April 21-27, 2000
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BOV approves 2000 tuition, Med Center salary increases
U.Va., FBI partnership continually updates law enforcement training
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Nancy Soberg / FBI Academy official photographer
FBI Center employees gathered at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington March 24 to commemorate the 200th National Academy graduation. From left to right are: Steve Pryplesh, director of FBI Programs; Judy Napier, program support technician senior; Lori Koslow, program support technician; Louis Freeh, director of the FBI; Sondra Stallard, dean of U.Va.'s School of Continuing and Professional Studies; Betty Walker, program support technician; and Scott DeLong, assistant director of FBI Programs.

U.Va., FBI partnership continually updates law enforcement training

By Alfred Biddlecomb

QUANTICO -- Law enforcement officers today must cope with a broad range of crimes that cross state lines and even infiltrate the home via the Internet. U.Va. is helping officers keep up.

The academic training that distinguishes Federal Bureau of Investigation agents has been passed on to local law enforcement officers for more than a half-century through the National Academy Program in Quantico.

The academy, which uses courses developed and accredited by U.Va.'s School of Continuing and Professional Studies, recently graduated its 200th class. Its evolving curriculum enables local law enforcement agencies to keep up with the changing scope of crime.

The much sought-after training has developed into a finishing school for future law enforcement leaders across the country and worldwide.

The academy's first class in 1935, which marked the first major attempt at uniform training standards for a diverse range of law enforcement officers, offered its 23 students firearms training and taught basic investigative techniques. The 268 students of the academy's 200th class hit the books in a number of college-level courses, including forensic and behavioral sciences, law, communications and management.

"If you were to look at the leadership of the nation's law enforcement agencies, most will have the National Academy on their resumés," said U.Va. Police Chief Mike Sheffield, a 1983 academy graduate. "The college credit earned at the academy is a great advantage, and it inspires many graduates to continue their education and earn a higher degree."

National Academy training has become the most prestigious in law enforcement, said Janet Warren, a professor at U.Va.'s Institute of Law, Psychiatry and Public Policy.

"Our partnership with the academy has allowed updated research and training on modern-day law enforcement issues that were not heard of 20 or 30 years ago," said Warren, whose department was alluded to in the movie, "Silence of the Lambs." "The academy forms a huge hub of law enforcement and investigative resources."

The academy is currently involved in intense research in the area of threat assessment, particularly school violence, Warren said. The research and training could develop into enhanced courses, allowing law enforcement officers to evaluate the seriousness of threats made by young people.

Warren is also researching a book for the academy on suicide by law enforcement officers.

When U.Va. became involved with the academy in 1972, the training focus shifted from vocational to academic.

"You can see a steady progression of knowledge with every graduate that comes into your department," said Charlie Deane, police chief in Northern Virginia's Prince William County, himself a 1985 academy graduate. "We've had 25 attend the academy since 1970 and the professionalism really shows."

The qualifications of law enforcement officers have changed greatly since the academy's founding. Of those graduating last month, more than half had a bachelor's degree and 97 percent had completed at least some college work.

Sheffield says he and others within his department who completed the 12-week course have a better grasp of modern management skills inside the office and a greater feel for the challenges faced today on the streets. "The exchange of information that takes place between the students, at the academy and when the graduates return, is invaluable," he said.

The academy's partnership with U.Va. is an evolving one, and continued research helps improve the level of professionalism among law enforcement officials.

"The program is highly selective, featuring officers who are moving up in their organizations," said Steve Pryplesh, an assistant dean in the School of Continuing and Professional Studies and director of U.Va.'s programs at the academy. "[Former FBI Director] J. Edgar Hoover fostered the relationship between academics and law enforcement. The academy is the mechanism to increase the academic character of law enforcement officers throughout the world."

The international flavor can be seen in the diversity of classes going through the National Academy today. The 200th graduating class included students from 49 states and 22 countries.


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