When Pine Bluff Police Chief Ivan Whitfield asked Deputy Chief Kelvin Hadley if he would be interested in going to an upper-level management training course, Whitfield told Hadley that he should talk to his wife first, since attending the course would mean being away from home for more than 12 weeks.

“I told the chief that she has always supported me 100 percent,” Hadley said. “She has been there for me, and being away would be hard, but if it made me a better supervisor, she would be all for it.”

So off Hadley went to the Administrative Officers Course, conducted by the Southern Police Institute at the University of Louisville.

He was the only officer from Arkansas to attend the course, which, according to the Institute website, “is a 12-week (480-hour), in-residence, accredited college-level educational program. The course curriculum is designed to develop informed, effective, ethically and technically competent law enforcement managers who are capable of assuming positions of leadership in their respective agencies.”

“By far, that was the most intense and best experience I’ve ever had in my 23 years as a police officer,” Hadley said. “I felt as though I had a grasp of what this job is all about, but they literally stripped me bare and then built me back up. Since I’ve been back, I’m trying to share what I learned with the other supervisors and officers.

“When I first got there I felt a little intimidated because there were all these people who had college degrees and advanced degrees, and I didn’t even have a college degree. I wondered if I really belonged there, but after a few days of interacting with some of the other students, I felt that I did belong and wanted to put my all into the course. I stayed in the library because my goal was to be the best student there.”

Hadley said he accomplished that goal, finishing with a 3.9 G.P.A. He was also asked by the staff to write about his experiences for the school’s website, the first person to be selected to do that.

As the commander of the department’s Patrol Division, which includes traffic, Hadley is responsible for supervising the largest number of officers in the department. He now spends a lot of his time riding with officers and with patrol supervisors.

“I was riding with a young officer who just got turned loose to solo patrol and asked him what he was most proud of about his job, and he said, ‘Now I’ve got my own bed for the first time ever,’” Hadley said. “That struck me because I never thought about someone that didn’t even have their own bed, and I admire him for admitting that.”

Hadley said one of the best things about the school was that he was able to build up a network of contacts with other law enforcement professionals from around the country, what he described as “a new family.”

They keep in contact through social media.

“Say, for instance, we’re having a particular problem,” he said. “I can ask some of them if they’re having the same kind of problem and how they’re dealing with it, and they can do the same thing with me.”

He also admitted that the distance of the school made studying a lot easier for him.

“I think if it had been in Arkansas or someplace close I would have been tempted to come home on weekends, but since it was so far away, it made it easier for me to really buckle down.”

Graduation day was a special one for him since a number of officers and others from Pine Bluff made the trip to Kentucky to share in the moment.

“Assistant Chief Sergeant, several lieutenants, several sergeants, a couple of patrol officers, my wife and children and some members of my church family were all there,” he said. “I had the largest group of any of the graduates and took some ribbing about it, but it felt good to know that all those people wanted to be there for me.”

“There’s nothing like coming back home, but the Police Department invested in me, and now I want to invest in the department and work with the other officers to make the department even better,” Hadley said.