Making a Powerful Impact
Nearly 60 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.
Eric Long, DOCJT Law Enforcement Instructor
AT A GLANCE...
Years Working with Law Enforcement: 8.5
Years at DOCJT: 4
Current Position: Class Coordinator, Training Instructor I
Education: Bachelor’s degree in Police Studies from Eastern Kentucky University
Favorite class taught: Social Media and Internet Investigations
As a recruit in the Kentucky Police Corps program, Eric Long envisioned returning to the Department of Criminal Justice Training one day as an instructor. But he knew if he was going to teach at the academy, he needed a solid law enforcement career under his belt first.
“When I was in Police Corps, I looked at this agency and thought, one day I want to be able to come here and do this,” said Long, who now serves DOCJT as a training instructor in the Coordination Section. “But I wanted to be experienced when I came here and bring something with me.”
The Owsley County native graduated from Police Corps in November 2004 and began his career with the Richmond Police Department, a community he had become accustomed with while earning his bachelor’s degree in police studies at Eastern Kentucky University.
“Policing has been a lifelong dream as long as I can remember,” Long said. “It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”
When Long joined RPD, he spent a year and a half in patrol before moving into the Investigations Division. During his time there, he was tasked with investigating some of the worst crimes Richmond had to offer. He became specialized in crimes against children, sex crimes and, by 2009, Internet crimes. RPD then began sending Long to training all over the country, and he spent countless hours in front of the computer learning more about how to catch offenders seeking their prey online.
“They were assuming I was going to be dealing with Internet crimes against children, because that’s about 99 percent what we dealt with,” Long said. “The other 1 or 2 percent were stalking cases that had to do with adults. But primarily, I was investigating crimes against children online and child pornography, which was, of course, the biggest.”
Long became a special deputy on the FBI’s Innocent Images Project task force, a member of the Kentucky State Police’s Internet Crimes Against Children task force, and a computer and cell phone forensic examiner. While he became more and more adept at catching the bad guys, the horror of what he saw and heard each day began to take its toll.
“The nature of what I investigated caused me to end my career in law enforcement early,” Long explained. “That’s one of the reasons I came here. I didn’t want to investigate that anymore. Somebody had to do it. So I wanted to keep working cases because I knew the children – their voices need to be heard. But as a person having to deal with seeing those images, and to hear those children talk about what had happened to them, it was absolutely earth shattering. First of all, hearing it, and second, wrapping my mind around that there are people out there with that type of mindset who are really doing these things to kids.”
It’s impossible to look back on his seven years working crimes against children and not see some victories, though.
Long was lead investigator in the case of a Richmond man who now is serving a 12-year federal prison sentence after pleading guilty to owning thousands of images of child pornography on multiple computers throughout his home.
“The tip came from Wisconsin that we had an individual in Richmond, sharing child pornography,” Long said. “We had enough information to conduct a search warrant on the home of Darrell Floyd, so we executed the warrant, conducted the interview and between the search and interview he told us he was into child porn dealing with infants.
“From what I saw, he was progressing up to the point, in my opinion, where he was getting ready to offend,” Long continued, implying Floyd was on the verge of sexually assaulting a child himself. “We were able to put him in federal prison before that happened. He lived basically in the shadows. Nobody knew he existed. He was sitting there and, from what I knew, was unemployed, just waiting to offend. And we were able to get him out of there.”
One of the higher-profile cases Long investigated involved the death of a 2-year-old little girl. With a smile as wide as her face, she was a typical bright-eyed, brown-haired toddler who was living in a nightmare. When investigators were called to her Richmond home in August 2007, they discovered the little girl had been burned, had visible bruising and was cold, indicating she had been dead for some time before anyone called for help. Her official cause of death was ruled as asphyxiation by suffocation.
“Her brother, he was 4, and he was in a situation fortunately where he was big enough to talk and tell what mommy and her boyfriend had done,” Long said. “He saw them kill his sister. Based on what we know, he gave us information that they were checking on her in the room where they had her closed off.”
