By Janelle Hanson, managing editor, University of Utah Communications
Camaraderie, training and a network of resources are just a few things that 232 law enforcement officers from around the world walked away with as they graduated from the FBI National Academy at Quantico, Virginia, on June 8, 2018. Among them: University of Utah Deputy Police Chief Rick Mclenon.
“It’s definitely a humbling experience,” Mclenon said. “When you get there sometimes you feel like you don’t deserve it, but when you sit down and start talking with everybody and learn about where they came from, their backgrounds and what you can bring to the table, that feeling changes.”
Those who attend must be nominated, well-vetted and invited by the FBI to participate in this 10-week intensive training at Quantico.
“Really 1 percent of all law enforcement get to actually attend the academy,” Mclenon said. “And it was without a doubt, one of the best work and personal experiences of my life.”
And Mclenon is in good company at the University of Utah Police Department. Both Police Chief Dale Brophy and Sgt. Kory Newbold attended and graduated from the academy. And all three previously worked together at the West Valley City Police Department.
“My dad actually went through the academy in 1984. We were the 43rd father-son pair to go through so that was really cool for me,” Brophy said. “And being able to stay on the cutting edge of things and the ability to reach out to people who are dealing with similar situations has been invaluable.”
The purpose? To provide training and courses in terrorism, forensic science, law enforcement media training, communication, etc. and raising law enforcement standards worldwide.
“The depth of the training, the networking and friendships you build relationships with law enforcement around the world is something you can’t get at most conferences or trainings,” Newbold said. “Because of that there are a lot of resources across the country you can fall back on, not just in Utah.”
And those relationships continue long after Quantico as the local Utah chapters provide continual bi-annual trainings and help with incidents here at the U.
“When we had the shooting here last October, the FBI showed up, offered resources and asked what we needed and how they could help,” Brophy said. “Our relationship with them is very solid and in direct relation to the academy and trainings we’ve been a part of with them.”
In addition to discussing high-profile cases and classroom work, there’s also an intensive physical fitness portion of the training.
“It’s not all just fun and games,” Newbold said. “You learn, you study, it’s a lot of work academically, but also physically. You have to earn it.”
The yellow brick road, a grueling 6.1-mile run through a course built by Marines, is the culmination of the 10 weeks. By working together and training the weeks leading up to the final test, students must climb over walls, crawl under barbed wire through muddy water, scale rocks and ropes to finish and receive a yellow brick, celebrating their achievement.
“It’s the crescendo of the physical fitness program,” Brophy said. “Working together as a team is something that most people get into law enforcement for. You have to be a team player because you have to rely on your partner to cover your back.”
That teamwork and the continued relationships translates back to campus. As officers face situations on campus and determine how to handle them, they have a repository of resources and agencies across the country and world to pull from that have dealt with similar issues.
“When you are in the middle of a critical incident, it’s not the time to start building relationships with your sister agencies or the FBI,” Mclenon said. “They need to be established well before that, which we’ve done really well.”