To the average passerby, the bright yellow brick sitting at the back of Herndon Police Capt. Robert Presgrave's filing cabinet is just that — a yellow brick.
But, for the 1995 Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy graduate, that yellow brick signifies a monumental accomplishment in his law enforcement career.
"I would go back to that tomorrow if I was given the opportunity," he said about the rigorous physical fitness test administered at the end of the FBI National Academy's training.
After 10 weeks of academic classes and fitness training regimens, all FBI academy attendees must complete a race that includes rock climbing, running down cliffs, through creeks and over balance beams to graduate. At the end of the race, officers are given a yellow brick with their graduating class group number from the "yellow brick road." This brick signifies the race's completion and their graduation.
"I ran track in high school and played football and basketball, but I was not a long distance runner," said Presgrave about completing the long-distance course.
THE FBI NATIONAL Academy is a professional course of study that offers U.S. and international law enforcement leaders the opportunity to gain higher law enforcement education while working in the field.
The program "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," according to the FBI's official Web site. Through the program, law enforcement leaders are prepared for "complex, dynamic, and contemporary challenges" through the academy's facilitation of innovative educational techniques, according to the Web site.
Currently, six Herndon Police executive law enforcement officials have completed this training, according to Sgt. Darcy Burns, police public information officer. That number includes retired Capt. Darryl Smith, who was recently sworn in as the Chief of Police for the Town of Purcellville.
Because the FBI Academy often has a long waiting list, three of Herndon's other executive officers have instead attended the Administrative Officers Management Program in North Carolina. This program operates under the same premise as the FBI National Academy, offering similar courses.
"Law enforcement executives from around the world recognize the FBI National Academy as the best executive law enforcement training school in the world," said Herndon Chief of Police, Toussaint Summers Jr. about the prestige of the training. "The citizens of the Town of Herndon benefit, as our command staff maintains that cutting edge necessary to providing quality service."
ALSO A GRADUATE of the national academy, Summers encourages executive members of his department, which include officers who have reached lieutenant status and above, to attend higher education leadership training courses, Capt. Brad Anzengruber said.
"You just come back motivated and with new ideas," said the FBI National Academy class of 2000 graduate. "And when you come in with new ideas some stick and some don't, but that helps reestablish the department and its ideas. You don't want to get stuck in a rut."
During the 10-week FBI program, roughly 250 law enforcement officers, ranging from chiefs of police and sheriffs to captains and lieutenants, room together and attend classes at the Quantico, Va. campus.
"When we got there we soon got into that academic mind-set," said Presgrave. "Regardless of your age or your rank, we were all students."
The "students" pick from a selection of classes taught by professors and FBI personnel. Classes include law, behavioral science, forensic science, leadership development, communication and health/fitness. Officers also participate in leadership and specialized training.
Out of school a while before attending the FBI training in 1995, Presgrave — who joined the Herndon Police in 1972 — found it took about a week to fall back into the academic routine.
"The first class I went to I was so nervous," he said. "I remember the very first day I got home from class I looked at my notes and they were horrible."
THESE TRAINING classes are important for executive level officials for a number of reasons, Presgrave said. Because technology constantly evolves it is important for officers, who have been in the field for many years, to undergo refresher courses. The higher education management courses also help officers learn new personnel management tactics, as well as offer additional insight into the field of policing.
While many of the Herndon Police Department national academy graduates have attended other higher education training, the FBI's course is the "pinnacle of executive level accomplishment that a person in law enforcement could achieve," Presgrave said.
"It was the best training experience and the best school I have been to," said Anzengruber. "So much of our work is negative — we see the worst of it. This was a totally positive environment, from the fitness tests to the classes."
While framed certificates of academic achievement hang on Presgrave's wall — ranging from the Academy of Forensic Science to the University of Richmond's Police Executive Leadership School — it is the yellow brick that sits to the right of these awards that makes Presgrave the most proud.
"The fitness [component] really stuck with me," he said about the training. "Completing the final race was just a real physical accomplishment to me."