The FBI is looking to diversify its ranks by recruiting more women and Indigenous individuals, and in that mission the agency held the Denver and Albuquerque divisions’ first-ever joint college recruitment seminar at Fort Lewis College.
The FBI is low in diversity, including women and Native Americans, Samantha Kester, with the Albuquerque FBI division, said Saturday. And the Four Corners is a great place to diversify recruitment, particularly with FLC and its relationship with dozens of Native American tribes.
The special event was geared toward college and high school students, and after an FBI 101 introductory presentation, the two groups split into separate sessions led by about 20 FBI agents and staff members to delve deeper into the world of the federal law enforcement agency.
Teens learned about bank robbery investigations, a major subject under the FBI’s purview, bomb technicians, SWAT teams and cybersecurity, while college students learned about operational medicine (medics who accompany special agents), intel analysis and foreign language specialists, and FBI work in Indian Country.
“For the teens, we wanted kind of a more immersive experience,” Kester said. “So we created a bank robber scenario where we have different actors: the victim, the bank teller, the cashier – an eyewitness.”
The scenario was designed as a team-building exercise and encouraged students to get creative in approaching an investigation. Special agents and their wealth of knowledge were available to groups of students – a foreign language expert who might be able to translate eyewitness accounts, for example – but it was up to the students to identify what they needed to complete their investigation, Kester said.
In the college-geared sessions, students learned about various careers offered by the bureau, such as the role operational medicine plays. To work in operational medicine for the FBI, one has to become a special agent, she said.
Students learned about intelligence analysts, who partner with agents and receive the same training as agents, but don’t have arresting authority.
Students also listened to a presentation from a Farmington-based agent who discussed violent crime and victim services in the Four Corners.
Kester said victim services is an example of a career with the bureau that many people don’t realize is available.
When one thinks of the FBI, they often imagine a guy dressed in a black suit with a tie, packing a gun and flashing a government badge, Kester said. Special agents may be the face of the FBI. But they make up only one-third of the people employed by the federal agency. There are 350 other jobs that people from a whole range of backgrounds can apply for.
Victim services is just one of those jobs not often seen in the movies. They provide clothing, including to children and spouses who survived domestic violence, offer counseling to victims and even guide families through funeral services, she said.
Kester said students who noticed a photographer at the event were surprised to learn that the FBI even has careers in photography.
Leah Hapner with the FBI’s Denver division said terrorism became the bureau’s No. 1 priority after the Sept. 11 attacks that killed 2,996 people at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.
The bureau also focuses on transnational criminal organizations – the mob, for example – white collar crime and violent crime, she said. Investigating spies has always been a major focus of the agency’s work, and cyber crimes fell into the bureau’s wheelhouse in the last two decades as the internet became more and more mainstream.
The FBI is also the only federal agency tasked with investigating public corruption, she said. Elected officials such as congresspeople, judges and sheriffs who use their title or status for “ill-gotten gains” can be subject to investigation by the FBI. Similarly, police and excessive use of force – “color of law violations” – fall under the umbrella of crimes the bureau analyzes.
Bank robbers, serial killers and white collar fraudsters and scammers can also find themselves under investigation by the bureau, although their criminal activities must meet a certain threshold to catch the federal agency’s attention, Hapner said.
Kester said the FBI holds certain values, such as “rigorous obedience to the constitution, respect for the dignity of those we protect (and work with), compassion, fairness, integrity, accountability, leadership and diversity.”
The FBI has about 37,000 employees working in 56 field offices, 350 satellite offices and more than 60 international offices overseas and beyond the United States’ borders. She said the bureau has an annual budget of about $10 billion.