Blaettler has been training in an exclusive law enforcement program called the National Academy located at the FBI Headquarters. According to the National Academy's web site (www.fbi.gov/hq/td/academy), the Academy "is considered the most prestigious law enforcement school available. The academy has long been a vital element in the continuing improvement of law enforcement standards, knowledge, and cooperation throughout the world."
Obviously, Union City Mayor and Director of Public Safety Brian Stack thought the training to be important enough to lose one of his most trusted police supervisors for 11 weeks.
Blaettler is the first officer from Union City since 1960 to be accepted to the program.
But aside from the police aspect of the training, Blaettler and his family have had to endure long weeks apart with Blaettler making the drive back to his home in New Jersey on only a couple of occasions. But, as described by Blaettler himself as well as his wife, Patty, the sacrifice is well worth it. Blaettler has about two weeks left before the training is over.
The FBI training
According to the National Academy's website, "The FBI National Academy provides a wide range of leadership and specialized training, as well as an opportunity for professional law enforcement officers to share ideas, techniques and experiences. Attendees are invited to attend after being nominated by their department. Once nominated, the Officers undergo an extensive background check and interview process. Admission to the FBI National Academy is very limited: only 1/2 of 1 percent of all law enforcement in the free world is invited by the Director of the FBI to attend the academy. Law Enforcement officers from around the world submit to concentrated studies and demanding physical training for eleven weeks."
The limited number of officers accepted to this program is an important point. It means that just to be accepted to the academy, you have to be recognized as already being the "best of the best".
Blaettler, of course, was characteristically humble in his estimation of why he was chosen for the training course. "Well, a lot of the reason I was accepted was because I was willing to sacrifice my time for it," said Blaettler in a telephone interview last week. "Not a lot of folks want to be away from home for that long. I applied almost two years ago and waited a year and a half and was finally accepted."
Blaettler was sure to give his boss, Union City Mayor Brian Stack, a lot of the credit for making sure the training happened. Said Blaettler, "I was aware of this program for a number of years and have always wanted to do it. But previous administrations were really reluctant to send someone. I am not sure why."
While Blaettler stated that the training is not of a tactical nature, but more of a managerial/leadership nature, the experiences that he has had and things that he has learned will be invaluable to the Union City Police Department and by extension, the people of Union City.
"Another really important aspect of it," said Blaettler, "is being able to meet other cops and network with them. When this is over, I can pick up the phone and call a cop in Los Angeles or overseas and ask them advice on some procedure or policy or how they would handle something. It's invaluable."
Another interesting aspect of the training course is that it is international in scope. In this semester's class, there are international police officers hailing from 27 different countries such as Italy, Estonia, Bulgaria, Russia and Japan. September, 2003's graduating class contained 25 international police officers from 25 different countries.
Blaettler has made a lot of friends over his time at the Academy, guys that he says he will stay in touch with.
"I've met some really decent people here," said Blaettler. "This really is the 'best of the best'."
Union City Mayor Brian Stack was effusive in his support of Blaettler. "This is an officer that eats, sleeps and breathes Union City," said Stack. "I am very proud that he was accepted in the first place. This says a lot about the department and about Captain Blaettler. I am happy and fortunate to be working with him."
Continued Stack, "I think with all the training, it will be a huge asset to the city. It's really an invaluable thing."
The family factor
Blaettler's wife Patty has, during his absence, been left with the jobs of Mom and Dad. And she wouldn't have it any other way.
"Oh, the wife is fine," joked Patty in a telephone conversation last week. "We're doing really well and the kids are fine. We've done surprisingly well."
The Blaettler's three children, Charles, 14, Sammy, 12 and Nina, 6 are, according to Patty, used to their dad working strange hours and coupled with Blaettler's weekend trips home, things haven't been so different.
"He's had a busy year," said Patty. "And really, he's happiest when he's busy and productive. He's very good at making plans and seeing that they are carried out. So, he had all of this time mapped out before he left and he's been instrumental in keeping everything together with our family while he's away."
However, Patty is hoping for some time with her husband when he returns. "I'm hoping his work schedule will allow him to be home on some evenings when he gets back, that's for sure," said Patty.