Earlier this year, John Kleinheinz spent 10 weeks away from his post as commander of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in Fountain Hills.
His absence was hardly a vacation.
Kleinheinz, a captain who has been with the sheriff’s office for nearly 20 years, was among 250 law enforcement officials attending an executive training session at the FBI National Academy at the United States Marine Corps base in Quantico, Va.
Kleinheinz left the Valley on April 3 and returned June 10 with numerous souvenir patches and pins from fellow law enforcement officials around the world. More importantly, he said he came away with a sense of enrichment and learning he hopes to incorporate into his job.
"It wasn’t so much about day-to-day police work as leadership, and creating a better environment for the people around you and those you serve in the community," Kleinheinz said. "Only 2 percent of law enforcement professionals in the world have the opportunity to go to the academy. I am at a loss for words when I think about it. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the sheriff for choosing me."
Sheriff Joe Arpaio said the training some of his top personnel have received at the academy over the years has been invaluable. About a dozen commanders have made the trip. Arpaio said the experience, exchange of ideas and networking with one’s peers has been worth the time and expense.
The FBI paid for Kleinheinz’s airfare and lodging. The sheriff’s office picked up the rest of the tab, which amounted to $2,500. His salary — $17,648 for the 10 weeks — was also paid by the sheriff ’s office. Kleinheinz had to pay for academy uniforms and a laptop computer.
"I’m sure Kleinheinz learned a lot there," Arpaio said. "My deputy chiefs who have gone there all learned a little about the federal system. They worked with people from other agencies and built relationships that will help them in their jobs."
Kleinheinz said attending a session has been a goal of his for some time.
"I was worried about the level of physical activity. I’m 50 and there were a lot of men and women in their 30s and 40s. But I was expecting to have the experience of a lifetime and I did," he said.
Kleinheinz began running several miles daily in anticipation of the two 3.1-mile runs participants took each day. Those runs included obstacle courses.
Additionally, he took graduate courses in executive leadership and organizational communication, and undergraduate courses in stress management, constitutional law and forensics. He said he spent the majority of time in his dorm room writing papers and doing homework.
Kleinheinz said one of the most interesting parts of the experience was talking for six hours with a counterterrorism specialist from Spain who interviewed al-Qaida suspects after the 2004 Madrid train bombings.
"I’ve already called or emailed some of the contacts I made," Kleinheinz said. "We exchanged information and will continue to do so now that we’ve gotten to know each other. Even with really small departments, the exchanges can be very beneficial."