Most would not associate the FBI National Academy with the classic tale of The Wizard of Oz. That is, unless they are one of the few law enforcement professionals who have been invited to attend the FBI's prestigious academy.
Chief Paul Shastany is one of these elite individuals and recently discussed his journey to and from the "Land of Oz" (the FBI National Academy).
Like Dorothy, the iconic protagonist from the Wizard of Oz, Shastany says his story is “like a dream.” He described waking up in his own bed last Saturday as, “being back in Kansas.”
The Chief attended the 10-week elite FBI training program at the in Quantico, VA, departing for “Oz” in January. He last Friday, March 16.
While there Shastany made his mark, being as one of six Section Leaders representing the 260 law enforcement officials attending this session of the FBI Academy.
Executive Officer Robert Devine served as acting Police Chief and ran the Stoughton Police Department on a day-to-day basis during this 10-week period, with Shastany returning to the SPD on March 19.
Shastany’s journey to “Oz” began after a cyclone of preparation and hype. When he arrived in Quantico, he was greeted not by Munchkins, but rather by fellow law enforcement professionals from around the globe.
“JFK opened the program to international students. It is an inclusive program that is respectful of diversity,” Shastany says.
He, too, has an inclusive mindset, which he exemplified by trying various ethnic cuisine from grasshoppers to monkey jerky at the Academy’s international dinner. (Shastany was put in charge of cooking the famous Maine lobsters.)
The Chief’s journey was full of physical and mental challenges, with the first being the "Not in Kansas Anymore" course. This appropriately named 1.8-mile trail proved to be the easiest of the obstacles that lie ahead for he would face. After all, he had been training for months leading up to his Quantico arrival.
The National Academy puts a great influence on what Shastany calls, “full body health.”
It was “harder than the police academy, both academically and physically, not because I am older but because of how fitness has evolved,” Shastany said. “It’s not just about how much you can bench press, it’s also [about] stamina, endurance and cardio strength.”
“We learned about the importance of nutrition, sleep, vitamins and hydration,” Shastany continues. “It all equates to less officer injury and sick time. It also limits the amount of force needed [for an officer] to ascertain someone.”
“It’s all about being the best that we can be. That’s what I am bringing back to the department. We need to be continually challenging ourselves. Always examining how we do things. This will benefit the community in many ways [because] it creates a highly motivated and competent workforce.”
Shastany conquered the other thematically-named Academy obstacles—The Tin Man Trot, The Gates of Oz, The Cyclone, The Lion's Leap, The Winged Monkey and the Return to Oz.
He explains that, “the [challenges of the] Academy caused a reaffirmation, re-examination and realization that it is an honor and a privilege to serve folks.”
Another honor was bestowed upon Shastany and the Stoughton Police Department, during his Managing Organizational Change and Behavior Course. The instructor, Special Agent Michael McCauliffe, displayed a photograph of a Stoughton Police cruiser with a on it for his “Paradigm Presentation.”
The presentation was highlighting progressive policing. A humble Shastany states, “It is great to get acknowledged for the things we are doing here!”
Shastany, similar to the character Dorothy, attributes much of his Academy success to the friends he made along the way, his fellow Section 2 members—New Jersey’s Albert “Al” Ponenti, Michael Espenoza of Oregon, Michigan’s Lori King and Mark Hathaway from Maine.
“We, [The five of us], sort of gelled,” Shastany said.
Their final and most memorable and physically enduring challenge was that of the famed (the Marines E-4 Course). It is described by the FBI’s National Academy as a “6.1-mile grueling run through a hilly, wooded trail built by the Marines.”
“People have died trying to complete that course. There are literally granite stones honoring those who have died along the trail,” Shastany said.
While there was no Wizard needed for the Chief to complete the course, (as he had it in him all along), he did have the benefit of his own, big hearted, Tin Man, Al Ponenti.
“He could have ran ahead but he ran along side me instead, encouraging me,” Shastany warmly remembers.
Upon completion of the course, the law enforcement officers were presented their own yellow bricks to commemorate the achievement.
“It is just a simple brick...painted yellow with a decal,” Shastany said. “[But] it is a prized possession.”
The Police Chief’s journey, like Dorothy’s, ended much as it began—with him departing as an individual.
Shastany sums up the training by saying, "You go in an individual. You become a team, evolve as a team. The team dissolves and you leave an individual."
“It’s much like policing," Shastany explains, “You police as an individual.
An individual, however, that is part of a larger team, part of a larger community.
“The Academy is all about the organization [law enforcement].” Shastany explains, “No one is above the organization. The Chief represents integrity, honesty, commitment, courage and loyalty to the organization and the community.”
Shastany expressed the belief that the way a police department handles itself can help to set the tone for a community.
The Chief thanked his community—both the members of his department and the residents in town—for their support during his time at the FBI Academy.
“I want to thank the people [of Stoughton] for allowing me to do this," he said. "I want to thank the police force, especially Lt. Devine who was exceptional in his performance. I left without a worry; I knew this place was in good hands.”
Though Shastany admits that “it’s good to be back.”
There truly is “no place like home.”