By Jim Newell
Orion Township’s top cop is now a graduate of the prestigious FBI National Academy, a 10-week professional course in Quantico, Va., for training U.S. and international law enforcement leaders in advanced techniques.
Lt. Dan Toth, commander of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office – Orion Twp. substation, graduated Sept. 15 as part of the 269th class of the National Academy.
“It’s a very humbling experience and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to attend. It’s a very competitive process. Just one percent of law enforcement is able to attend this. They only have so many slots every year. It’s something that I’ve been striving for for several years. It took me six years to get to Quantico,” Toth said.
“There is a selection process. They have to do a complete background check because you’re going to a lot of secure areas within the Dept. of Justice. They do a complete check on you – they ask neighbors, co-workers, they look at you pretty thoroughly.”
In addition to studying new and advanced law enforcement techniques, Toth said the biggest takeaway for him was meeting and learning from the 224 fellow students who attended the class, representing 22 different countries, 48 of the 50 states; from small six-person law enforcement departments to representatives from the New York City Police Department, the largest police agency in the world.
Quantico is a huge complex containing the FBI’s training facility, laboratory and the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) training facility. “The Department of Justice has a lot of training facilities down at Quantico, so it’s a great place to do this,” Toth said.
Training consisted of classes and lectures, presentations, hands-on training and class trips as a group to the National Law Enforcement Memorial and the National Holocaust Museum.
Toth said he and others at the academy were also able to draw upon the diverse group of attendees and get a variety of perspectives and experiences.
Attendees included a commander from the Egyptian National Police and an officer from Palestine and law enforcement from Belgium and Panama.
The contacts Toth made can lead to networking with law enforcement around the world to help with cases in Orion Township.
“The best part about it is that they are all great contacts. If we get embezzlement or international fraud cases I can reach out to somebody in England or Germany or Mexico, in addition to all the other states. So, that’s really the beauty of the course,” he said.
“We had a couple incidents over the last three to seven years that involved potential threats of terrorism right here in Lake Orion. So, I made it a priority to take the kind of classes that would benefit Orion Township and Oakland County and the entire State of Michigan. I took a course in counterterrorism, a course in major crime investigations, leadership, labor law, and I took a course on assisting our employees with PTSD and some of the issues that affect our employees in law enforcement,” he said.
“I think the major crimes and counterterrorism was extremely helpful. We all tend to get used to what we’re doing in our bubble right here in Orion. And from time to time, things touch us. There’s violent crime and obviously we always have a potential for some kind of terrorism acts.
“We’re so used to seeing it happen someplace else, but we’re the folks that have to be prepared for everything. We have to look at everything from an all-hazards point-of-view. It’s a very complicated world these days. We’re able to do that by partnering with all the other components – the Dept. of Justice, the state police, our joint task force.
“We have to have our pulse on what’s going on in Orion, but we also have to have it on what’s going on in the county, in the state and in the country. And in the rest of the world,” Toth said.
Michigan’s proximity to Canada presents its own concerns.
“I think southeast Michigan has the most people on the terrorist watch list. That’s not to say that we’re always the most critical target, or that we’re the most targeted, but we have such an influx of people that come in and out of the state, partly because of our access to the Canadian border,” Toth said. “The class was very informative on understanding what terrorism is, the signs of it and how we can partner with all the other agencies that have the same responsibilities.”
The program also had a lot of physical training. “We actually ran four to five times a week and did training in the morning. They’re long days, it’s definitely not an easy course. The first class starts at 7:30 a.m. and it ends at 4:30 p.m. and 2-3 times a week we had after-hours lectures. Weekends were filled with training or events,” Toth said.
Toth has more than 34 years in public safety, beginning with his military service in 1981 as a uniform MP in Washington, D.C. He went on to serve as an Army military criminal investigator assigned to the Dept. of Defense.
In 1987, Toth began his career with the sheriff’s office, serving in a variety of roles: Uniform Patrol, Investigations and Special Units, Warrants Unit, Fugitive Apprehension Unit and the Dive – Rescue and Recovery Unit.
He currently is responsible for the daily planning, budgeting, staffing, patrol and investigations as the commander for the OCSO Orion Township substation, and holds advisory positions throughout Oakland County relating to public safety and health and welfare issues.