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Wednesday, April 24, 2024
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

UB Officer Gates attends FBI National Academy

Only one percent of all law enforcement officers in the nation have an opportunity to attend the prestigious FBI National Academy: Lieutenant Mark Gates of the University Police Department (UPD) is one of the chosen few.

As one of 280 officers given the opportunity to attend the Academy this year, Gates is a thirteen-year veteran with the University Police Department and comes from a family of law enforcement officers.

"My father was a police officer and retired from the Buffalo Police Department as a Lieutenant," Gates said. "Being around it growing up made me impressed with what he did. I wanted to follow in his footsteps."

Gates attended Erie Community College and then graduated from Buffalo State College with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice in 1982. After graduation he worked as a supervisor of security at Sierra Research in Cheektowaga for 13 years, but later decided to enter the Police Academy in 1995.

"I just always wanted to be a police officer and I was getting to that age where I had to make a decision," Gates said.

Gates was immediately hired at UB prior to graduation from the Academy.

Starting as a patrolman, Gates was promoted to Lieutenant after only five and a half years of service. Upon his promotion, he was put in charge of specialized sectors of the department.

"Lieutenant Gates is in charge of the Police Honor Guard," said UB Chief of Police Gerald Schoenle. "He is also in charge of our Field Training Office program and our Civil Disturbance Team."

The Civil Disturbance team is made up of approximately 30 officers that are trained in riot control. This program was especially important for larger events like the Dali Lama's visit, or other events that have potential to draw protestors.

The Honor Guard is made up of seven officers and is used at ceremonies and special events.

"We have participated in the Student Remembrance ceremony, the 9/11 ceremony, police memorial services and the Millard Fillmore ceremony," Gates said. "We even had to provide casket detail and full funeral detail and flag folding for an officer who died on duty two years ago."

Gates said that the Field Training Program is one of the most important aspects of the department because officers need to be trained properly to be an effective policeperson. Gates personally works with new recruits to make sure they are properly trained.

Gates said that attending the FBI National Academy had always been a goal of his. After Schoenle announced the opportunity for an officer to attend, Gates jumped at the chance.

Three applicants are selected by the Buffalo FBI headquarters, which included applicants from Central and Western New York and Northern Pennsylvania.

"People have been waiting five, 10, 15 years to get into the Academy," Gates said.

Gates was chosen to attend the first time he applied.

To begin the application process, Gates needed to be sponsored by Schoenle and pass a rigorous background investigation. A strict physical fitness test was also necessary, including an EKG, stress test, a complete physical, and a body fat percentage of less than 24 percent. Provided that the applicant passes all the checks, they move onto an interviewing process.

On January 5, Gates began his ten-week program at the Academy, located on a Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Va., just outside of Washington DC. Gates completed various academic courses varying from leadership courses to classes improving interpersonal communication skills. He also took courses in computer technology and forensics.

"It was 100 times harder than college ever was," Gates said. "The coursework that we did was very intense."

Gates said that the Academy was physically demanding. Participants trained for an end challenge known as "the yellow brick road" consisting of a 6.2 mile run with a difficult obstacle course in the middle.

Gates said one of his favorite parts of the program was having the chance to meet officers from around the world. His roommates hailed from Wis., Ore., and Paris, France. Officers from the program were from several different countries, including Australia, China, Scotland, Finland, Canada, Bosnia and Ethiopia

"You make friends in 10 weeks that you'll have the rest of your life," Gates said. "I found out that everyone has the same problems and challenges. We were able to work as a group to figure out ways to solve these issues."

While at the Academy, Gates realized what areas within the UPD could be improved upon. The program has made Gates a better leader and communicator for the department, and has prepared him for future advancements.

Schoenle said that sending officers such as Gates to the Academy is a part of the continuous efforts to improve the UPD.

Gates graduated from the program on March 14 and is the third university officer to successfully complete the program. Schoenle, and Assistant Chief of Police John Woods also attended the Academy. Schoenle is hoping to send more officers in the future.

"It was a life-changing experience, professionally, physically and mentally. It has changed me as a person," Gates said. "The friendships I made and the experience was once in a lifetime."



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