Ronnie Crabtree, the boyfriend of the child’s mother, Verona Brinegar, wrapped her so tightly in a blanket in what he called “the burrito game,” that he was convicted at trial of suffocating and killing the girl.
“We lost one, but we were able to save one,” Long said. “If the girl’s brother had stayed there long enough, he would have ended up like her. Only he couldn’t have been wrapped in a blanket and silenced. In the middle of that, there was also another little boy Crabtree tried to kill in Florida. He testified in the trial that Crabtree took a pillow and put it in front of him and called it the teddy bear game. That showed a pattern that it’s a game, and the game kills, unfortunately.
“Those are two individuals who I am proud to say I was a part of their demise,” Long continued.
When Long was hired at DOCJT in 2013, he looked at it as an opportunity to do more with the skills and talents he had developed working these investigations.
“The way I looked at it, many people have the mentality that those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach,” Long said. “I disagree with that. Because out there, you can only work one case at a time. You can only help one child at a time. Occasionally you might be able to help more, but here, when there are 30 people in a classroom and I can share my stories and abilities, then they can each help one child. There’s 30 children, minimum, we’ve helped. So, I see it as kind of a shotgun effect on child abuse.”
Long joined DOCJT in the Advanced Individual Training section teaching investigative and crime-scene courses. The techniques he learned to combat online child abuse were in high demand, and he quickly began developing new courses to help officers throughout the state investigate these crimes.
One of the first courses he developed was about using social media to investigate crimes – a course he spent more than a year developing. The course grew beyond basic social media, though, and into a class that taught officers about all the places they could go to get information to investigate Internet crimes effectively.
“We taught it twice the first year, then after that I think we taught it 11 or 12 times,” Long said. “In 2016 I think we taught it 14 or 15 times, and it was full every time.”
After four years teaching investigation courses, Long said he was looking for a new challenge.
“This is too big of an agency to sit in one place your whole career,” Long said. “I wanted to do something different, and coordination was that place. I’m having fun doing what I’m doing.”
Long joined the Coordination Section and was assigned his first Basic Training Academy class in June, Class 487. The adjustment from teaching seasoned officers who have been on the street for some time, to now working with new recruits before they make it out into their communities is something Long enjoys.
“This gives me a chance to work with the people who are not the police yet and maybe have a little bit of an effect on how they carry themselves, how they act, how they behave and how they make their ethical, moral and legal choices.”
As a class coordinator, Long is responsible for his classes from the day they enter the academy for orientation until the day they graduate. He helps them learn the rules and regulations, understand the physical-training standards and tests. He also is responsible for their grades and any discipline that needs addressed. He assists them with their community-service projects, helps establish class leadership and more.
“The class leadership should effectively run the class as much as it can until they run into something that is a larger issue than what they can handle,” Long said. “We are kind of the contact person for the class. Injuries and illnesses go through us. Requests for leave – any issues that come up with the recruit class, we’re there.”
While Long worked hard to cultivate a set of skills in his career that he could share with those he teaches and supervises at DOCJT, he said he still continues to learn more from the students and recruits he interacts with each day. Since he spent his entire law enforcement career with RPD, most of his law enforcement contacts were with officers in Madison County and surrounding areas. Now, being a DOCJT instructor has exposed him to the entire state and all the idiosyncrasies of how policing is unique from Pikeville to Paducah and all the points in between.
That cycle of learning and shared experiences only can lead to a better trained officer, Long said.
“I think who they are going to be as police officers starts right here,” Long said. “With the appropriate leadership and discipline, set of rules and training – when all that comes together, I think it is going to make a difference in how they’re going to treat people and how they’re going to do the job. Their morals and ethics are tested here – they certainly are going to be tested out there.
A good, strong foundation here,” he continued, “will help them as peace officers once they get home.”