Read an Excerpt
You are going to get a lot of just-the-facts-ma'am information in this book. You are also going to get a look at just what it's like to be a member of what I consider the finest investigative agency in the world. The information here comes from the Bureau itself and from the experts -- former FBI Special Agents.
This book differs from most career planning guides. This is about a passion that was my career for over 25 years and about what I consider to be the best work in law enforcement. Included are facts and solid advice to help you evaluate your edge as a competitive candidate for a career in the Federal Bureau of Investigvation, both in sworn positions and in the numerous professional positions tied to the FBI mission.
Even the most casual follower of current events is aware of the changes that have affected law enforcement since the September 11 attacks in 2001. The FBI now has an even more extraordinary presence overseas involving investigators, Evidence Response Teams, Bomb and Explosive Experts, and Forensic Scientists in both the physical and behavioral fields. Critical Incident Response Teams, Hostage Resuce and Swat Teams, Cyberspace Experts, and Language Specialists also make up the nuts and bolts of the FBI -- field investigators and analysts present only a glimpse at FBI opportunities. Just remember, the ever-changing mission, the fast pace, and the unbreakable camaraderie make the FBI a very gratifying career.
The Bureau has come a very long way since my Entered-on-Duty (EOD in Bureau-ese) in the late '60s. Then, the Bureau recruited only men for its Special Agent position, and it referred to other in-house professionals as "support staff." But the Bureau is a microcosm of society and has adjusted accordingly. The organization has made a large effort to change the composition of its workforce and to respect and recognize the contributions of all FBI personnel. In 1972, the Bureau began appointing women to agent positions, and they have been a vital presence ever since. Through the years, the Bureau has also changed with respect to technology and investigative response capability.
This book will give you insight into the extensive history behind the FBI. You will learn about the hierarcy within the organization, and read in detail about the myriad of task forces and programs the FBI takes part in every day. Each chapter is peppered with first-hand accounts of on-the-job experiences by former Special Agents.
You will then find out exactly what a career with the FBI entails, and precisely the types of candidates the Bureau looks for. We will walk together through the application process. By the time you have finished reading, I am sure you will have an idea whether or not a career with the FBI is right for you.
Before we begin our adventure, I want you to read some of the first-hand stories from individuals I respect both personally and professionally. They are designed to assist you in honestly evaluating both the career and the application process. These people represent the heart and expertise of the FBI. Perhaps you will recognize yourself in their backgrounds and stories. Through their experiences, you will discover the range of opportunities available with the FBI and a "walk in my shoes" candor as presented in no other text. The FBI is clearly about making important contributions on a transnational stage. Many FBI colleagues have often said "where else can I get paid for doing this?"
I'm giving you their stories here for two reasons. First, you'll see a range of the career opportunities open to you as a Special Agent of the FBI. Second, I want you to get to know the men and women I interviewed, because they're the ones who are going to let you "walk in their shoes."
Some of you might know my story already from reading Mindhunter. But for those of you who don't, here is the condensed version.
I grew up in Hempstead, Long Island. I never had any idea I'd become an FBI Agent; I didn't even know how to spell FBI. My big ambition was to be a veterinarian. For three summers while I was in high school, I went up to Ithaca, New York, and worked for the Cornell Extension Service. So while my buddies were out playing in the sun at Jones Beach, I was shoveling cow manure.
When it came time to apply for college, I sent off my scores and my grades to Cornell, and they wrote back a very nice letter thanking me for my interest and suggesting that maybe Cornell wasn't the right place for me. They said I might be better off at another fine academic institution: Montana State University.
So I packed up and headed out west to Montana, where the men are men and the sheep are nervous. I spent a few semesters there, diligently working on my extracurricular activities. When I bombed out of MSU, I went home to Long Island for a while, then joined the Air Force.
While I was in the Air Force, I finally started getting my act together. I did some volunteer work with mentally disabled kids, and found that to be tremendously rewarding. I was stationed in New Mexico then, and decided I'd get a degree in education. I started taking classes at Eastern New Mexico University, fondly referred to by its students and alumni as Enema U.
I'd met an FBI agent at the gym we both went to, and shortly after I got my degree, he suggested I apply to the Bureau. I still had no burning interest in law enforcement, but this guy seemed to be doing okay. He was making a nice salary, while I was scraping by and living in a basement apartment that was more like a glorified Roach Motel. So I applied, and I got in.
I fell in love with the work. After a few years in the Bureau, I ended up in the Behavioral Sciences unit, analyzing the "why" to develop ways of finding out the "who" behind the most brutal crimes. More and more, I kept thinking that we were missing something basic. We had all these ideas about criminal thinking, but they were really just speculation from the outside. I felt we needed to talk to the criminals themselves to get the real story. After all, they're the real experts.
