Federal Bureau of Investigations training versus the quasi-militarism police training


This paper compares and contrasts the training methodologies associated with how the Federal Bureau of Investigations trains agents versus the quasi-militarism (paramilitarism) which is the characteristic methodology used in the typical police academy. FBI and police training are important as it determines how the FBI and police will work and behave while protecting citizens and serving the community. There are various similarities between the training of FBI agents and paramilitarism, including the focus on physical fitness, training basics, and adherence of the US constitution. Differences between the training of FBI agents and that of police vary in the recruitment process, the content of training as well as ways of conducting their roles.


Federal Bureau of Investigations training versus the quasi-militarism police training
The FBI is the American law enforcement agency that is responsible for gathering information and compiling facts related to cases in federal jurisdiction. The FBI is a member of the US Intelligence community, and its main duty is to maintain local security by investigating foreigners and terrorists who threaten the security of the states. The bureau conduct investigations involving organized crime, corruption in public office, white-collar crime, drug trafficking, and civil rights violations. The FBI also conducts training and provides organizational assistance to local, national and international law enforcement agencies.
One of the major roles of the FBI is to conduct training of its agents so that they have the skills, knowledge, and experience in investigating criminal activities and terrorists. The FBI academy trains its agents and also other law enforcement personnel. Dedicated to being the world’s leading training and research center for law enforcement, the FBI academy is located in Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Virginia. On the other hand, a police officer’s main duty is to protect the citizens as well as property. Police officers make patrols, respond to calls, enforce laws, make arrests, and they even testify in court cases. The training of FBI agents is similar to the training used in a typical police academy but with a number of differences (Chappell, 2008).

Components of training

Training of FBI agents occurs in the FBI academy, and it conforms to constitutional principles and adheres to the core values of the bureau. It emphasizes on protection of civil rights and liberties. The training must differentiate between constitutionally protected statements and activities that aim at achieving political or social gains and violent extremism. The training emphasizes that no investigative or intelligence activities will be solely based on race, religious affiliation, national origin or ethnicity. Basically, training of FBI agents focuses on behavioral indicators that are related to terrorist or criminal activities while ensuring that religious, social and political beliefs are constitutionally protected (FBI, 2012).

The training of FBI agents is designed for the intended audience while focusing on ensuring message clarity with support from the appropriate course materials. The training ensures that the agents gain the needed knowledge and skills to enable them to execute their duties within the limits of their roles and responsibilities. The training therefore has relevant and articulated objectives and promotes opportunities for further learning. The training curricula are in standardized formats accompanied by training materials that have the best practices. FBI agents are trained to focus on more serious crimes, felonies and violations of federal laws (FBI, 2012).

Paramilitary police training focuses mainly on the technical and mechanical aspects of imparting skills such as defensive tactics, marksmanship, and driving skills with little or no emphasis on communication and problem solving skills. Training of new police recruits is based on military aspects whereby the police are supplied with training, intelligence and equipment from the military. Paramilitary training involves the training of police recruits from different backgrounds in basic marksmanships involving the use of weapon (Shernock, 1998).

This is very different from the type of training that FBI agents go through. Police recruits spend most of their training on driving, first aid, firearms, self-defense and use of force skills. Education in police training mostly revolves around the area of state law. The curriculum in police training is therefore made up of state laws and regulations. The training will impart knowledge in local ordinances and what is considered a violation of such ordinances. As opposed to FBI agents, police are trained to deal with violations of local and state laws, which are considered less serious crimes (Shernock, 1998).


Since the FBI agent job is special in nature, a candidate must meet very strict requirements. In order for one to qualify as an FBI agent, they should be a US citizen or a citizen of the Northern Mariana Islands, be at least 23 and no older than 37 at the time of the appointment, hold a four year degree from a recognized college or university within the US, possess a valid driver’s license, and must have a professional work experience of three years. FBI special agent applicants must complete the Special Agent Selection System (SASS) successfully (FBI, 2015).

In order to be recruited for police training in a police academy, one does not as many qualifications. However, the person should be a US citizen, be at least 21 years old, and should not have previous felony convictions. In order for one to become a law enforcement officer, they should also be physically fit and meet all medical requirements. Some police training institutions only need a high school diploma, while others need college coursework or even degree.

The training basics

Training of FBI agents involve 800 hours of training, including various web-based courses in different fields including academics, case exercise, firearms training, and operational skills (FBI, 2015). Police training or paramilitary consists of 408 hours of training and similar to FBI training, paramilitary training occurs in different fields, including criminal law, constitutional law, defensive tactics, operational skills, ethics and integrity, investigations, health and fitness, and firearm skills.

Police training also involves additional skills such as basic foreign language, problem solving skills, computers and information systems, community policing, patrol procedures, domestic violence, and field training. The training occurs in classrooms accompanied by practical exercises and scenarios just like in FBI training.


In academics, FBI agent trainees study various subjects, including ethics, fundamentals of law, forensic science, behavioral science, investigative and intelligence techniques, interrogation, interviewing and report writing. Police officers are also trained in similar subjects. FBI agents are trained on how to conduct criminal investigations, manage counterterrorism activities, managing counterintelligence and weapons of mass destruction and cyber investigations. In addition, FBI agents are trained on ethics, and part of this training involves visiting the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington to understand what happens when values and ethics are lost in law enforcement (FBI, 2015).

Case exercises

FBI agents are trained using case exercise to assess their ability to deal with real life situations and have a clear picture of what they will experience in the field of criminal investigations and intelligence. For instance, FBI agent trainees are provided with case scenarios beginning with a tip and end up in arrests of various subjects. The FBI academy has a mock town known as Hogan’s Alley, and all investigations of the case exercises are conducted in the streets. The academy hires people who act as criminals and terrorists to facilitate the case exercises. In addition, agents engage in another practical exercise known as Capstone whereby terrorism and intelligence scenarios involving culturally diverse participants are used. Agents are also given the opportunity to present their evidence in a moot court (FBI, 2015).

