PARKERSBURG - Parkersburg police Chief Joe Martin has been accepted to the FBI's National Academy for training. He will leave next month for a 10-week course in Quantico, Va.
Chris Courtright, senior supervisory resident agent for the southern district of West Virginia, said, "It's a great deal for Joe. It's a high honor to go to the national academy. He'll meet and make friends nationwide that will help the city in his career in Parkersburg."
Courtright said former Vienna police Chief Steve Stephens, Wood County Sheriff's Deputy Rick Woodyard, Parkersburg police officer Joe Gonzales, Capt. Keith Roberts and Vienna police Chief George Young are among those locally who have attended the academy.
"This is the highest course to get through the FBI," Courtright said. "It's directed toward senior management."
Martin said the opportunity is bittersweet.
"I am really excited about the opportunity, but reluctant to go because of my kids and family at home, but in the long run, I would regret it if I didn't go. It's that rare of an opportunity."
Mayor Bob Newell said the department has sent 20-25 people over the years to the FBI academy. It has been several years since a member of the department attended. The last was Roberts, who attended when Newell was police chief.
"There are only so many slots per state," Newell said. "Yes, it is difficult to get into because of the low amount of slots."
Newell said training in Quantico is more academic related than the basic training all officers are required to undergo through the West Virginia State Police Academy.
According to its website, the FBI National Academy is a professional course of study open to domestic and international law enforcement. The academy has been in operation since 1935.
The 10-week course convenes four times a year. Classes of some 250 officers take undergraduate and/or graduate college courses focusing on law, behavioral science, forensic science, understanding terrorism/terrorist mindsets, leadership development, communication and health/fitness.
City council member Sharyn Tallman, the Republican candidate for mayor, questioned the timing of Martin's training.
"Just curious as to why he was going to disappear before the election," she said, noting Martin (as chief) has been named in a number of lawsuits filed against the city. Tallman was asked if she thought the move was political.
"I couldn't say," she said.
Martin said he expressed interest in attending the academy in 2006, when he first became eligible. He got a call around this spring from Courtright. The pair have worked several criminal cases in the past.
"He knew I had expressed some interest in before, and he asked me if I was still interested in going," Martin said.
Martin spoke with Newell to make sure it was OK.
Tallman also questioned who would run the department in Martin's absence.
"You never know who is going to be the fill-in for chief or for how long," she said.
With Martin at Quantico, Newell said Roberts and Lt. John Young will split duties in the chief's absence.
"They know what I expect, and I don't have to micromanage them at all," Martin said.
Tallman also wondered if Martin would return to the department, noting his predecessor, Gerald Board, retired shortly after several weeks of training in Florida.
"Board went away for 10 weeks, came back and was gone," she said. "You never know. Has he had enough?"
Martin was appointed chief in 2009, following Board's retirement.
Before becoming chief, Martin was a police sergeant with the city's narcotics and violent crimes taskforce. He has also served in the detective bureau, been assigned to the SWAT team and serves as a member of the honor guard. He was the department's officer of the year in 2000 and 2001. He's been with the department since 1997.
Martin is a 1990 graduate of Parkersburg High. Aside from his service in the Marine Corps, Martin is a life-long Wood County resident.
"I am looking forward to it but looking forward to getting back home as well."