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Greenville officer attends FBI Academy

It’s an elite program, attended by invitation only, and only a small percentage of the nation’s law enforcement officials get a chance to be a part of each year.

Captain Randy Courtney, investigator for the Greenville Police Department, was one of some 250 police officers from across the United States and around the world who traveled to Quantico, Virginia in mid-September 2008 to spend three months attending the FBI National Academy.

Courtney was nominated to attend the academy by GPD Chief Lonzo Ingram, who is a past graduate of the program. Among the requirements for nomination: the officer must be at least 25 years of age, have a minimum of five years of law enforcement experience, be in top physical condition, and have a reputation for professional integrity.

“Once you are nominated, you fill out an application, go through an interview process, a complete physical, a stress test, and undergo a thorough background check. Once they have approved you at the area FBI field office in Mobile, your name is sent on to the headquarters in Virginia . . . the whole process took about three years from start to finish,” Courtney explained.

His time at Quantico was well worth the wait, he said.

“I was able to bring things I had learned at National Academy immediately home to our department here and share them,” Courtney said.

“The class on Statement Analysis, for example, was probably the best class I took. You learn how to evaluate what a person says in a statement – their use of verbs, nouns, tenses – to determine what is truth and what is a lie.”

Courtney received the equivalent of 19 semester hours through the University of Virginia during his course of study. In addition to his class on Statement Analysis, there were studies in Interpersonal Communications, Conflict Resolution, Stress Management, Physical Training, Media Relations, and Computer.

Along the way, he wrote no less than 18 term papers (including a paper on dietary analysis for Physical Training); made it through the tough FBI Academy obstacle course made famous in “The Silence of the Lambs;” learned how to deal with issues like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and went on camera in a number of situations to practice his media relation skills.

“I was taped and graded in a one-in-one interview, in a talk show format, and in a remote location with nothing but an earpiece and the camera in front of me. That was a tough class for me,” Courtney admitted.

Some classes also included group projects and Power Point presentations.

“Taking a formal computer class was a first for me, and I learned a lot. And the communications class allowed me to determine my own personal communication style, to recognize other people’s and to see how to change my own to meet the needs of others,” Courtney said.

Even on the weekends, the students had a full slate of activities offered to them, Courtney said.

“We had weekend trips into Washington, D.C. and to New York City and we visited places like Gettysburg, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson’s home. There is certainly a lot to see and do, especially of historic interest, in the area,” Courtney said.

He also participated in many extra-curricular physical fitness challenges, including weekly 1.8 mile runs that built up to the 6.9 mile Yellow Brick Road Run. Courtney’s own “Yellow Brick,” his trophy of completion, sits in his office at City Hall, along with a blue brick for completing the 34-mile swim challenge.

Enrichment programs brought in speakers such as Mike Durant of “Black Hawk Down” fame to talk with students.

“I tried to take part in just as much as I could during my three months there,” Courtney said.

He says he also developed a strong bond with several of his fellow students.

“You are spending a lot of time together, between the classes, physical training and the trips, and you do become good friends. Several of us have been phoning and e-mailing one another,” Courtney said.

Most of his fellow class members were in their 40s and 50s and served in mid to upper-level positions in their departments, which ranged from big city squads to towns “smaller than Greenville.”

“We also had 30 class members who were foreign – from Colombia, Egypt, Austria, Australia, Libya – just to name a few places. It was so interesting to talk with these guys with all these different backgrounds and hear what they are doing,” Courtney said.

He was delighted to be able to share his December graduation ceremonies with wife Robyn and their three children, who flew up to be with him.

“We got to do some sight-seeing in the D.C. area as a family. I used to live and work up there, but there were things like the WWII memorial, the 9-11 Pentagon Memorial and the Korean Memorial that were new to me. And the News Museum they’ve opened on Pennsylvania Avenue is just great,” Courtney said.

Having the chance to be in a setting separate from his daily life for three months and to focus on being a student again proved a life-enriching experience for the captain of investigations.

“Not many people get to do something like this and when it’s done, feel like a better person all around. I’m a more thankful person, I would say,” Courtney said.