San Benito County Sheriff’s Commander Tomas Corral recently graduated from the exclusive FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia, where he absorbed a wealth of knowledge, skills and resources that he expects will be highly beneficial to his career and his colleagues in local law enforcement.
Corral graduated March 16 from the 285th session of the FBI National Academy, a highly selective program that offers 10 weeks of advanced courses in communication, leadership and fitness training for selected officers who have proven track records as professionals within their agencies. Corral’s class consisted of 247 law enforcement officers from 47 states, 28 countries, four military organizations and five federal civilian agencies, according to the San Benito County Sheriff’s Office.
In the U.S., fewer than 1% of law enforcement officers are selected to participate in the FBI National Academy. Corral is the third officer from the San Benito County Sheriff’s Office to attend and graduate from the program. Preceding him were former Sheriff Curtis Hill in 1989 and former Undersheriff Pat Turturici in 2009. Former Hollister Police Chief David Westrick also graduated from the FBI National Academy in 2018.
Corral, a San Benito County native whose career brought him to the local sheriff’s office in 2021 as a commander, said it has long been a goal of his to attend the prestigious National Academy.
“A lot of my former leaders and mentors are graduates of the academy,” Corral said in an interview with this newspaper. “When I was hired for this position, it was one of the things that I really wanted to do now that I’m at an executive level.”
He applied for the most recent session, and was notified in January that an opening was available for him. Sheriff Eric Taylor and Undersheriff Tom Keylon were “very supportive,” and eagerly agreed to send Corral to the program in Quantico, Corral said.
During the program, Corral had the opportunity to take graduate level courses from the University of Virginia in law enforcement management, investigation, communications and a variety of subjects. The academy includes the built-in value of meeting and networking with officers—most in leadership positions within their respective departments like Corral—from all over the country and allied nations.
Even the physical fitness component of the FBI National Academy consists of advanced instruction on how to properly and safely work out to preserve long-term physical health, Corral explained.
“It was an incredible experience,” Corral said. “The classes were great, the people I got to meet were incredible, from all over the country.”
Before leaving for Quantico in January, Corral said he sat down with Taylor to plan out some of his curriculum of classes he would take at the FBI National Academy, pinpointing subject areas they felt would be most useful in San Benito County.
One of these was a course on assisting at-risk employees who might be dealing with post traumatic stress or personal issues in their lives, Corral explained. “That really opened my eyes to how I believe we should do more for our staff and (for) their wellness, and helping them be healthy, both mentally and physically,” Corral said.
Other courses included a class on “emerging technologies” that can help short-staffed counties like San Benito more effectively use their limited resources; a class on managing organizational changes within law enforcement agencies; and a course on investigative strategies for violent crimes, which are increasing locally and across the nation, Corral said.
The program also included guest lectures on the challenges, strategies and techniques that are unique to law enforcement management, Corral added.
From his peers at the FBI National Academy, Corral learned that departments all over the country—from small towns to big cities such as the New York Police Department—face many of the same challenges as San Benito County. Notably, this includes inadequate staff numbers.
“It’s especially hitting us hard because we have a lack of resources in this county, compared to just up the road in Santa Clara County (for example),” Corral said. “We have very, very hardworking, dedicated individuals that work for us. I’m very proud of the work product that they’re able to do and what they’re able to accomplish with the limited resources we give them.”
Taylor said in a statement that he is “extremely proud” of Corral’s graduation from the FBI National Academy.
“I am equally excited to re-start this tradition that began with Sheriff Curtis J. Hill in 1989,” Taylor added. “This will now be part of our office culture and expectations.”
Corral, who grew up in Hollister and attended local schools, oversees the Sheriff’s Office’s Community and Support Services Bureau. In this role, he is in charge of the office’s community outreach, investigations division, school resource program and facility and infrastructure projects.
Corral began his law enforcement career at the Hollister Police Department. He also worked for the Watsonville Police Department and Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s Office before joining the local sheriff’s office in 2021.
The FBI National Academy was started by former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover in 1935. Since then, more than 54,000 officers have graduated from the program. Training and course work at the academy is provided by FBI instructors, special agents and other experts with advanced degrees.