Seize the Opportunity
More than 80 instructors fill the classrooms at the Department of Criminal Justice Training, teaching fresh recruits and seasoned professionals everything from how to properly handcuff a suspect to how to handle the most frantic callers.
The professionals who share their wisdom and skills with students have wide and varied backgrounds. Their expertise and professionalism make DOCJT’s instructors among the highest caliber law enforcement and telecommunications trainers in the country.
Through this series, we will introduce you to the men and women who are leading the way today for a safer and better Kentucky tomorrow.
AT A GLANCE...
Years at DOCJT:
Years in Telecommunications:
11 years at Western Kentucky University Police Department
Holds a bachelor’s in Communications
from Western Kentucky University
Pursuing a master’s in Career
and Technical Education
Favorite Class Taught:
Emotional Intelligence, Public Safety Dispatch Academy and all telecommunications leadership classes “It’s all so important,” she said.
Amanda Rogers, Advanced Telecommunications Instructor
Whether standing in front of a group of communications center directors, Kentucky law enforcement trainers or brand new dispatchers in the academy, Amanda Rogers instructs with confidence, backed by 24 years of work, teaching and life experiences that combine to make her one of the Department of Criminal Justice Training’s most effective telecommunications instructors.
In 1992, shortly after graduating from Western Kentucky University with a degree in communications, Rogers answered an ad for a communications officer, a title that intrigued her, she said.
“The newspaper ad was very well written and the title caught my attention,” Rogers recalled. “I didn’t know what the job was, but I applied, went through the process, got the position and ended up loving it.”
The young graduate went to work for her alma mater and began her law enforcement dispatch career with the Western Kentucky University Police Department, where she built relationships with students and quickly learned the unique nature of working within a university campus setting.
“A college campus is a city within the city,” Rogers said. “We have every nationality, race and walk of life.”
With a current population of more than 20,000 students, in addition to faculty, staff and campus visitors, WKU is a small town all to itself. And in the 11 years Rogers worked there, she experienced everything from a devastating hail storm with baseball-size hail followed by torrential flooding that paralyzed the city to the brutal murder of WKU student Katie Autry, where her burned and mutilated body was found inside her smoldering dorm room.
Rogers said when she first began teaching at DOCJT, she felt she had to overcome a stigma from her students that having worked on a college campus she had it easy. But recalling a career where she dispatched solo except on two very special occasions, her experience in a smaller communications center enables her to relate to students from smaller departments, she said.
“Did I work incidents that other instructors worked — maybe not, but maybe I worked something they didn’t,” Rogers said. “As a branch, it takes many different experiences and backgrounds to touch everyone and engage every student. If we all had worked for a large agency, we’d be leaving a great deal of students out.”
After many years working for WKU, and attending DOCJT training classes, Rogers was approached first by a co-worker that she should take her degree and experience and use it to teach others. That sentiment was echoed by then-Advanced Telecommunications Instructor Elyse Christian. Christian stopped Rogers during a training course and encouraged her to take the next step in her career.
“’You should be teaching with us,’” Rogers recalls Christian telling her. “At the time I was quiet and shy, not the big mouth I am now — I said, ‘I can’t do that.’ I talked to my friend and she said, ‘You can do it, and you need to.’ I applied thinking, ‘They’ll never pick me.’
“But I wanted the opportunity to engage others and take what I had learned to not just help those in our community, but to help people engage themselves in learning and share what I know and learn on a statewide level,” Rogers continued.
Rogers had trained multiple telecommunicators in her time at WKU, and she was responsible for working with WKU officers when their field training program brought them to the dispatch center. Though Rogers was no stranger to training other individuals, when she began teaching at DOCJT in 2003, it was a big adjustment for her — going from being the faceless voice on the other end of the phone to standing in front of a classroom full of students, she said.
“I was out of my comfort zone and there was a lot of self-reflection,” Rogers said. “But that’s why now we have public speaking in our advanced classes because there are many dispatchers with something to say that would benefit agencies and communities, they just need that push to get up and say it.”