Now, as you will read in Doug Rhoads's story, this was a time when the first thing a new agent was told was "Don't screw up." That fear of embarrassing the Bureau sometimes translated into a fear of trying anything new, so I had a hard time getting anyone to listen to me.
By 1978, I was giving classes with the Bureau's "road school" for police officers around the country. One day, a colleague and I were on the road in California. We had some time on our hands and I said, "Let's see if there's anyone we can talk to near here." There was: serial killer Ed Kemper.
Kemper was California's "Co-Ed Killer." Like most violent criminals, he'd had a troubled childhood. He never got along with his mother, who didn't like him because he looked like his father. His favorite game as a young child was to have his sister tie him up so he could pretend he was dying in a gas chamber. Later, he killed and mutilated the family's two cats. Finally, his mother sent him to live with his grandparents, who lived in northern California.
One day, when Ed was 14, he got irritated with his grandmother. He shot her and stabbed her over and over again with a kitchen knife. He figured his grandfather wouldn't be happy when he discovered what had happened, so Ed shot him too. Kemper told the cops, "I just wondered how it would feel to shoot Grandma." He was sent to a mental hospital, but released when he turned 21.
Kemper then went to live with his mother, who worked at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Not surprisingly, his relationship with her hadn't improved. The rage he felt toward her eventually was unleashed. Within two years, Kemper started killing again.
He quickly developed a simple but effective technique. He'd offer a ride to a young woman, kill her in the car, then take her home where he'd sexually assault the body and take photographs of it. Then he'd dump the body by the side of the road.
Kemper eventually killed six women, becoming bolder as he went along. As a condition of his release, he had to keep regular appointments with a state psychiatrist. He reported to one appointment with the head of a 15-year-old girl in the trunk of his car. That day, he was judged no longer a threat to society.
Finally, Kemper went for his real target. One Saturday night, he beat his mother to death with a hammer, decapitated the corpse and raped it. He cut out his mother's larynx and tossed it into the garbage disposal. But when he flipped the switch, the disposal threw the larynx back up at him. Kemper complained later, "Even after she was dead, she was still bitching at me. I couldn't get her to shut up."
The next morning, Kemper called a friend of his mother's and invited her over for lunch. When she arrived, he killed her and fled. Within days, he called police from the road and surrendered.
Kemper turned out to be the perfect guy to begin our interviews with. For one thing, he's very smart -- brilliant, really. And he has a lot of insight into himself and his crimes. I actually like Ed. Do I think this intelligent, sensitive man should be let out of prison, under any circumstances? Hell, no. He's dangerous, and he always will be.
Interviewing Kemper confirmed my theory: The criminals themselves had a lot to teach us. We continued our interviews and, with Ann Burgess, eventually wrote Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives. A few years later, we followed up with the Crime Classification Manual, which was the biggest portion of my thesis for my doctoral degree.
Eventually, profiling became accepted as a legitimate investigative technique, and even as a legal, valid way of linking violent crimes. By the time I retired from the Bureau in 1995, the profiling unit had contributed to the capture and prosecution of some of the nation's most dangerous criminals. And that's something I'll always be proud of.
One of the finest forensics experts I ever worked with was Bruce Koenig. Whenever we had any kind of audio problem, we knew that if anything could be done, Bruce and his people would do it. The strength of the Bureau's forensics, engineering, and other technical support departments makes a huge difference to law enforcement agencies across the country and around the world.
I'm probably not the typical FBI agent. I never thought about being in the Bureau; I never played G-man when I was a kid. I got my undergraduate degrees in physics and math. While I was in school, I worked for the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries, feeding rats. Incidentally, this time counted toward my federal pension when I retired -- not that I'd planned it that way; it's just a job that came up.
I graduated during the Vietnam War era and served in the army. I went in under the officer candidate school, but got in and said, "Well, I don't think this is going to be my direction, to be a military officer for life." So I didn't go to officer; I just became an enlisted man. I was transferred to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and assigned to clerk and photography duties. My wife always says they took a look at my physics degree, got as far as "P-H" and said, "Well, that must be photography."
When I was getting ready to leave the service, I started applying for jobs in the aerospace industry. Well, this was the late '60s, early '70s, when the space program was being cut back, and the aerospace industry just wasn't hiring. They were laying off guys with Ph.D.'s. Somebody I talked to said, "Oh yeah, the FBI's hiring. They want science degrees." Well, going to work for the FBI had never occurred to me. But if they were hiring, I figured why not. I applied and took a test and got in. This was in 1970.
