One of my 2015 highlights was participating in the New York Field Office FBI Citizens Academy. I graduated that November and today, I am proud to be an ambassador for the FBI for the luxury community in New York city.
James Comey, FBI Director at the time, wrote each of us in a letter that accompanied our graduation certificate. It said:
Beyond serving as Ambassador of the Bureau, I would ask you to do three things as citizens Academy Graduate. First remains a role model in your community and a leader in their chosen field. Secondly, please recommend your colleagues to us for the Citizens’ Academy program, so that even more people can benefit from this experience. And thirdly, please join the FBI Citizens Academy Alumni Association, which promotes safer communities through community service projects focusing on the mission of the FBI.
About FBI Citizens Academy:
The FBI Citizens Academy currently has 56 offices in the US and abroad. And they have provided these kinds of training for civilians for more than 20 years.
As I understand it, the purpose of this outreach program is multi – level. There is so much error generated by Hollywood movies and the media that its important to help unravel the mystique of the FBI. So they provide interested civilians an in-depth view of all operations of their Offices and operations. Graduates get to know the real FBI.
The FBI Citizens Academy also generates greater awareness and a deeper appreciation of how the Office investigates crimes and threats to the national security of the United States. And perhaps most importantly, it strengthens the bridge between the FBI and the local communities in which the Field Office is based.
Formation of the FBI Academy citizen also includes classes of firearms, fingerprints and even lectures on survival during active shooting situations.
Local office in New York City Academy 2015:
Our class consisted of 30 students, all of which represented diverse professional backgrounds ranging from government, private security, the media, the right to real estate and more.
Usually there is a single representative or leader, of their respective communities in each class. We meet every Tuesday night for 3 hours at FBI headquarters in New York where they have an incredible training facility on the premises.
To enter the building, we had to go through a few checkpoints and had to leave our cell phones, laptops and other electronic devices securely to the end of the class.
The evening always started with optional group dinner at 5:30 pm. These dinners were great opportunities for everyone to get to know each other over the 8 week program. Different students had volunteered to donate dinners and desserts, which was very generous of them. Each class member also received little gift takeaways . One of my favorites was an FBI baseball cap gifted to us by a former graduate of the FBI Citizens Academy Field Office in New York.
The classes began on time at 6 pm. Then a short coffee break at 7 pm.
The program content was very informative, and sometimes quite dense. We listened to presentations by ASACs (special agents in charge) of the various divisions of the FBI. They described their different responsibilities of their squads and the challenges that they faced daily. It was fascinating. We learned about the different divisions such as fraud, cybernetics, health and Securities, trafficking crimes and human hatred. We also covered the criminal court system. They discussed the five Mafia families in New York as well as other ethnic organized crime groups. We also learned about fighting terrorism.
The famous author Jack Garcia spoke at the FBI Citizen Academy
During one class Jack Garcia presented his book. Jack is the author of Making Jack Falcone. Its his memoir about his work as an undercover FBI agent who posed as the owner of a striptease bar operated by the mafia. Although dangerous, his work led to several arrests of key figures of the Mafia.
Jack stories had us on the edge of our seats as we listened to him tell us about the high-risk times in which he nearly lost his cover and put his life at high risk. Once the case was closed, Jack revealed his true identity to the mafia. It was very interesting to hear how many of the guys in the mob could not understand how Jack was actually an undercover agent. He said that some of them even cried when they heard the news because they were so shattered by the strong bond that had grown between them.
These days Jack confesses to avoid certain places in Little Italy and other places favored meeting of the Mafia in New York. He just does not want to » scrub » them. They seem to respect that fact and leave him alone. I think he still has his own bodyguard however.
Each of us received a copy of the book Jack autographs . I hope to read it soon.
After completing the course, we had a formal graduation ceremony at the Thompson Reuters building. A lovely catering company donated a delicious food and wine for our class of graduates and our families to celebrate the occasion. We were allowed to invite a few guests to attend graduation.
Diego Rodríguez , Assistant Director in Charge of New York at the time, personally bestowed us a personalized leather bound certificate. The entire city of New York ASACS also attended the event. Two FBI policemen presented the American flag and we followed with a pledge of allegiance to the United States flag.
The next steps for us:
As James Comey urged us in his letter, graduates of the FBI Citizen’s Academy can join a local FBI non-for-profit alumni association to continue their involvement. There are over 60 of these Associations in the USA. Their mission is support the FBI thru volunteer community action. The first event that we could volunteer for in our community was Operation Santa at JFK Airport in December. I volunteered to give toys to the underprivileged and handicapped children there and I wrote about it here.
I look forward to being in touch with my class and to new experiences with the FBI Citizens Academy.