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Professional Spotlight: Scott Donovan


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FLETC Professional Spotlight: Scott Donovan, Director, International Law Enforecement Academy - Budapest

Professional Spotlight: Scott Donovan
By: Brian M. Jones

“I flew on Air Force One a lot,” is not a typical phrase one hears during conversations but serves as just one of many fascinating statements you might hear when talking to International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) Budapest Director Scott Donovan. For over 40 years, Donavan has served the United States with distinction. Despite his

Airman Scott Donovan in his Air Force uniform. (Photo courtesy of Scott Donovan)
Airman Scott Donovan in his Air Force uniform. (Photo courtesy of Scott Donovan)

many honors and accomplishments, he had received over his career, Donovan will be the first to tell you that he “has never done it by himself” and has continually relied upon others to succeed. Knowing the impact others have on his success and their successes upon him—Donovan constantly seeks to “build his reputation as a reliable partner,” and always looks for ways to “add value.”

It was on a very different Air Force plane that Donovan’s path to adding value through government service began. Following some time in Monterey, CA learning Russian at the Defense Language Institute (DLI), a good deal of Donovan’s time was spent in the back of an RC-135 working as a linguist. In addition to using his language skills operationally during his enlistment, Donovan completed his degree with dual majors in Russian and Criminal Justice. He received a commission but life as an officer was short lived. Due to a Reduction in Force (RIF) Donovan chose to end his military service, nonetheless, the experiences and education were an enduring part of his life that shaped nearly every facet of his future. 

Scott Donovan in his Dallas Police Department Uniform.  (Photo courtesy of Scott Donovan)
Scott Donovan in his Dallas Police Department Uniform.
(Photo courtesy of Scott Donovan)

The next phase of his journey proved equally crucial in determining the course of Donovan’s life. Joining the Dallas Police Department (DPD) as a uniformed officer set Donovan’s career in law enforcement in motion. From DPD he applied to the United States Secret Service (USSS) and even though he transitioned to the federal side of law enforcement, he was able to stay home when he was assigned to the Dallas Field Office. With the Secret Service, Donovan’s fluency in Russian soon proved to direct much of the next 23 years of his life.

Barely a year into his Secret Service career, Donovan became a part of history. In 1985, President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev met for the first time at the Geneva Summit in Geneva, Switzerland. Donovan was detailed to this trip to provide Russian translation for the Secret Service as they interacted with the KGB and other Soviet counterparts. 

Scott Donovan on Air Force One with second lady of the United States, Barbara Bush, spouse of the leader of the Soviet Union, Raisa Gorbacheva, and others assigned to the Geneva Summit in 1985.
(Photo courtesy of Scott Donovan)

It wasn’t always about witnessing history take place, but Donovan’s language proficiencies regularly led him away from his primary assignment in Dallas. He was frequently assigned to work with other agencies, often operating outside of the primary jurisdiction of the Secret Service, to conduct investigations into Russian organized crime. This included three years of undercover street work in Miami all while running a squad back in Dallas. The unique experiences allowed him to take different processes and techniques back to help improve those used at the Secret Service. 

In 2005, Donovan left an illustrious career with the Secret Service to find new ways to bring value. After a year in Iraq as an interrogator for the Department of Defense (DOD), Donovan found purpose in sharing the wealth of knowledge he had gained with prospective agents and officers joining the Behavioral Science Division at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC) in Glynco, GA. FLETC quickly recognized the asset they had in Donovan, and he was promoted to Senior Instructor, then to Branch Chief, and served in multiple Division Chief roles including those at Firearms, Behavioral Science, and the Leadership Institute.

While at the Leadership Institute, Donovan worked with the Behavioral Science Division and the Dallas Police Department to develop an innovative product to advance criminal interrogation training. The tool, a 360-Degree Look at Criminal Interrogation, used videos to present case studies on homicide investigations to include follow-up interviews with incarcerated suspects, and created an invaluable opportunity to supplement the curriculum for FLETC basic and advanced students. Through this tool and many other ways, Donovan “always wanted to be the guy everyone felt like they could learn from.” 

Scott Donovan with the Prosecutor General of Hungary. (Photo courtesy of Scott Donovan)
Scott Donovan with the Prosecutor General of Hungary. (Photo courtesy of Scott Donovan)

Sharing knowledge and value continues as Donovan himself is always seeking ways to learn and finding new ways to practically apply that knowledge. About two years ago Donovan embarked on a new adventure and became the Director of the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Budapest, Hungary. As the largest ILEA, Budapest trains 36 countries in 24 different languages and presents many opportunities and challenges. It is a unique situation as he is one of two Americans working at the Budapest ILEA and has, essentially, three bosses. As a section chief carrying diplomatic status, he serves at the pleasure of the ambassador; reports to the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL); and is ultimately employed by FLETC. 


Scott Donivan with his wife and daughter in front of the Milan Cathedral in Milan, Italy. (Photo courtesy of Scott Donovan)
Scott Donivan with his wife and daughter in front of the Milan Cathedral in Milan, Italy. (Photo courtesy of Scott Donovan)

Donovan is adamant that “law enforcement is a team sport,” and he sees this as an important aspect of his role in Budapest; exploring tactical and strategic opportunities to help enable the construction of an international team where “countries create solutions together.” Donovan cherishes facilitating connections that are built on mutual respect and a desire for course participants to better their own nations. Coordination, collaboration, and cooperation serve as bedrocks to the team Donovan drives to create. Time and time again, he continues to make it known that he has not done it alone. 

Two of the most important team members supporting Donovan every step of the way are his wife and daughter. Their lives have drastically changed in an effort for Donovan to deliver value on the international stage. His wife, a former FLETC Branch Chief, having completed her PhD, now serves as an advisor for an American university, and his daughter is a freshman at the American International School receiving a world class education. 

Love and support at home and an abundance of professional success motivates Donovan to create value wherever he can. You can feel the uptick of emotion in his voice that radiates his sincerity when Donovan says, “I love what I do!” The passion in his efforts far exceed any statement he can make, and he passes this on to all he encounters. If he could share a message with every student that comes through the gates of FLETC he would let them know that “Lessons you learn here matter and will benefit you and many others through your life. Do your best!”