I didn't come in thinking that the FBI would be my career. I thought I'd be in the Bureau for three years, aerospace would open up, and I'd go there. But once I got in, I changed my mind. I loved the job. I never thought about leaving until it was time for me to retire.
I didn't plan to end up in forensics. It was in the back of my mind I might be sent back to the lab. But once I got in the field, I really liked the field investigations. My first posting was in Atlanta, and then I went to Detroit.
I spent four years in the field, handling a lot of fugitive work and Selective Service violators -- this was when the draft was in effect. And in Detroit, I handled extremist matters that included the Ku Klux Klan and a violent faction of the Black Panther Party. We weren't interested in the groups' ideology, just the violent actions. I very much enjoyed getting in the car, being in the street, and doing good things.
After about three years in the field, I was getting pressure to move up and become a supervisor in Detroit. I realized I'd probably be behind a desk for the rest of my career, and I wasn't sure that's what I wanted to do. Then the engineering section, which was part of the FBI Laboratory at that time, offered me a supervisor's job in Washington, DC. I thought about it and said, "Well, I think I'd rather go be a supervisor in Washington than be a supervisor in Detroit."
That was when I got into doing tape recording work. I really enjoyed it. I started publishing papers in technical journals and really pushing the envelope of where we could go. And, lo and behold, I became the Bureau's tape expert. I didn't set out to do that, but the work was so fascinating that I kept exploring what could be done with this evolving science.
Early in my career, I worked on some tape analyzing the Kennedy assassination. I was in twelfth grade when President Kennedy was assassinated, so I obviously didn't investigate the original case. I had been in the engineering section four years in 1979 when a group known as the Stokes Committee released a report on the Kennedy assassination. They had analyzed some audiotape of the event, and came out and said there was a 95 percent or greater chance that there was a second shooter from the grassy knoll.
The Department of Justice asked the FBI to look at it, and the project was assigned to me. I went through what the Stokes Committee had found and wrote up my report, which was published by the Department of Justice. Basically, I couldn't say whether they were right or wrong, but that there was no scientific support for their conclusion based on their own studies.
Then the project went over to the National Academy of Sciences, and I worked with them. They were gracious enough to actually mention my name in their report, which rarely happens.
The Stokes Committee had isolated certain sounds on the tape and identified these as gunshots from a second shooter. We were able to show conclusively that the information area they were looking at actually occurred well after the shooting. The President's limousine was already out of Dealy Plaza on the way to the hospital. Whatever they were pointing out as these other shots had to be something else; the time just didn't add up.
I noticed that the Washington Post put the original story about the second shooter on the front page. But when the National Academy report came out, it was on the fifth page back. News showing a story was wrong doesn't sell papers. Every paper in the country did the same thing. I still run into people who talk about that second-shooter report; they never heard that it has been proven wrong.
There was one interesting sidelight to that case. Earlier, I'd worked on a shooting down in Greensboro, North Carolina, involving the Ku Klux Klan and the Socialist Workers Party. There had been a march, and the two groups were across the street from one another. Shooting broke out -- several of the Socialist Workers group were injured, and five or six were killed. The Klan was accused of opening fire on the SWP, who said that they had not fired back.
I did a big gunshot analysis, and I was able to show that both sides fired approximately the same amount of shots. I was able to take the echoes off the buildings and actually pinpoint, usually within two or three feet, where each shot originated. If you look at the videos, you rarely see anyone firing. Someone in one group would shoot, the cameras would swing over to that side of the street, and they'd stop firing. And then the other side would fire, so the cameras would swing back. You only saw a handful of people actually firing. But based on analysis of the audio, often you could match up the source of a gunshot and the shooter, based on the person's position in the crowd.
Anyway, when I was working on the Kennedy case, I noticed that one of the waveforms from that audio looked exactly like one of the waveforms from the Greensboro case. We put it in our report just to show that by itself, this kind of waveform analysis isn't very conclusive.
When I retired, I was the project manager of the audio-videotape division, which is fairly high up. But I was pretty good at getting the paperwork out of the way, so I was keeping the administrative tasks down to 30 or 40 percent of my time.
The rest I spent in the lab. I like doing things. Hands on. And when you're in management, if you try to push too hard, you can actually mess everything up. And so I avoided that step. If I hadn't retired, they probably would have made me a unit chief. I don't think there had been much doubt about that Rather than end my career pushing paper, I retired and opened up a consulting business. I still spend two or three days a week working at the Bureau. I still do most of their complex audio cases.
