The National Academy
The FBI National Academy is a professional course of study for U.S. and international law enforcement leaders that serves to improve the administration of justice in police departments and agencies at home and abroad and to raise law enforcement standards, knowledge, and cooperation worldwide.
Its mission is “to support, promote, and enhance the personal and professional development of law enforcement leaders by preparing them for complex, dynamic, and contemporary challenges through innovative techniques, facilitating excellence in education and research, and forging partnerships throughout the world.”
Leaders and managers of state and local police, sheriffs’ departments, military police organizations, and federal law enforcement agencies. Participation is by invitation only, though a nomination process. Participants are drawn from every state in the union, from U.S. territories, and from over 150 international partner nations. See below for more details on graduates over the years.
The course of study
For 10 classroom-hour weeks, four times a year, classes of some 250 officers take undergraduate and/or graduate college courses at our Quantico, Virginia, campus in the following areas: law, behavioral science, forensic science, understanding terrorism/terrorist mindsets, leadership development, communication, and health/fitness. Officers participate in a wide range of leadership and specialized training, and they share ideas, techniques, and experiences with each other, creating lifelong partnerships that span state and national lines.
The “Yellow Brick Road”
Anyone who’s attended the National Academy knows all about the “Yellow Brick Road,” the final (but optional) test of the fitness challenge. It consists of a 6.1-mile grueling run through a hilly, wooded trail built by the Marines. Along the way, the participants must climb over walls, run through creeks, jump through simulated windows, scale rock faces with ropes, crawl under barbed wire in muddy water, maneuver across a cargo net, and more. When (and if) the students complete this difficult test, they receive an actual yellow brick to memorialize their achievement. The course came to be known as the “Yellow Brick Road” years ago, after the Marines placed yellow bricks at various spots to show runners the way through the wooded trail. The overall fitness challenge began at the National Academy in 1981 and has evolved over the years; we started awarding yellow bricks in 1988.
How long the National Academy been in operation
Since July 29, 1935, with 23 students in attendance. It was created in response to a 1930 study by the Wickersham Commission that recommended the standardization and professionalization of the law enforcement departments across the U.S. through centralized training. With strong support from the International Association of Chiefs of Police and with the authority of Congress and the Department of Justice, the “FBI Police Training School” was born. Courses at that time included scientific aids in crime detection, preparation of reports, criminal investigation techniques, and administration and organization. With the advent of World War II, courses were added in espionage and sabotage.
|Students on the gun range during a 1936 session of the FBI’s National Academy.|
Life after the National Academy
Following graduation, each officer has the opportunity to join the FBI National Academy Associates, a dynamic organization of more than 15,000 law enforcement professionals who actively work to continue developing higher levels of competency, cooperation, and integrity across the law enforcement community.
NA graduates reflect on value of experience
Police Chief Bill Lane, Horseshoe Bay (Texas) Police Department—a graduate of the 135th session of the NA—recounted how the instruction he received while attending the Academy was invaluable during a murder investigation. At the time Chief Lane attended the NA, he was assistant chief of the Hobbs (New Mexico) Police Department. In November 2005, the Hobbs Police Department was investigating the murder of a multimillionaire who was found dead at his lakefront mansion. During the search of the residence, evidence was discovered that indicated the victim had an internal defibrillator. Lane recalled something from one of his NA classes—how information from these defibrillators can sometimes be downloaded, helping to determine the time of death. The information was downloaded and provided a valuable starting point in the investigation, which was ultimately resolved with the assistance of other law enforcement agencies.
A graduate of the 234th NA session—Police Chief Gerald R. Simpson, Garden Township Police Department (Chester County, Pennsylvania)—recalled that the opportunity to liaison with his NA classmates proved to be a valuable crime-fighting tool later on. At the time he was at the NA, Simpson was a lieutenant with the Newark (Delaware) Police Department. Six months after graduating from the Academy, a bank robbery occurred in his jurisdiction in which the suspect, during his escape, struck another vehicle which caused his own license plate to fall off the car. Police recovered the plate and discovered that the vehicle was a rental from a company in Newburgh, New York. While still at the crime scene, Simpson contacted a National Academy classmate—Charlie Broe, at the time a lieutenant with the Newburg Police Department in New York—and requested his assistance. The classmate was able to obtain the rental contact which led to the identification of the suspect. Within seven days, law enforcement authorities in New York had located and arrested him.