A Manchester Police Department investigator was lucky enough to be one of 12 officers selected to attend the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation State Academy. Brandon Tomberlin graduated the seventh session of the academy on Nov. 1 as the class president after spending six weeks with 11 other officers, as the 12th could not attend.
He was approached by Captain Chris Patterson in 2017 about the academy and applied, but the waitlist was too long. He tried again in 2018 and was accepted – a feat he later learned was a short time to wait, as some of his classmates have been applying for four years.
“It’s an honor to be selected with this,” Tomberlin said.
During the first week, he learned about leadership, team building and managing the generational gap in the department and community. After this week was over, his classmates elected him class president.
“I don’t know if my experience all over the world and my experience in MPD made them elect me as their class president or if it was my personality,” Tomberlin said. “I took the time to talk with all of them in the first week.”
Tomberlin joined MPD in 1998 and left in 2006 to train military officers at the state department. After that, he spent two years in Afghanistan and then spent one year in Haiti. He returned to MPD in 2016.
The honor, while a privilege, gave Tomberlin the hardest job – he had to give a speech at graduation. The 15-minute speech was on his mind for the rest of the six weeks.
“I could not have picked a better group of people. I know you’re not here for the badge or the shirt, you’re here because you want to be better than you were yesterday,” he recited from his graduation speech.
The other subjects covered by the academy included courtroom procedures, managing media, hands-on labs at the University of Tennessee Forensic Anthropology Center, crime scene case studies, state mandatory training, undercover police work, officer involved shooting and just and fair policing.
“We were lucky enough to go to the University of Tennessee Forensic Anthropology Center. Collected skeletal remains,” Tomberlin said. The area, also known as a the “Body Farm,” is a large and secure space where bodies donated to science are kept to study decay.
At the center, Tomberlin and his classmates studied how various environments affected the human body and how to handle the evidence and remains.
“It’s a very time consuming process,” he said. His group, which consisted of four officers, took six hours to do the lab in a controlled environment, knowing exactly where to look for the body.
He is excited to share what he learned there to his fellow officers at MPD, especially the crime scene processing and photography elements. Tomberlin explained MPD officers don’t see stuff like that every day, so it is good have a refresher course on it every now and then.
The second thing he is keen on spreading is what he learned about leadership.
“We all have the capability of being a leader, it’s just how we work to be a better leader,” he said.
“I’m just an investigator, you can be leaders without the title,” he added.
While the course was packed with hands-on experience and teaching, it also created connections. Tomberlin explained he built a network of officers from all over the state that he can call and bounce ideas off of, as well as get their opinion.
Every officer attending the course received a free Nikon camera from the Middle Tennessee State University and an iPad from TSU. The TBI Academy is fully funded by TBI.
“Best training course I ever went through,” Tomberlin said.
“I would like to thank the mayor and the police chief to allow me to do this and TBI for providing it at no cost to the city,” he added. “Captain Chris Patterson was a huge part in me even knowing about this going on.”
“I look forward to trying to be better at what I do for the people of Manchester,” he concluded.