There's such a range of what you can do with tape. First, you can enhance it, make it more understandable. That's probably the easiest exam in the tape group, and the biggest bargain. When I left, I'd guess audio enhancement was about 60 or 70 percent of the work. Voice comparisons was an evolving field. It's not conclusive as a means of identification, but it's a systematic way of comparing voices.
I spent most of my career and I still spend most of my time now doing authentication -- determining whether or not a tape has been altered or not, whether or not it is original. Authentication is a complex area; it usually takes about five to ten years work in the field to start really being comfortable with it.
I also do some signal analysis. Signal analysis means looking at general wave nonvoice signals. The simplest thing would be deciphering touch-tones. You hear a series of touch-tone beeps on a recording and you figure out what the number is. The harder parts are things like gunshot analysis -- how many shots were fired, or whether they are gunshots.
I remember we worked on one case where a guy got hit over the head with a baseball bat. The sound of the impact was recorded on a 911 call, and a bat was found on the scene. We had to determine, by the sound, whether that bat could have been the weapon. And the bat matched.
That's one of the things I love about this work. You never know what's coming up next.
Phil is the kind of guy you always hope is going to run any organization. He's smart, he's hard-working, and most important, he never forgets what it was like to be one of the troops. Phil's now enjoying a well-deserved life of leisure with his wife.
I was born and raised in New York City. I attended local schools in Manhattan. And then at the age of 14, we moved to Queens, and I attended a local high school there. I graduated in January of 1963. And then from '63 to '64, I worked in a large office in Manhattan, in the mail room. In 1964, I joined the United States Army and served there for two years. I was discharged in the March of 1966. And then I was appointed to the New York City Police Department on August 1, 1966.
I'd planned on becoming a police officer ever since I was a very, very young fellow. I grew up without a father. My parents were divorced, and for a great deal of time it was just me, my mother, and my sister.
All through my childhood, the policeman on the corner, the neighborhood beat cop, always represented a kind of role model for me. A strong male figure. Everybody in the neighborhood always had a great deal of respect for him. So that's what I wanted to do when I grew up.
I was very methodical about it. In those days policemen were drafted just like anybody else was. So I knew the smart thing would be to get my military obligation out of the way before I went into the Police Academy. That's why I joined the Army.
Then while I was in the Army, I studied for the police exam and flew home to take it, about six months before I was discharged. I passed it, and so when I came out of the service, I just continued along with the rest of the process -- medical tests, physical tests, psychological exams, things of that nature.
I'd researched exactly what the requirements were. And I made sure that I had everything that was required.
At that point the FBI was something totally alien to me. I first really became exposed to the Bureau after I'd been with the police force about two years.
One day I was on patrol, and a woman came running out of an apartment building and said, "Somebody's breaking into the mailboxes."
So I said, "Okay, stay outside." I walked in with my partner, and sure enough, there was a junkie, trying to pry open the mailbox, to get Social Security checks, whatever. We grabbed him and brought him back to the station house.
Breaking into a mailbox, that's a federal offense. The Postal Inspector came, took the prisoner. I gave the Inspector a statement. Then I was subpoenaed to federal court, to testify against this man.
While I was in court, and waiting to be called, I struck up a conversation with the man sitting next to me, who happened to be an FBI agent. I don't know his name. I don't even remember what he looked like. But we talked for about a half hour. And I asked him a lot of questions about the FBI. And I was just so impressed by his answers, how he presented himself, how he presented the Bureau. I was really taken by it.
The next time I was downtown, I stopped off at the New York office of the FBI. And I'm at the reception desk, and I said, "My name's Philip Grivas, I'm a police officer, and I'd be interested in what the qualifications are to be an agent."
"Oh, sure, just have a seat."
An agent came out to meet me, and the first thing he said was, "What is your degree in?"
And I said, "Degree? I don't have a degree."
The guy looked at me like I fell off a truck. And he says, "Well, look. You have to have a minimum four-year college degree before you can even be considered for a position with the FBI. And then you need a couple years of investigative experience, and this and that."
I said, "Okay, thank you very much."
I went home, and I spoke to my wife about it, and started getting geared up for this new goal.
The next month I signed up for classes at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and graduated in three-and-a-half years, still working full time as a policeman. At one point, I took 50 credits in one year -- 21 credits in one semester, eight over the summer, and 21 again in the fall. It just seemed like every week that went by, I just got more and more drawn to this idea, becoming an FBI agent.
My wife was very supportive, and so were my friends. They all said, "Well, Phil, this is what you wanna do, good luck." But there was no guarantee that after I completed my degree, that I would even be granted an interview. Then there was the oral exam, the written exam, the background check. But I just had to give it a shot.
