Class Notes: A Perspective From the Inaugural CPE Class President
See companion piece “Celebrating APCO’S First CPE Graduates“
By Charles Vitale, RPL, CPE
Having finished my APCO International Certified Public-Safety Executive (CPE) Program, I’d like to share a few thoughts about it. First, don’t let being a frontline employee hold you back from taking Registered Public Safety Leader (RPL) or CPE. We all have the ability to be leaders. Being a leader comes from within. You do not have to hold a title or have people that report to you. You just need people who look up to you and follow you. Being a leader is leading by example, giving praise when things go right and taking the hit when they don’t.
The CPE course is a little over six months and is composed of two online courses of three months each, followed by a nine-day, in-person capstone course. CPE 101 is Introduction to Executive Leadership. This portion of the course explores different theories in leadership. It also defines the difference between leaders and managers. It is often said managing can easily be taught, but leadership is an art. And as with art, it needs to be practiced. But first this part of the course helps you identify your style of leadership. During this exploration you also see the styles of your colleagues in your courses. Together you point out the good and, just as importantly, the parts to work on.
The next three months are spent in CPE 202 – Defining Leaders. This portion of the program digs down to understand how your organization works. This isn’t just reading your organizational chart; this is understanding the culture of your organization. How do you fit in? What can you do to change it? You also will explore how to provide a vision to those you lead, which can be very difficult. Much more is covered, but this is a highlight.
Then comes CPE 303 – Executive Leadership in Action. I was not sure what to expect from this part of the course. Some of us were already friends, some were acquaintances, some were complete strangers; I only knew two people. I knew some of the names in the course, and that scared me — this program was well out of my comfort zone, which I’ve come to learn is a good thing.
As we progressed through CPE 303 we knew this would not be a cake walk. This was a very intensive nine days together. It started out with the Myers-Briggs workshop to see what our style was. This would help us figure out how to relate with each other.
Each of us came with an idea of what leadership was. We had all attended leaderships class previously. But none of them were like this. This is where theory met the pavement. We were able to practice the art of leadership in a safe environment.
One of our instructors, Dr. Edwards, had a saying, “Test the airbags.” And test them we did. After the first day was over we went to dinner and tried to figure out what had just happened to us. Dinner was over quickly — we had much reading and several case studies to dissect. Many of us were up past midnight every day the first week. But it was all worth it.
As the first week came to a close we shared some of our personal stories. It was amazing to see where some of the group had come from and the battles they had already overcome. If nothing else the group had tenacity! Then came more of the self-evaluations. The book we read, “True North,” taught how to look inside yourself and look for your true north. This is an amazing book and I highly recommend it to anyone looking to understand themselves better. But be forewarned: Doing true introspection can be very difficult.
This class took 22 individuals and brought them together to grow and learn. We asked each other the hard questions. We shared stories from home and helped give new perspectives. We became more than classmates or colleagues — we became friends. I’d like to thank my friends in this class for not pulling any punches, for asking the hard questions and for being the kind of friends I know I will be able to reach out to in the coming years. We’ve already planned to meet up at the 2017 conference in Denver, Colorado. I, for one, am excited to see my friends again.
If you have questions about the CPE program, please feel free to ask any of us who graduated — we will be happy to answer all your questions. You can also email Dr. Scanlon, the program coordinator, at CPE@apcointl.org.
Charles Vitale, RPL, CPE, is a Public Safety Dispatcher II/OEC at City of Rochester, New York.