SPD assistant chief completes leadership training


The Seymour Police Department’s assistant chief recently graduated from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Leadership Academy.

John Watson is the first Seymour officer to attend and graduate from the leadership academy. The graduation took place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The academy is for veteran or newly promoted officers, and the graduate-level curriculum focuses on excellent documentation and writing skills. Students are taught personality assessments, leading with an outward mindset, as well as situational leadership.

According to policechiefmagazine.org, no two commanders lead the same way, but if each of the LEADERSHIP attributes are applied in one’s management style, then the basics are covered.

Those attributes — Listening, Education, Attention to detail, Direction, Evolution, Resourcefulness, Service, Humor, Integrity and People (LEADERSHIP) — are the key ingredients to successful leadership.

Watson said the academy is a four-week course over a period of four months, one week a month.

“We had to do research papers throughout the four weeks, and then our final was a staff study,” he said. “The course started in January, and we were supposed to finish up a month earlier, but COVID kind of spiked again, so we had to sit out a month and finished the 160-hour course in June.”

The staff study had to be something the officer’s police department did not have or something it did have but wanted to change for the better.

“I did ours on a drone program, which we don’t currently have,” Watson said. “I think with our Project Lifesaver program and our SWAT team, it would be beneficial for us to have a drone program, so that’s what my staff study was over.”

He said the things they learned about were how to lead people and to how explain to them the whys.

“We also learned about personality profiles so we can determine which personality each person dominates,” Watson said. “Are they a task-driven person or are they more of a people kind of person that likes the pat on the back, so we learned a lot about that.”

The class also learned how to tell the difference between motivated employees and reluctant employees to see where they are in their career and how to help motivate them and get them back on track.

The leadership course took place at the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, and the class had capstones at the end of each week.

Watson said every Friday, the class studied critical incidents, and he learned about the shooting of Officer Timothy Jacob “Jake” Laird and the night he was shot and killed in the line of duty.

Laird was 31 when the incident took place, Aug. 18, 2004. He worked at the Indianapolis Police Department, which has since been disbanded and absorbed by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.

Another critical incident Watson learned about was the day Marion County Deputy Sheriff Jason Matthew Baker was shot and killed in the line of duty Sept. 17, 2001. Baker was 24 years old at the time of his death.

“We learned about them and also about other officers who were wounded in the line of duty,” Watson said. “We learned what training techniques have worked and what training techniques of management leadership have failed in those incidents, and then we had to write a paper about that to turn in.”

He said there was a lot of after-hours homework that took place with the leadership training classes.

“I’ve been here at the police department for almost 20 years now, and normally, you’ll get sent to a leadership class and an AR class here and there, but this is by far the most extensive,” Watson said. “It kind of made me understand where we’ve kind of failed in the past.”

He said there might be a good officer who answers their calls and a good call taker, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that person is a good leader.

“We have already had an officer sign up to go to the next leadership course,” Watson said. “Sgt. Crystal Schapson will be attending the leadership classes beginning in August.”

He said from this point forward, he’s going to try to start pushing the SPD leaders to go to this course.

“This can make us a better department, and we need that direction for training our leaders a little bit better,” Watson said. “I was the first one from here to attend, but I won’t be the last, and we have to lead by example.”

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