This is precisely the kind of
testimony that accounts for why so many FBI Citizens' Academies
have sprung up all over the country the past few years24
of them, in fact: Albany, Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Buffalo,
Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbia, Dallas, Denver, Honolulu, Jacksonville,
Kansas City, Little Rock, Memphis, Milwaukee, Newark, Omaha,
Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland, St. Louis, and Washington,
The academies give business,
civic, religious, and community leaders an inside look at federal
law enforcement in general and the FBI in particular. Their overall
goal is to foster relationships and understanding between an
FBI field office and its communityand so improve the Bureaus
ability to solve/detect crimes... and help citizens' make their
communities a better and safer place.
Back in 1993, Jim Ahearn, then-Special
Agent in Charge (SAC) of the FBI's Phoenix Division, began looking
for ways to strengthen the field offices relationship with
the community. He decided on a citizens' academy
modeled after one run by a local police agency.
Since then, the Citizens' Academies
have made their markboth on the FBI and on their communities.
- In Phoenix, alumni of the Academy
have taken part in a reverse boiler room. They call potential
victims of telemarketing fraud to warn them that their names
were found on mooch lists maintained by fraudulent
telemarketers. Citizens' Academy alumni also take part in the
Phoenix Offices Adopt-A-School Program, and they often
refer names of potential Special Agent applicants to the office.
- Some participants of the Philadelphia
Citizens' Academy gained a deeper understanding of FBI operations
after a trip to the FBI Academy, where after classroom instruction,
tours of the facilities, and practical exercises, they put everything
they learned to the test at Hogans Alley. Especially memorable
for some of the participants was a turn at FATS (Firearms Training
System), which exposes the students to virtual reality life-and-death
situationsand helps them experience what Special Agents
in real life-and-death situations experience.
be a business, civic, religious, or community leader.
be at least 21 years old (with no prior felony convictions).
live or work within the jurisdiction of the field office.
pass a background investigation.
Today, FBI Citizens' Academies
have established requirements, goals, and a curriculum. Each
session is open to about 20 business, civic, religious, and community
leaders who have been nominated by a Bureau employee or a previous
Academy attendee. These students must be at least
21 years old, with no prior felony convictions, and must live
or work within the jurisdiction of the field office. The SAC
selects the participants, who must then undergo a background
investigation in order to obtain an interim security clearance.
Security clearances must be obtained
because part of the curriculum covers investigative techniques
used in national security and criminal investigations. Classes
are taught by Special Agents in Charge (SACs), Assistant Special
Agents in Charge (ASACs), and senior Special Agents (SAs), and
there are eight meetings over a 10-week period.
There is a standard curriculum:
- Practical problems involving
the collection and preservation of physical evidence.
- FBIs jurisdiction and
- Structure and operation of an
FBI field office and resident agency.
- Services the FBI provides to
local and state law enforcement agencies.
- Discussions on ethics, discipline
policies, communications, drug enforcement, civil rights, and
future trends in law enforcement.
- Firearms training so participants
get an idea of the extensive and responsible weapons training
FBI Agents receive (also to foster an understanding of what it
is like being faced with split-second, life-and-death decisions).
lineAre they worth it?
The goodwill and public understanding
of the FBIs mission these academies generate may - over
the long haul - make investigators jobs easier.
One of the staunchest supporters
of FBI Citizens' Academies is the SAC of the Dallas Field Office,
Danny Defenbaugh, who believes that developing partnerships with
communities is an effective way to garner positive publicity,
especially when the FBI cannot stand up and speak for itself.
And the community is certainly interested in what the FBI has
to say: when The Dallas Morning News ran a story announcing the
opening of the Dallas Citizens' FBI Academy, 165 people applied
for the 20 some slots!
Inspection Division Assistant
Director David Knowlton, while serving as Baltimore SAC, said
of Baltimores Academy: We try to demystify the FBI.
I think putting a human face on the agency goes a long way in
building trust with law enforcement. The current Baltimore
SAC, Lynne Hunt, said, We cant do our jobs efficiently
without help from other law enforcement agencies, and without
help from you [the public]. Another supporter is Philadelphia
SAC Robert Conforti, who said the academy pays dividends
to the Division far beyond anyones imagination.
Results show that the Academies
work. In 1996, when 16-year veteran SA Chuck Reed was killed
in the line of duty during an undercover drug buy in Philadelphia,
one of the first phone calls to the Philadelphia Office offering
assistance came from a citizen who had recently graduated from
the offices Citizens' Academy.
To find out if your local Field
Office sponsors a Citizens' Academy, contact
your local field office.