Proudly called, “West Point for Law Enforcement,’ the FBI Academy occupies 547 acres on a Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia, just 40 miles from Washington DC. The Academy, which opened in 1972, grew out of the need for special agents to learn marksmanship when first given the right to carry weapons in 1934. The Marine Corps generously made their Quantico firing range available; however, it soon became apparent that there was also a need for classroom space to provide instructions in many other areas of FBI work. Construction of a new complex started in 1969.
About the Academy
The new academy boasted 24 classrooms, two dormitories, dining hall, high-capacity auditorium, gym, swimming pool, state of the art library and new firing range. In 1987, a simulated training town called “Hogan’s Alley” was added, followed by facilities to accommodate engineering research, hostage rescue teams and behavioral science teams. The one-of-a-kind Center for Intelligence Training and a state-of-the-arts laboratory building were added in 2002 and 2003 respectively.
The training division now has a staff of approximately 600, including special agents, intelligence analysts and other professional specialists. The division encompasses three sections: new Agent Training; intelligence Training and the National Academy.
New Agent Training
All new agents are required to attend a 20-week training session at Quantico that includes 850 hours of instruction in four areas:
- Academics. Classroom instruction in subjects like bureau operations, investigative techniques, law, behavioral science, interviewing, forensics, cyber crime, interrogation, counterintelligence, weapons of mass destruction, report writing, computer skills and ethics.
- Case Exercises. Trainees are placed in real-life situations played out in the simulated town of Hogan’s Alley where actors play criminals and terrorists. The exercise begins with a tip and culminates in multiple arrests. Trainees are also given the opportunity to present evidence in a moot court.
- Firearms Training and Operational Skills. Students learn to fire all bureau-issued weapons and must qualify with a score of 80 or better on three record attempts. Operational skills taught include safe driving techniques, surveillance operations and defensive tactics like boxing, handcuffing, grappling and disarming. Special equipment similar to a sophisticated video game is utilized to test the agent’s ability to make split-second decisions. Practical exercises carried out in Hogan’s Alley feature a simulated bank robbery, kidnapping and assault on a federal officer. Paint guns are used in place of standard FBI-issued weapons.
- Physical Training. Trainees go through a rigorous program to assure physical fitness after which they must pass such fitness tests as a timed 300-meter sprint, a timed 1.3 mile run, and a required number of sit-ups and push-ups.
Special agents return to Quantico throughout their careers for specialized training and refresher courses.
The second division of the Quantico training center focuses on basic and advanced training for intelligence analysts. The FBI was transformed into an intelligence-driven organization following the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The Bureau has since improved practices related to collecting, analyzing and disseminating intelligence in order to incapacitate security threats. Intelligence analysts not only receive exhaustive training as new recruits but are exposed to continuing professional development throughout their careers. The curriculum includes instruction in:
- Operational doctrine
- Relevant policies
- Basic guidelines underlying the FBI intelligence mission
The division also strives to build strong relationships between intelligence analysts, special agents and other FBI professionals. Partnerships with the broader intelligence community are also emphasized.
The National Academy was created in 1935 in response to a study that illustrated the need for standardization and professionalization in law enforcement departments throughout the U.S. Twenty-three students took part in the first training session which included the study of criminal investigation techniques, scientific aids in crime detection, report preparation and administration/organization. Courses in espionage and sabotage were added during World War II.
The current academy offers a comprehensive course of study for law enforcement leaders from the U.S. and abroad. The goal is to elevate standards in law enforcement and cooperation in police departments and agencies the world over. Invitations to participate are determined by a nominating process and extended to leaders/managers of local police/sheriff’s departments from all U.S. states, U.S. territories and over 150 international partner nations. The emphasis is on preparing these leaders for complex contemporary challenges through innovative techniques, superior education/research and a network of partnerships.
Four times yearly 250 of law enforcement leaders attend 10 weeks taking courses in:
- Behavioral science
- Forensic science
- The terrorist mindset
- Leadership development
A final, but optional, physical fitness test euphemistically called, “The Yellow Brick Road,” is a grueling 6.1-mile run through lowlands, woods, muddy waters and simulated windows, up hills, over walls, under barbed wire and across a cargo net. Those who successfully complete the challenge are awarded an actual yellow brick as a symbol of their accomplishment.
After graduation, participants join FBI National Academy Associates, an organization of over 15,000 law enforcement professionals who strive to improve competency, cooperation and integrity throughout the world law enforcement community.