Only one in a hundred law-enforcement officers in the United States graduates from the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia. Saugerties police lieutenant K.J. Swart Jr. is one of them. He graduated September 15.
“I don’t consider myself the best of the best,” said Swart. “I just come to work every day. I had fun while I was away and would do it again if I was given the opportunity.” He admits he missed Saugerties, though.
Part of a class of 224 trainees hailing from 48 states, 22 foreign countries and five military branches, Swart completed over 200 hours over ten weeks of advanced course work on leadership, counter-terrorism, forensics and crisis negotiation. The trainees lived in dorm-style accommodations and spent up to ten hours a day in classes taught by FBI agents.
A lifelong Saugerties resident and 17-year member of the local police force, Swart began with the department as a patrolman, and moved up to detective and detective sergeant before assuming his current role. Swart was accepted the year he applied, but he encountered officers in his graduating class that had waited ten years to be enrolled in the program.
“I consider him my number two guy when it comes to investigations,” said Saugerties police chief Joe Sinagra. He said Swart was being groomed to be the chief of the department some day.
“He has a really unique knack to attention to detail,” said Sinagra. “That’s why I sent him to the academy, because I felt it would only advance his abilities. I already see a difference in him. He seems to be more sure and confident already.”
Sinagra himself graduated from the FBI Academy in 2008.
“I think the academy is extremely important in bringing a higher level of professionalism to Ulster County officers,” said Sinagra, “When you get to the academy, you realize that we’re all dealing with the same issues throughout the country. It’s always nice to be in that environment and learn from others. It really broadens one’s ability to professionally police.”
Displayed alongside his diploma on Swart’s desk is a mounted yellow brick, a memento of the final grueling component of the physical element of his training. The lieutenant ran a 6.1-mile wooded trail built by Marines from their adjacent Quantico base in 1981. The course is called the “Yellow Brick Road” because of the yellow bricks placed as trail markers along the route. The academy began awarding actual yellow bricks to trainees who completed the course in 1988. Outfitted on the track are makeshift windows that must be vaulted through, walls that must be climbed over or scaled, a cargo net that must be maneuvered over, and lengths of barbed wire in muddy water that need to be navigated.
Alongside this brick is another adorned with an image of the U.S. Capitol building. To earn his keepsake, Swart and his fellow trainees ran from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol.
“[The program] is designed to take anyone at any level and improve them,” said Swart of the curriculum. “A lot of it was focused on how different agencies handle different situations.”
Trainees also attended two sanctioned trips to the major police departments of New York City and Philadelphia, observing officers performing specialized activities like disarming explosives.
“Could it help? Yeah, I suppose it does. But I’m happy where I’m at,” said Swart when asked about advancement within the Saugerties Police Department. “If [this desk] is where I stay, that’s okay. Just let me do my work.”