LESSONS FROM A DECORATED CAREER: Sustainable Innovation
When Ed Pavey became the director of the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center (KLETC) in 1994, the campus near Yoder didn’t look much different from a half-century before, in the darkest days of World War II.
There were two buildings – one served as a dormitory, the other held classrooms – built during the facility’s first life as a naval air training base during the 1940s. And those buildings were showing their age.
“You are likely to hear the story of snow coming through the windows and piling on the blankets while the students slept,” Darin Beck, recently announced as the new executive director of KLETC, wrote in a 2009 article for the Kansas Sheriffs’ Association. “While the stories have become exaggerated, the premise was true: The former WWII barracks were showing their age and needed repair.”
The picture looks very different in 2018.
Pavey retires in June, leaving behind a 15-building campus containing modern dormitories as well as state-of-the-art computer simulators to help officers safely practice driving in various conditions and situations.
That “cutting edge” mentality extends beyond facilities. During Pavey’s tenure, KLETC became known for finding new ways to deliver training — through Kansas Law Enforcement Online, for example — as well as providing instruction on the hottest-button issues. The center started delivering instructions on “implicit bias” even before movements such as “Black Lives Matter” began urging reform in 2014.
"Ed's always been an innovator, ahead of others in his area,” said Jackie Williams, deputy attorney general for the state of Kansas.
But the point of innovation isn’t just to get ahead of the pack, Pavey said. The improved facilities and increased use of technology at KLETC has a purpose. “These enhancements have helped us better prepare Kansas officers to perform their duties in a sometimes challenging and ever-changing policing environment,” he said.
Pavey “has raised the standard there (at KLETC), not only in hands-on training, but in operating that facility as a branch of the University of Kansas,” said Gary Steed, executive director of the Kansas Commission on Peace Officers Standards and Training. “He's taken that from being a vocational school, in many ways, to being something that's college-level instruction."
How do you stay an innovator during a half-century career? Some lessons from Pavey:
Listen to the people on the ground. Whenever it’s time to update training at KLETC, observers say, the first thing Pavey does is reach out to practicing law officers to find out the challenges they face.
“He listens,” said Steed. “When he makes significant changes, he reaches out to Kansas law enforcement officers and lets them have input and provide feedback.”
That listening is active and intentional, Pavey said.
“We have sent instructors from KLETC back to the trenches, to ride with officers, with state sheriff's departments, with police departments,” Pavey said. “We’ve asked the officers, ‘The training that you've got at KLETC, what didn't we prepare you for when you got out here?’ We listen.”
Look beyond your fiefdom for trends and expertise. “We monitor what's going on, on the East Coast and West Coast because sometimes it's a prelude before it gets here,” Pavey said.
It was listening — both to Kansas communities and to experts — that prompted KLETC to introduce a “Fair and Impartial Policing” training regimen in 2014, designed to help officers become aware of their own possible biases.
“The worst thing you can do is bring a bunch of cops into a training room and point fingers and say, ‘You're a racist,’ right?” Pavey said. “Everybody may have some biases that maybe you are not consciously aware of. We talk about how you can negate these biases, just being aware that people do have biases, and you can control them if you're aware of what they are.”
Adapt to conditions. Kansas is a big state. Many of its law enforcement agencies are small. That makes it hard for officers to get away for updated training. When “distance learning” technologies began to enter local schools in the 1990s, KLETC was quick to offer training updates to far-flung officers. "We were probably doing that in the private sector, but to do it in law enforcement at that time was something else,” said Shawnee County Sheriff Herman T. Jones.
This effort continues today with Kansas Law Enforcement Online.
“Through our KSLEO, officers can take advantage of training opportunities from the convenience of their desktop computers, patrol vehicle mobile data terminals or other training venues via the Internet,” Pavey said. Those are “training opportunities that may otherwise not be available to officers if conducted in a face-to-face teaching classroom, hundreds of miles away from the communities they serve.”
Build the best staff you can. It’s easier to stay on the cutting edge if you’re surrounded by a team looking to do the same.
"He seemed to really cultivate quality individuals for his staff,” said Kirk Thompson, director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. “That's a combination of his leadership and the individuals on staff. They were really successful at what they set out to do."
Pavey credits his team.
“They make me look good,” said Pavey. “Our staff takes great pride in their work product and work ethic. We're here today with a great facility, great staff, having great fun.”
And that, observers say, helps make many Kansas communities safer.
"That guy is genuinely interested in what's in the best interest of law enforcement in the state of Kansas. He dovetails that with what's in the best interest of the citizens of the state of Kansas,” said Brad Schoen, director of the Riley County Police Department. “You don't see it in a lot of bureaucrats. You do see it in Ed."