Olive Branch Police Department Maj. Bill Cox displays a Yellow Brick Road Award for completing the final 6.1-mile run test of a grueling fitness challenge, part of the FBI National Academy. His certificate for completing the Academy is displayed on the wall above him.

Bob Bakken|DTT

For 10 weeks, from April to June, Olive Branch Police Department Major Bill Cox did not leave home in the morning and head to his office at police headquarters. 

Instead, Cox resided at and took part in the FBI National Academy, a program located near the Quantico Station Marine Corps Base, Va. just southwest of Washington, D.C.

Four times a year, as many as 250 law enforcement officers, invited through a nomination process, attend the academy that provides an executive-level training opportunity to law enforcement officers.

The academy students come from all across the country and several international officers are also involved.

Cox said being a part of the FBINA, as it is called, does not come to everyone. Only 50,000 people have ever taken part in its history, a program started by the FBI in 1933.

“The opportunity to attend this is so sought after,” Cox said. “That works out to about one percent of law enforcement that has ever attended that program. It’s a great honor and a great opportunity to have that chance to learn, experience and make the connections with law enforcement from all over the world.”

In fact, Cox said his roommate for the program came from the nation of Djibouti, located in what is called the “Horn of Africa.”

“One of the things that was neat, he said, was that in the evening, everything there shuts down,” Cox said. “There’s very little running about in the evenings and at night because everybody is at home with the family.”

Typical days involved taking undergraduate or graduate-level college courses in the areas of Law, Behavioral Science, Leadership Development, Communication, Cyber Crime and Health/Fitness.

“All of my coursework was graduate coursework through the University of Virginia,” Cox said. “I completed 15 graduate hours and received a graduate certificate in criminal justice education from the University of Virginia as a result. Not only were the instructors FBI agents, but they were professors from the university.”

Students were not mired inside a classroom for an entire day, however. Fitness training and health was also a part of the academy and it certainly not for those who were out of shape. Being at a Marine Corps base, it might have had a resemblance to basic training.

“Wednesday was Challenge Day when the entire class, all 228 of us, would gather together for a physical challenge that we had to accomplish,” Cox said. “This culminated in the ‘Yellow Brick Road.’ Each week, our challenges were progressively more difficult, ending with the Yellow Brick Road, which was a 6.1 mile run on an obstacle course that is maintained by the Marine Corps on the base. I enjoyed it, I would go back and do it again.”

Cox was nominated by Police Chief Don Gammage and then passed an application for the FBINA, which included an interview and physical testing at the FBI State Field Office.

Mississippi gets eight spots in the FBINA each year, two for each of the four classes that are held.

Grateful to Gammage for the nomination and to his family for being without him for the lengthy period of time, Cox said the main takeaway for him as he is back at his office in Olive Branch is in what he calls “functional leadership.”

“The perspectives have opened my eyes in many different ways,” Cox said. “We live in an era where law enforcement is changing and evolving. Many people are reluctant to change, so learning how to lead change is a key element to being successful in law enforcement.”

Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.

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