participants the knowledge needed to become agency leaders and to keep up with the ever-evolving professions of law enforcement and corrections.

Over the eight-week executive-level course launched by Polk State College and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, however, it’s not just the mind that is challenged. It’s the body as well.

“This is the first course I’ve seen that works on your mind and body,” said Lt. Fred Jones, a 25-year veteran of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. “To me, they work in conjunction with each other. I love the physical fitness component of it and I’m really glad they added that.”

Over the eight weeks, participants take part in a functional fitness program, led by Auburndale-based Ultra Fit. It teaches participants how to implement positive lifestyle changes for personal growth, health, and wellbeing.

“I like the physical training aspect and the focus on wellness and nutrition,” said Capt. Preston Hollis with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. “I’ve already changed some of my eating habits. For law enforcement agencies to have a wellness program is really important.”

Thinking critically

Over the eight weeks, participants learn from renowned subject matter experts on different topics that affect law enforcement and corrections personnel today, forcing them to think critically. As technology and trends change, NIA will evolve to meet the needs and address those challenges.

“I came here because I wanted to make myself a better administrator,” said Capt. Jason Jones, who has spent the entirety of his 25-year career with Panama City Beach Police Department. “The executive-level courses and the case studies prepared me well for all the possibilities. The media relations course was one of the best classes. This information, I think, might give me the opportunity to be a chief one day.”

Other topics over the eight weeks include analytics, futuristics, cybersecurity, and mental health. Case studies include an in-depth look at the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla. A supervisor since 2012, Fred Jones said learning about mental health was also helpful for managing a staff.

“It gave good perspective on what a lot of law enforcement officers go through,” Lt. Jones said. “It’s really important to understand some of the mental health challenges we face. Just learning from each other was a bonus, too.”

Looking ahead

The first cohort of participants graduated on Nov. 18 and was comprised almost exclusively of participants from Florida. The next cohort, which begins later this month, will bring in participants from across the country. Click here to register before Jan. 12.

“I think you have a great school here,” said Sgt. John Bergen, who hopes to be promoted to captain at the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office within the next three years. “It has great potential. It’s also on the agencies to pick the right people to send to this class.”

The cost of the course is $3,500. Tuition and fees are competitive and more affordable than similar programs across the country.

“I have no doubt in my mind that this could be nationally accredited,” Capt. Jones said. “It’s been very eye-opening. I think this will give agencies another option. This is something agencies need to seriously consider for their commanders.”

NIA’s rigorous curriculum examines contemporary issues, explores future trends in public safety and criminal justice and gives participants the knowledge and skills needed to craft innovative policies to address and direct high-liability situations that agencies encounter in today’s climate. The program is not only a benefit to the participants, but for their agencies and the communities they serve.

“When I volunteered for this program, I really didn’t know what I was getting into, but I’m glad I came” Lt. Jones said. “This is the place to go if you want to be challenged. If you want to see where the future of law enforcement is headed, NIA is the place.”