National Academy Turns 75
Students on the gun range during a 1936 session of the FBI’s National Academy.
A Milestone in Police Training
Seventy-Five Years Ago
It’s hard to imagine now, but in the early part of the last century there was very little formal training for law enforcement officers around the country. In some smaller cities, police departments simply issued new officers a badge and gun and told them to get to work.
So when criminals started getting smarter, more organized, and better armed in the 1920s and early 1930s—as represented by such cunning characters as Al Capone, John Dillinger, and Alvin Karpis—law enforcement nationwide was hardly prepared to deal with them.
The FBI—which had launched its own formal training for special agents in the late 1920s—realized it could help. At a national crime conference in December 1934, Director J. Edgar Hoover joined with Attorney General Homer Cummings in announcing plans for a national school of instruction for law enforcement. That call was widely acclaimed, and the International Association of Chiefs of Police quickly endorsed the concept and lent its support.
The following June, Bureau executive Hugh Clegg traveled up and down the East Coast and as far west as Chicago, seeking out criminologists, law professors, and other experts to participate in the training program. Although the FBI intended to tap into experienced agents for its core set of instructors, Clegg succeeded in recruiting lecturers from Harvard, Yale, the City College of New York, Vanderbilt, Columbia, Northwestern, Johns Hopkins, Georgetown, and the University of Cincinnati to talk on various topics. Also enlisted were senior state and local police and executives.
Plans were soon complete, and on Monday morning, July 29, 1935—75 years ago today—the FBI launched its first Police Training School. The attorney general called it “the most comprehensive and intensive training ever afforded local law enforcement officers in the United States.”
Within a few years, we had changed the name to the FBI National Academy. Today, more than 43,000 graduates later (including over 3,000 from beyond our borders), the National Academy is an institution widely respected in law enforcement circles around the world, evolving into what some have called “The West Point of Law Enforcement.” These students have carried their knowledge and experiences back to their cities and towns, sharing it with their colleagues and the people they serve, further multiplying the impact of the National Academy.
In honor of the anniversary, we thought you’d be interested in a few details on our first class of students—as well as on how the academy has evolved over the years. See the sidebars, links, and various pictures on this page for specifics. And visit our National Academy website for more information on current operations and read .