FBI Executive Leadership Programs
By Jim Moore, M.S.
The FBI has a long and storied history of providing world-class training to domestic and international law enforcement executives. Each program offers unique opportunities for these professionals to freely discuss issues and challenges facing their agency and exchange best practices and solutions to problems.
Started in 1935, the FBI National Academy (NA) is the largest and most widely known law enforcement executive training program. As of this publication, the NA has graduated over 54,000 students.
Four times a year, selected mid-level managers from local, state, federal, and international partner agencies attend the NA for a 10-week session. Only a small number of the more than 800,000 sworn law enforcement officers in the United States1 get the opportunity to attend the academy during their career. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and usually the result of an extremely competitive selection process.
The NA provides education about contemporary policing issues and leadership development. Its successful track record and proven benefits to both law enforcement agencies and their communities led to the creation of additional programs.
Mr. Moore is a retired supervisory special agent, graduate of FBI National Academy Session 208, and leadership development training coordinator for the Chesterfield County, Virginia, Police Department.
National Executive Institute
In the mid-1970s, the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Los Angeles Police Department conducted an in-depth study on police chief executives.2 The study identified a crucial need for executive-level training on many contemporary law enforcement issues.
In response, the FBI National Executive Institute (NEI) was created and endorsed by the Major Cities Chiefs Association. NEI participants comprise heads of large law enforcement agencies,3 to include the FBI, federal law enforcement partners, military criminal investigative branches, and international police departments.
The NEI is held throughout the year in three intensive one-week cycles with approximately 50 participants in each session. As of this publication, over 1,600 executives have graduated from the NEI.
Having no set curriculum, NEI program managers have the flexibility to focus on policing issues relevant at the time. Presentations by various experts in the field coupled with facilitated discussion among attendees helps bring a wide variety of solutions to the table.
Law Enforcement Executive Development Seminar
With NEI’s success, the need for a formalized leadership training program for executives of mid-sized law enforcement agencies4 was clear. As a result, the FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Seminar (LEEDS) was created in 1981.
LEEDS holds one session annually in two, one-week cycles. Much like the NEI, LEEDS sessions focus on presentations by subject matter experts in various fields, facilitated discussions, problem-solving, and leadership-related site visits.
National Command Course
With larger departments receiving most of the slots in the NA, NEI, and LEEDS, where does that leave smaller ones?5 Approximately 86% of U.S. agencies have fewer than 50 sworn officers,6 and they face unique challenges regarding executive training opportunities.
Gaining admission to these leadership courses is difficult. Officers and executives from small departments may not meet the criteria or get selected to attend. Further, many of these agencies cannot spare to have the chief executive away for an extended period because such individuals often work patrol or investigative shifts in addition to handling executive duties. Smaller departments also lack the budget to support advanced training beyond the initial police academy.
With this crucial need and training gap identified, the FBI created the National Command Course (NCC), held twice a year. In May 2021, the five-day course was offered for the first time and deemed a much-needed success by all 50 participants.
Topics of instruction include media relations, body-worn cameras, officer wellness, targeted violence, weapons and ballistics, and the future of law enforcement. Tours of local battlefields, the U.S. Marine Corps Museum, and the FBI Academy are also part of the NCC’s curriculum.
Despite similarities between the FBI’s four executive programs, each one is tailored to meet the needs of participating agencies. Departments of all sizes and their managers have unique challenges, cultures, and characteristics. As a result, classroom and after-hours discussions are individualized to each group.
“Each program provides unique opportunities for these professionals to freely discuss issues and challenges facing their agency and exchange best practices and solutions to problems.”
Presentations and discussions are broadly based on four pillars common to many contemporary FBI training programs: identifying emerging trends, enhancing partnerships, promoting wellness, and seeking innovation.
To address participants’ current training needs, FBI program managers contact each student and ask, “What are the top three things that matter to you as the chief executive of a law enforcement agency?”
Current issues include recruitment and retention of quality employees, officer wellness and resilience, and trust and legitimacy with the public. Responses are tallied and used to guide the opening discussions for each training program.
In any given class, there are about 1,300 to 1,500 years of combined law enforcement and leadership experience. Identifying challenges and discussing solutions, personal experiences, and best practices helps break the ice and enables the class to create an atmosphere of trust, team building, and problem-solving.
Each fall, all FBI field offices and legal attachés accept nominations for officers intending to participate in programs conducted the next calendar year. To apply to an FBI executive leadership program, candidates can contact the training coordinator or liaison specialist at the nearest FBI field office.
Many graduates of the National Academy, National Executive Institute, Law Enforcement Executive Development Seminar, and National Command Course describe them as the most valuable training received during their careers. Subject matter expert presentations and the resulting robust conversations among participants open the door for the exchange of ideas and experiences. The result is more effective policing, better relationships with the community, and increased partnerships between local, state, federal, and international agencies.
“Many graduates of the National Academy, National Executive Institute, Law Enforcement Executive Development Seminar, and National Command Course describe them as the most valuable training received during their careers.”
“One of the best takeaways from the course was the networking and the relationships/partnerships that were formed with other chiefs and sheriffs from around the country, as well as with the FBI coordinators and instructors. Conversations ... about today’s climate in law enforcement and how we do things differently around the country were enlightening and educational.”
— Chief Tracy Chapman, Forest Preserve District of Will County, Illinois, Police Department, FBI NCC1
“The FBI LEEDS program provided me an opportunity to enhance my career through the learning process and networking experience.”
— Chief Craig Capri, Eustis, Florida, Police Department, FBI LEEDS 78
“During a period of intense scrutiny for the profession, law enforcement executives at all levels ... need perspective and strategic thinking. The FBI NEI provides both in a way that no other training does.”
— Director Brenden Kelly, Illinois State Police, FBI NEI 44
Supervisory Special Agent Moore can be contacted at email@example.com.
1 “Law Enforcement Facts,” Key Data About the Profession, National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, accessed July 8, 2022, https://nleomf.org/memorial/facts-figures/law-enforcement-facts/.
2 Federal Bureau of Investigation, “The FBI’s National Executive Institute: Educating Law Enforcement’s Top Level Managers,” FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, September 1976, 3-8, https://leb.fbi.gov/file-repository/archives/september-1976.pdf/view.
3 A large agency is defined as one employing more than 500 sworn police officers.
4 A mid-sized agency is defined as one employing between 50 and 499 sworn police officers.
5 A small agency is defined as one employing fewer than 50 sworn police officers.
6 U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Sources of Law Enforcement Employment Data, Duren Banks et al. (Washington, DC, 2016), https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/pdf/nsleed.pdf.