MECC Professor Robert England recognized the need to develop stronger leadership skills in new and veteran law enforcement officers.

Big Stone Gap — Police officers are trained to serve in multiple roles – as law enforcement personnel, counselors, and supervisors.  However, most law enforcement training programs do not devote the time to train officers on how to serve as effective leaders within their organization and community.


Nearly 20 years ago, Mountain Empire Community College Professor Robert England recognized the need to develop stronger leadership skills in new and veteran law enforcement officers.  The Professional Leadership Academy was born.  Since 2005, hundreds of law enforcement officers have graduated from the academy, a year-long program that meets twice a month involving selected police and corrections personnel from throughout the region. Officers earn 16 college credits from Mountain Empire Community College by completing the leadership curriculum and a detailed administrative project.


“Most officers have been through field training that covers the basic leadership skills needed at work,” said England. “Our goal with the leadership academy was to develop leadership skills at a whole new level so that officers can find out about themselves, their personality, and leadership profile. There is a lot of focus on personal and professional leadership, ethics, motivation, and communication.”


Numerous academy graduates have attested to the positive changes they experienced after completing the program. Often, graduates have reorganized operations and changed the culture of their organization by implementing ideas gleaned from their experience. Academy participants are encouraged to examine their budgets, operation procedures, training programs, community engagement, and mentoring activities for possible improvements.


England noted that almost every law enforcement agency in Southwest Virginia has participated in the program, with Wise County Sherriff’s Office boasting over 40 graduates of the program.


“A criminal justice agency can only be as strong as its leadership,” added England. “The Academy has afforded the leaders and rising leaders from our local agencies the opportunity to truly develop as professionals. Participating in this academy helps officers develop the skills that our communities expect from their top law enforcement executives.  It is critical in these challenging times in law enforcement that we continue to develop strong leaders.”


England added that law enforcement is a challenging but rewarding career field. He has trained thousands of the region’s criminal justice professionals during his 18 years at MECC. He encourages students to learn more about career opportunities by contacting him. 


For more information regarding the Professional Leadership Academy or MECC’s Criminal Justice, Police Science, or Corrections training, contact Robert England at or 276-523-9084.