Atkins applied to attend the academy in
the winter of 2007 and traveled to Quantico, Va. to start the 236th session of the National Academy on Jan. 10.
According to Atkins, he had a relatively short wait to take the classes as fellow students had to wait 20 years to get in, and some had more than 30 years experience in law enforcement. The average attendee has 19 years of law enforcement experience.
“Less than 1 percent of the people who apply get in,“ said Atkins. He is the fifth Newberry police officer to attend the school, and at the age of 31 was one of the youngest from the U.S. to attend.
The class included men and women from 48 states, the District of Columbia, 25 countries, four military organizations and two federal organizations.
While away from his job, Atkins attended law enforcement classes in statement analysis, communications, labor laws, computers, fitness, forensic science and leadership.
The academy is internationally known for its academic excellence and offers 10 weeks of advanced investigative, management and fitness training for selected officers with proven records as professionals within their agencies.
Through attending the classes, Atkins, who already has a masters degree, picked up 19 hours of college credit from the University of Virginia at Charlottesville.
He may use the college credits to get another degree in management, says Atkins who began working for Newberry in 1999. In August 2003, he went to work with the Lexington County Sheriff's Department until the fall of 2006, when he returned to Newberry.
But the biggest advantage to attending the classes is networking opportunities with other academy graduates, Atkins says.
Atkins can now call officers across the country to get help in finding suspects, or collecting information for cases.
“The person I know may not be able to help me, but they may know someone who can,“ said Atkins. “I now have contacts in other countries.“
Also involved in the 10-week course, were fitness challenges that included circuit training and, at times, running in below-freezing weather. Each week the students had a different physical challenge. At the end of the 10 weeks they ran a 6.2 mile obstacle course known as the yellow brick road. Those passing the endurance test were given a yellow brick.
“It is like running a trail at Lynches Woods,“ describes Atkins, adding he is trying to keep up his new physical condition.
During the course, students also took a trip to New York City and saw the workings of the New York Police Department.
One thing the students did not do during the 10 weeks was shooting, said Atkins.
After more than two months away from the local department, his wife and two children, 8 and 5, Atkins graduated March 20.
FBI Director Robert Mueller was the principal speaker at the graduation, which was attended by Newberry Police Chief Jackie Swindler and Captain Chuck Counts.
Atkins said he was not allowed to come home during the 10-week course, but his family came to visit twice.
Atkins, along with Swindler, Counts, former Chief Andrew Shealy and S.C. Law Enforcement Division Agent Max Pickelsimer all attended the FBI National Academy while working for the Newberry Police Department.