National Academy

National Academy Students on Yellow Brick Road

The FBI National Academy is a professional course of study for U.S. and international law enforcement managers nominated by their agency heads because of demonstrated leadership qualities. The 10-week program—which provides coursework in intelligence theory, terrorism and terrorist mindsets, management science, law, behavioral science, law enforcement communication, and forensic science—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.

Overview 

The FBI National Academy is a professional development course for U.S. and international law enforcement leaders.National Academy Candidates

Leaders and managers of state, local, county, tribal, military, federal, and international law enforcement agencies attend the FBI National Academy. Participation is by invitation only, through a nomination process. Participants are drawn from every U.S. state and territory and from international partner nations.

Course of Study

Sessions of approximately 220 officers take undergraduate and/or graduate courses at the FBI campus in Quantico, Virginia. Classes are offered in the following areas: law, behavioral science, forensic science, understanding terrorism/terrorist mindsets, leadership, communication, and health/fitness. Officers participate in a wide range of leadership and specialized training, where they share ideas, techniques, and experiences with each other, creating lifelong partnerships that transcend state and national borders.

Note: The most current National Academy orientation booklet can be obtained for incoming students by accessing the FBI National Academy Special Interest Group (SIG) on Law Enforcement Online (LEO), which is available through the Law Enforcement Enterprise Portal (LEEP).

The "Yellow Brick Road"

National Academy graduates fondly recall their experience on the “Yellow Brick Road.” The final test of the fitness challenge, the Yellow Brick Road is a grueling 6.1-mile 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.

International Students

Virtually every day a law enforcement or security officer overseas runs down a lead or shares information that helps solve or support an FBI case in the United States. One vital way that we build the international partnerships needed to gain that assistance is through the FBI National Academy. This program gathers law enforcement leaders from around the world to learn and train together for 10 weeks, not only elevating levels of expertise but also building bonds of friendship that last for years.

The National Academy was launched in 1935 as the “Police Training School.” China, Canada, and Great Britain were among the first countries to send representatives in the late 1930s, but usually only a few officers per session. The number of international students began to rise in August 1962, when President Kennedy signed National Security Action Memorandum No. 177 to enhance the training of overseas officers in the United States. As a result, the FBI began accepting up to 20 international law enforcement executives in each National Academy session.

Today, each session usually includes between 27 and 30 international students, about 10 percent of each class. Thousands of international leaders from over 160 countries have graduated from the National Academy. As global crime and terror continue to mount—requiring ever deepening levels of international cooperation and expertise—the FBI continues to put a priority on offering and coordinating international training opportunities for its partners around the world.

Life After the National Academy

Following graduation, each officer has the opportunity to join the FBI National Academy Associates, Inc., a dynamic organization of more than 16,000 law enforcement professionals who actively work to continue developing higher levels of competency, cooperation, and integrity across the law enforcement community.

Brief History of the National Academy 

The Academy began July 29, 1935. It was created in response to a 1930 study by the Wickersham Commission that recommended the standardization and professionalization of 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.

National Academy Students on Range in 1936

Students on the range during a 1936 session of the FBI’s National Academy.

NA Graduates Reflect on Value of Experience 

Interstate Cooperation Solves Case of Runaways

Canton, Massachusetts, Police Chief Ken Berkowitz recounted receiving a report in 2006 of two young women who had run away from a secure facility in Canton. Knowing they were vulnerable and after receiving information that they were heading to New York City, Berkowitz contacted a New York Police Department’s (NYPD) lieutenant detective he had met while attending the NA and asked him if the NYPD would dedicate resources to bringing the women back to Canton. Within eight hours, the two were safely returned to the facility. Berkowitz, convinced that the work and networking done at the NA is what found the women, said “Those girls were not found on the streets of New York City; those girls were found in the hallways of the National Academy.”

International Cooperation Leads to Apprehension of Fugitive from the U.S.

Lieutenant Larry Horak of the Margate, Florida, Police Department worked a case that involved a con man named Roger Miller fleeing the country after stealing millions of dollars from investors. “Our investigation established that Miller had fled to Thailand, but we were having trouble trying to locate him there,” Horak said. “I thought I had a member of my NA class from the Royal Thai Police, so I sent him an e-mail with a description of Miller, and within 24 hours, I got a response saying ‘We’ve located him—let us know what you’d like us to do.’“ Horak was then able to initiate the extradition process to bring Miller back for prosecution. “For me,” said Horak, “the NA was unprecedented in any leadership training I’ve received during my career.”  

Information from NA Class Provides Valuable Starting Point in Murder Investigation

Police Chief Bill Lane of the 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.

Interstate Cooperation Leads to Apprehension of Bank Robbery Suspect

A graduate of the 234th NA session—Police Chief Gerald R. Simpson of the Garden Township Police Department in 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 Newburgh 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.

National Academy Nominating Process 

Who Should Sign the Nomination

A commissioner, superintendent, or police chief; a sheriff or head of county policy agency; the chief, superintendent, or executive officer of a state police or highway patrol organization.

Who Should Fill Out the Application

Officers with a minimum rank of lieutenant or the equivalent and who are approved by their respective field office.

Nominee Qualifications

  • Be a regular, full-time officer of a duly-constituted law enforcement agency of a municipality, county, or state, having at least five years of substantial and continuous experience;
  • Be at least 25 years old;
  • Be in excellent physical condition, capable of strenuous exertion and regular participation in the use of firearms, physical training, and defensive tactics, which will be confirmed by a thorough physical examination (submitted when requested by the FBI) by a medical doctor of the nominee’s choosing and at the nominee’s expense;
  • Possess an excellent character and enjoy a reputation for professional integrity;
  • Exhibit an interest in law enforcement as a public service, a seriousness of purpose, qualities of leadership and enjoy the confidence and respect of fellow officers;
  • Have a high school diploma or high school equivalency certificate;
  • Agree to remain in law enforcement for a minimum of three years after graduating from the FBI National Academy.

Submitting a Nomination 

Please contact your local FBI office training coordinator if you are interested in submitting a nomination or in learning more about the process.

International students are nominated by their host countries working through our legal attaché offices.