Shutdown squashes FBI dream
Scott Walton knows some people have waited years to get into the FBI National Academy.
Walton, of Mitchell, was accepted on his first try and didn’t have to wait as long as some applicants, but when he flew to Virginia in late September to start training, the federal government shutdown that began Oct. 1 halted the program.
Now, Walton is waiting to go back.
“I arrived there on a Saturday and went through orientation,” said Walton, who met another officer who waited five years to be accepted. “Then we got to the end of the day Monday and they told us there was a possibility they would be shut down with the government. I got to class the next morning at 8 o’clock and the instructors were nonessential employees, so they had not arrived to work that morning.
Walton and others waited around a few days for the government to open, but on a Thursday they were sent home.
The Mitchell Police Division staff sergeant is in his 20th year with the department. The FBI’s National Academy is in Quantico, Va., and provides college-level training to mid-level state, local and international police officers. At the academy, the officers are not training to become FBI officers, but to participate in leadership and specialized training.
The academy is held at the same location and facilities where the FBI trains its own employees. The mission of the academy is to support, promote and enhance development of law enforcement leaders by preparing them for challenges through different methods, and building partnerships. There are four sessions of the academy each year, and each session includes about 250 officers.
“It’s set up just like a semester of college,” Walton said. “You pick six classes that are three credits each, and the University of Virginia is who you get your college credits through.”
Walton is a Springfield, Minn., native who graduated from South Dakota State University with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and criminal justice. Besides a two-year break to work for state child support enforcement, he has worked for the Mitchell Police Division since 1992. He wanted to attend the FBI National Academy — a 10-week training session — to improve his abilities as an officer. Areas of study at the academy include law, behavioral science, forensic science, terrorism, leadership development, communications, and health and fitness.
The academy dates to 1935 and Walton was enrolled in the 255th session. Since its start, the academy has had nearly 50,000 graduates. Walton said at least one South Dakota officer, who must be nominated by a superior officer, is allowed one slot in each of the four annual sessions. He applied in August 2012.
Despite his shortened trip because of the shutdown that lasted from Oct. 1 to Oct. 16, Walton wasn’t interested in talking politics or blaming specific parties.
“It was a pain for everybody,” he said. “They just need to get their stuff together and just line up to work for what’s best for the county. I think there were a lot of personal goals among the politicians to get their own agendas versus solving things for the country.”
The government is back up and running now, but Walton isn’t certain he’ll be able to return to Virginia for the academy. His hope is to return in April, which is when the academy rescheduled the 255th session to restart classes.