By Ed Brock
By today Clayton County sheriff's Capt. Samuel Smith will be looking back on a week he's been planning for years.
It was the Southern Police Institute Alumni Association's annual conference and as SPIAA president it was Smith's turn to host it.
"This morning was real, real good," Smith said Tuesday after the convention's opening ceremony.
In 1998 Smith graduated from a 12-week administrative office course at the institute that is based at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. The theme for this year's conference is "Safety On Our Minds."
About 151 SPIAA delegates came from all over the nation to the week-long convention with 106 family members for leadership training by instructors like William F. Walsh, the current director of the institute.
"We support the alumni association and they support us," Walsh said. "The only reason we're in existence is for our students. Our students are our legacy."
Thus the need for the continued training to assure the quality of the education provided by the institution that was founded in 1951. In return the alumni also collect money for scholarship programs and often send other officers under their command to the institute.
Indeed, Smith's boss Sheriff Stanley Tuggle is also a SPI graduate.
"We've been working on (the conference) for three years," Tuggle said. "Planning was the biggest thing and we took our time to do that."
The next biggest thing was fundraising for the event, which was accomplished through cookouts, raffles, dress-down days and a paintball tournament. That, in addition to the $270 registration fee, paid for the cost of the convention.
They also received donations of items such as Braves baseball tickets and tickets to Stone Mountain, items that came in handy when providing entertainment for the delegates' families.
"You're entertained all the time you're here. You have lots of outings to keep you going," said Liz Turnbaugh, wife of Deerfield, Illinois police Commander David Turnbaugh.
Turnbaugh, a 1981 graduate of the institute, said he has attended all but one of the conferences since he graduated.
"It's always a big event for me," Turnbaugh said.
Not everything was good about this conference, Turnbaugh said.
"The worst part of the trip was that the Cubs lost (to the Braves)," Turnbaugh said.
Police from local departments also attended the conference.
"I'm the first person from Forest Park to go (to the institution)," said Forest Park police Capt. Tommy Orr who graduated from the institute last year. "The toughest thing (about attending the institute) is three months away from home."
The conference gave him different views on leadership, Orr said.
It was 1976 when the SPIAA conference was last held in Atlanta, and at that time it was also held in Clayton County.
Other instructors for the conference were First Capital Technologies President and CEO Sam Kharoba, University of Louisville Professor Gennaro Vito, Louisville Metro Police Assistant Chiefs Terri Winsted Philip Turner, retired New Scotland Yard Commander Les Poole (now a training consultant based in New York) and Kentucky State Police Legal Advisor Terry Edwards.