Finally! The Promised Conclusion To My Interview With a Former FBI Agent!
Updated: Sep 18
I must begin this final installment of my three-part interview with former FBI Agent, Connie, by apologizing to everyone, including Connie, for taking so long to publish this portion.
Sadly, real life got in the way. The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic hit. I have been so saddened by this tragedy that my writing, along with all of its related activities (which include this blog), shifted on the priority spectrum. But as we all struggle to get back to some sense of normalcy, I am looking to reconnect with my blog readers once again.
With that in mind, here (finally!) is the last of the three-part interview I conducted with Agent Connie. This installment deals with her integration into the force and the kinds of challenges she faced while doing her job. I hope you enjoy it.
David: I was wondering what graduation from the academy looks like, Connie. One thinks of graduation from West Point where cadets throw their caps in the air. Was it anything like that?
Connie: No, not at all. While Graduation Day is such a milestone in the life of a New Agent, it is a little more subdued than what ones sees with West Point! New Agent trainees can invite their families onto the Academy grounds to witness the ceremony. New Agents dress in business attire for the ceremony and are ushered in to sit at the front of the auditorium. After reciting the oath, they are called onto the stage to receive their badge and F.B.I. credentials. After the ceremony, they report to the weapons vault where they pick up their F.B.I. issued handgun and ammunition, and then leave the academy!
David: Interesting. I doubt that many of our readers will have been given a loaded weapon at their graduation ceremony. That says something about what you were being sent out into the working world to do! Were you given your first assignment when you graduated, or did you get to choose where to go?
Connie: New Agent Trainees (NATs) rank their choice of field offices according to their preference. The Bureau will try to accommodate the preferences, but the needs of the Bureau come first! If a NAT has a particular skill set that is required at a certain field office, then they will be assigned to that location.
David: That makes a lot of sense. So, when you arrived at your first assignment, were you immediately put into the field, or did you have to undergo additional field training? If yes, how long did that take? Was it specific for your location?
Connie: After arriving at your first field office, you are assigned to a squad in a particular division of the Bureau. Agents are “on probation” for 3 years and must complete a certain number of tasks – for example, execute a certain number of search warrants, etc - before being taken off probation. During that time, however, they are active in the field, albeit under a bit more supervision than a seasoned agent.
David: I think that many readers will be able to identify with a probationary period, but three years seems like a long time. Were you assigned a partner? How was that assignment made? Did your partner have lots of field experience and how did they feel about having a junior partner?
Connie: Yes – “Probationary Agents” are assigned a “Training Agent” as a mentor. This Agent is more senior and guides the Probationary Agent through their initial time in the Bureau. My Training Agent had 10 years of experience and was a wonderful mentor. Most senior agents do not mind training newer agents – it is viewed as part of their responsibility in the Bureau.
David: Did you keep your partner or was there a type of rotation?
Connie: I kept my partner until I went to a new squad! Sometimes new partners are assigned as agents retire, change squads, or leave the field office.
David: It must be difficult to say goodbye to a partner that you trusted with your life! Which brings up a critical question. Which department were you assigned to initially?
Connie: I was initially assigned to the Domestic Terrorism Squad.
David: Fascinating! That could be quite an interview all on its own and certainly fits in with the counter terrorism theme in my book ‘Dark Harvest’. Maybe we can dig into that some other time, but sadly, we have limited time today. Did you rotate through various departments to gain experience across the board or were you dedicated to just the Domestic Terrorism Squad?
Connie: New agents must rotate through the different squads as part of their time on probation. This provides them with good exposure to various types of investigations and investigative techniques employed by the squads.
David: Again – makes a lot of sense. Were you immediately accepted by your colleagues or was there a type of ‘breaking in’ period where you needed to prove yourself?
Connie: I think that the Bureau is like most workplaces – you need to prove yourself to your colleagues. However, the advantage with the Bureau is that you have already survived the Academy – and that says something about your character and dedication to the job.
David: Good point. I guess that everyone on the force knows what you would have gone through at the Academy, and it really helps to establish your credibility. So, what about gender differences? Do you think that it was more difficult for women to ‘break in’ to the team than it was for men?
Connie: I do not think it was more difficult for me to break into the team because I am female. But just like any other new agent, I had to work hard and prove my value to the squad.
David: Clearly you succeeded! Did many of your classmates at Quantico join you in your first field office? If so, how many? And were the rest spread out across the country? Did you stay in touch with them all over the years?
Connie: I was placed in the Los Angeles field office, which is one of the largest offices in the country. By default, therefore, a higher percentage of my classmates were assigned there with me (approx. 5/30). The remainder of our class was spread throughout the country. We kept in touch for a while, but eventually the contact became less frequent as we integrated into our individual offices.
David: I guess that this is natural. I’ve lost touch with most of the people I went to University with – everyone just moves on. So, what kind of assignments did you most enjoy?
Connie: I tend to enjoy assignments that other people find quite tedious! Believe it or not, I quite enjoyed analyzing phone and bank records!
David: Makes me think of the movie Zero Dark Thirty. What about the kinds of assignments you enjoyed the least?
Connie: On one occasion, I had to supervise a suspect who was providing handwriting samples. The samples were obtained and then sent to the Behavioural Analysis Unit to be analyzed. It was worth doing, but I had to supervise this suspect writing paragraphs for two days!
David: Ouch! That had to hurt! What about funny or sad stories?
Connie: I will never forget having the privilege of participating in an arrest on a human trafficking case. It was tremendously satisfying to participate in seeking justice for those who had been victimized in this manner.
David: Wow. You must have felt like you really made a difference that day! But this kind of work can be dangerous. Did you lose any colleagues in the line of duty?
Connie: I was tremendously fortunate that I never lost a colleague in the line of duty.
David: It must be very difficult for those who weren’t so lucky. What about personal danger? Were you ever in a situation that placed your life at risk? What can you tell us about that situation?
Connie: The most danger I was ever in resulted from miscommunication with another police force! The other force did not know that we were law enforcement agents and believed that we presented a threat. It is important to remember that F.B.I. Agents do not have uniforms, are in plain clothes, and carry concealed weapons - it is not readily apparent that we are law enforcement! The scenario involved officers on the ground trying to intercept us, as well as a SWAT Team in a helicopter circling us overhead! Thankfully, the miscommunication was resolved, and they did not shoot at us!
David: Excellent point about being in plain clothes. I never really thought about the risks to plain clothes officers when they become entangled with other law enforcement agencies. Frightening! Now, we’re about to wrap this up, so just a few more questions. What made you decide to leave the force?
Connie: I left the force because my husband had really good job opportunities outside of the United States. The only thing tying us to the United States was my job, so we decided to make the move.
David: I’m guessing that this must have been a very difficult decision for you, given how much you loved working for the FBI. What was the last day on the job like for you?
Connie: It was very sad! I spent most of the day taking care of administrative tasks like turning in my weapons and credentials. Of course, I also spent a lot of time saying goodbye to colleagues.
David: So… if given the opportunity, would you join the force again?
Answer: 100%! I think that being an F.B.I. Agent is an honor and privilege; those who have the opportunity to serve are extremely fortunate.
I would like to thank you, Connie, for kindly offering to share your story with our readers. Maybe someone will be inspired to take up law enforcement as a result of your genuine enthusiasm for the profession. I want to wish you all the best for the future, and please stay in touch!