That was only one of many changes Rogers has ushered into the Telecommunications Section in her time at DOCJT, always looking at student needs and the best way to serve them. But first, Rogers said, she learned by watching. Assigned to the Advanced Telecommunications Section under then-Supervisor Betty Godsey, Rogers said she was encouraged to step outside of the box, and observing the other instructors helped her find her own niche as an instructor.
“You can’t copy others, I tried that at first because I saw how they engaged students, but it doesn’t work. But it helped me figure out who I was and how I could engage my students,” Rogers said. “I’m a big believer in more education and developing the gifts you have.”
In 2005, she was assigned the Communicator Training Officer course and jumped at the chance to have such a big influence on how dispatchers across the state ultimately would be trained. Rogers took the existing course, which mainly focused on building a training program for agencies that didn’t have one for new dispatchers — similar to an FTO program for officers — and built on components of adult learning and emotional intelligence.
“We took it back to the (Kentucky Law Enforcement) Council and revamped it,” Rogers said. “As a CTO, if we’re asking you to be a trainer at your agency, then you need to know how to train other people in your agency.”
The new CTO course includes 40 hours of how to be a trainer and 16 hours of how to develop and build a program at your agency. The blended-learning style course offers students resources to mirror a training program from an FTO, PTO or rubric stand point, depending on what their agency currently uses for its officer training program.
“Students are welcome to use our format, but we encourage them to use their own form for their agency, to use what works for them because it’s not cookie cutter — one size does not fit all,” Rogers said.
After her success revamping the CTO course, Rogers went on to overhaul the Telecommunication Executive Development course. After attending a certification course in Georgia on the DiSC behavioral assessment, Rogers began incorporating the DiSC profile into the training, helping directors understand themselves, their personality and leadership styles better. TED is now an intensive three-week course, with students attending for one week each month for three months, with outside assignments and projects over the course of the three-month session.
Rogers also attended a train-the-trainers course in Canada where she spent a week observing the Royal Canadian Mounted Police training and learning new instruction methods she was able to put to use in her classroom instruction. Shortly thereafter, she was given the opportunity to teach in the instructors’ course, teaching dispatchers and police officers how to develop themselves as trainers.
By 2007, Rogers was recognized as DOCJT’s Instructor of the Year, which she says only fueled her to grow more and become more excited about instructing.
“It was a complete surprise, but it validated what I was doing,” Rogers said.
Earlier this year, Rogers, along with co-coordinator and DOCJT Evaluations Instructor Gina Smith, brought a FLETC Women in Law Enforcement training program to Kentucky. The course covered materials such as Situational Leadership II, emotional intelligence, work-life balance, belief systems and motivators and the DiSC assessment. The course ended with a panel discussion where the floor was open for course participants to ask questions regarding real-life situations, challenges and issues they have faced throughout their careers.
“This course fulfilled a need not being met in Kentucky for women,” Rogers said “The course dealt directly with women’s issues — issues women in law enforcement, both patrol and dispatch, deal with on a daily basis.”
Coordinators Smith and Rogers wrote curriculum and took steps to obtain KLEC-credit approval for the course, which now can be taught by certified Kentucky instructors.
“I believe in student-centered training,” Rogers said. “Part of my job is to mentor new people.”
That drive to share knowledge and mentor others in the field led her to volunteer to present at the Kentucky Emergency Service Conference every year from 2004 to 2013.
“That’s because I enjoyed it, I wasn’t paid, but it was just another way to touch others,” Rogers said.
But Rogers also wants to make sure she constantly is learning from her students and molding her teaching style to meet their needs. She asks her students to be real and honest on their course critiques, and then she pays attention to what they say. One of the newest courses Rogers is co-teaching with DOCJT Legal Instructor Tom Fitzgerald, Leadership Everyday, was developed solely from requests from supervisors across the state, Rogers said.
“All the time they are saying, ‘We need more training,’ so I asked, ‘What do you want?’” Rogers said. “Every block of instruction in this course is by request.”
This student-focused teaching method and a desire to constantly develop her own instruction methods and material earned Rogers another Instructor of the Year nomination in 2015.
“When opportunity knocks, answer the door,” Rogers said. “I wouldn’t be where I am now if I hadn’t jumped on the opportunities that came my way.”