November 12, 2006

Is this your impression of an FBI agent?  A middle-aged male Caucasian human with a tall and thin physique, very pale skin, and extremely dark brown hair shaped in a military-style crew cut. (see wikipedia entry for G-Man –  If so, then you are so wrong.

Today, FBI Special Agents (SAs) come in all shapes, sizes, colors, types, and genders.  Although you could usually spot them in a crowd by their demeanor, they are just like you and me.  And they’re not out to get anybody, except the bad guys. 

I recently spent time with the FBI as part of the their Citizen’s Academy.  It’s a seven week course to help community leaders understand the roles and responsibilities of the FBI.  Information on the FBI web site will give you the “official” description, but I want to give you the inside scoop.

9/11/01 really changed how the FBI works.  Before that, they were in a silo, not allowed to share information often among themselves.  Today, they share and work together with local, state and federal agencies trying to stop many different enemies.  Their swat team will augment the local police and vice-versa.  They realize that they can’t be expert in every area, so they’re not afraid to call in help when they need it. They have experienced an epiphany that by working together we all become stronger. 

The SAIC’s (Special Agents In Charge) who run the local offices have the same problem as any manager: the allocation of scarce resources.  FBI SA’s are often spread quite thin, handling multiple functions, jobs and cases.  Plus, money is budgeted to the highest priority areas, so their technology resources are often behind the times. Not really any different than for the rest of us; too much to do and not enough time, money or resources.

The most enjoyable part of the academy was firearm training. For four hours on a Saturday, we got to experience the rigor required for FBI SA’s to carry a gun.  While we only got to shoot from 5 yards, the agents must go through a test of shooting from 5, 7, 10 and 25 yards.  Not only do they have the test of distance, but also must be able to shoot with each hand and while running. It’s not as easy as it looks on TV.  My class also got to see the SWAT team in simulated action complete with a sniper.  By the way, the sniper on the team is also a CPA.  He got tired of working in Internal Audit, so he joined the FBI.  It really showed the variety of talent needed by the FBI.

Lastly, if you’re not doing anything wrong, then you don’t need to worry about the FBI watching you.  (A) They don’t have the time.  (B) They need a reason to watch people, either physically or virtually.  (C) There is so much oversite that they can’t.  It often takes them a couple of months to get permission to access personal information going through many channels of oversight.

If you ever get the chance to attend a Citizen’s Academy, take it.  It’s the best free training you will ever receive.  You will get a new apprciation and perspective of our law enforcement, their dedication, and level of professionalism.

By learning from each other, we all become stronger.

P.S.  Here are the official FBI web sites on the Citizen’s Academy:

About the Author Guest Blogger

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