Case exercises also occur in police training academies whereby police recruits are exposed to real life situations, crime incidents, investigations, and solving problems. Since police training occurs in different academies, case exercises are not conduct on a particular location like what happens in FBI training. Police officers are required to practices the skills they have learnt in real life situations during training at the academy and field training. Police officers also undergo field training once they complete training at the police academy. During field training, police recruits are often paired with a training officer who accompanies them in police patrols. Many police agencies rotate the police recruits in different shifts and areas of jurisdiction to ensure their full exposure. The median hours of field training for police recruits is 180 hours. However, field training does not occur among FBI agents as the agents are ready to carry out their first office assignment immediately after leaving the FB academy.

Operational skills

All FBI agents receive training on different operational skills, including defensive tactics, surveillance, tactical driving, and physical fitness. Some of the defensive tactics taught in FBI training include boxing, weapon retention, handcuffing, search of subjects and disarming techniques. The Tactical Emergency Vehicle Operations Center at the FBI academy provides the safe driving techniques to the FBI agents. Training on operational skills also involves more than 90 hours of instructions on operations planning, tactics, handling cooperating witnesses and informants, undercover operations, physical and electronic surveillance, and collecting and disseminating intelligence. FBI trainees conduct interviews, perform surveillance, plan and conduct arrests, and use the survival techniques taught during training at the Hogan’s Alley. The trainees also engage in real life exercise that include kidnapping, bank robbery, situations involving assault of a federal officer, and dealing with compliant, armed and dangerous arrest scenarios. The officers use paint guns to practice their skills.

An important aspect of FBI agent training is the Virtual Reality Tactical Training Simulator (VirtSim) developed for the FBI for law enforcement purposes. The victim is basically a 3D technical simulator that creates a virtual 360 degree tactical environment using wireless and motion capture technology. The technical simulator creates full-body motion for each agent under training. The full-body motion projects the aggressor and the victim within a virtual environment, which could be a school, apartment, warehouse, office complex, restaurant, barn or an airplane (FBI, 2015).

At the police academies, police are trained on different operational skills, including defensive tactics, operating patrol vehicles, arresting and handling arrestees, first aid, surveillance and patrol, tactical driving, as well as physical training. In some jurisdictions, police training is done based on Job Task Analysis (JTA) that ensures that training reflects police job in the field. Police are also trained on operational practices that are associated with community policing. Community policing or COPS emphasizes on communication skills and building relationships between police officers and community residents for the purposes of working together to prevent crime and solve problems (Davies, 2015).

Community policing training focuses on resolving common problems in neighborhoods rather than solving single criminal incidences. Some police academies also offer training in cognitive and decision making skills. Nevertheless, most of police academies focus on task oriented training which involves teaching defensive tactics, driving and mechanics of arrest. However, the VirtSim system is not used in police academies as the FBI is the only law enforcement agency that uses the system.

Use of firearms

FBI special agents are authorized to carry firearms and so part of training in the FBI academy involves training with different firearms issued by the bureau, including pistols, carbine, and shotgun. The FBI law enforcement training curriculum for firearms is based on the basics of firearms marksmanship. These include instructions for firearm safety, basic weapon handling, and live-fire training. All the recruits must be proficient with each weapon. During the firearms training, FBI agents who should qualify in successfully handling a pistol, carbine, and shotgun should fire about 5,000 rounds of ammunition.
Just like in FBI agent training, police training involves training with different firearms. In the police training academy, various firearms are displayed and police recruits are trained on the use and safe handling. Just like in FBI training, police training focuses on the basics of firearms marksmanship. Police are trained on safely using firearms as well as disarming suspects armed with dangerous firearms (Davies, 2015).

Physical activity

Police training involves a lot of physical activity, and one need to pass in different events in order to secure a position in the police training academy. These events include a timed 1.5 mile run, untimed pushups, vertical jumps, one minute sit ups, and 300 meters timed sprints. Some police academies require recruits to pass risk management mutual associations standards or other forms of physical standards.

Physical training also takes place in FBI agent training. Just like in police training, FBI agents have to be in great shape and withstand the physical harshness of the job. Just like police training, FBI agents engage in a lot of physical activity for fitness training and they have to pass a fitness test. In order to pass the fitness test, FBI agents have to attain a minimum score of 12 in with at least a point in untimed pushups, sit ups in one minute, a timed 300 meter sprint, as well as a timed 1.5 mile run.

Training period

The training of an FBI agent takes much longer than the training of a police officer. The training of DBI agents takes about 20 weeks and only occurs in the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. The curriculum of FBI training is more complex, and it involves physical training, training in firearms, case law, as well as leadership. The training of special agents could take longer. Even though the training could be tough, the trainees get a lot of support from their classmates and class supervisors and instructors.

The training of police officers occurs in typical police training academies that are located in different localities and states. New recruits are trained for a period of between 12 and 14 weeks, and the training curricula and standards vary from state to state. Just like in FBI agent training, police officers are involved in physical training and training in firearms. They are also trained in self-defense and use of force (Chappell, 2008).


In conclusion, there are differences and similarities between FBI agent training and paramilitary training of police officers. While training of FBI agents only occurs in the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, police training academies are found all over the country. Police training is paramilitary in that it borrows some military tactics while FBI agent training is very different. However, both training are similar in terms of physical training, firearms training, operational skills, and case exercises. Even though there are some considerable differences in some of the training components and facilities, the training of FBI agents and police officers is more or less similar.

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