My wife had been working at a bank, and the last year I was in school she got tired of it, and was kind of undecided where she wanted to go. So I said, "Well, why don't you apply for the Bureau? Maybe they'll have some administrative assignment there."
She said, "Well, why not?" She applied, and she was accepted. She became a clerical employee in the New York office.
Now, she was kind of cute. More than kind of. And she still is. So they put her at the reception desk. The Assistant Director in Charge of the New York office, Mr. Malone, had his office on the same floor. Every so often, he'd be in the reception area, waiting for the elevator or something, and he'd just engage her in conversation.
One day he noticed she had a little miniature version of my shield on her sweater. Malone recognized it, and said, "Whose policeman's badge is that?"
She said, "Oh, that's my husband's. He's a policeman up in the Bronx. He's going to school now. He's interested in applying to the Bureau."
So he says to her, "He is? Well, when he's ready to graduate, you let me know."
As far as I'm concerned, this was like winning the Lotto.
When I was a couple of weeks away from graduating, Malone stopped by her desk again, and said, "Well, how's your husband doing?"
"Oh, he's doing very well. He graduates in a couple weeks."
"Really? Did he get his application in?"
"Yes, he did."
"Okay. Have him see me Monday morning."
She comes home, and she tells me this. My heart almost stopped.
I call up one of my close friends, and we sat down. I said, "Look. This guy's gonna ask me questions. I wanna be prepared. I want you to throw questions at me, anything you can think of that he might ask me. I don't want to sit there -- flat-footed, mouth open."
We took a long walk, for a couple of hours. And he would just shoot questions at me, quizzing me on everything from political science topics to my knowledge of current events. Law enforcement issues. Anything we could possibly think of that might come up.
And my friend says, "I've read that when they conclude an interview, they'll sometimes ask, 'Is there anything you'd like to say?' You should have something prepared for that."
So I went into the office, and I took the written examination that was issued at that time. And then I was escorted into Malone's office. Very prestigious-looking office. Huge desk, paneled walls. I was really taken by it. I was thinking, "Boy. I can't believe I got this far."
He asked me a bunch of questions about the police department, and this and that. And then he asked me, "Well, Philip. Is there anything you would like to say, before we conclude this interview?" And oh, I was really itching.
I looked at him, leaned forward, looked him in the eye, and said, "Sir, I really believe that if given the opportunity, I can make a positive contribution to the Bureau."
He leaned back, big smile. And then he said, "I believe you will, Philip. I believe you will."
I was sworn in on September 11th, 1972, and then I was transferred to St. Louis for my first office.
It was kind of a culture shock. A former New York City policeman -- I had to tone myself down a little bit. Not that I was overbearing -- never have been, I don't think. It's just that New York City, the Bronx, is a very different place from St. Louis, and the work of a policeman is very, very different from the work of an FBI agent.
When you're a cop, you're in uniform. Often you're patrolling in a high-crime neighborhood, and you're driving around, or you're walking around. You've got your eyes going all over the place. You're very aware of your surroundings. Anything can happen at any time. And when you're out there in uniform, you're it. And all eyes are on you. You're expected to respond immediately. As an FBI agent, you're more like a detective. You go to the scene after the crime has been committed. There isn't the same type of tenseness and stress associated with the job.
So in St. Louis, that was when I first found out I had to pull back a little bit. Relax a little bit. Just take things a little bit slower. Learn the administrative requirements, as well as the practical investigator procedures. It just took a little time, like when you start out in any job. I did have a big leg up, having the experience that I did, dealing with certain elements and handling myself on the street. That was a plus, a big plus.
We started out working in applicant matters and general criminal matters. I found myself being very attracted to fugitive cases, and I ended up working mostly fugitives while I was there. I was just better suited to going after those kinds of people, rather than people who were committing white-collar crimes -- bank fraud, embezzlement crimes, organized crime cases, loan sharking, things like that. Fugitives are individuals that commit felony violations, mostly violent crimes. They've been identified by the local authorities, and warrants have been issued, and they've fled the jurisdiction in order to avoid prosecution.
From the beginning, I've wanted to catch the bad guys. And these, to me, were the bad guys, and the people who were doing the most harm to people. I've always been more comfortable on the street, dealing with certain people, a certain element. There's the physicalness of it. When you're dealing with certain people, they respect strength. And they respect people that know how to act, and stand up.
I never did, nor will I ever, take anything away from the guys or the gals who handle surveillance work, or espionage work, or organized crime, or white-collar crime. Those crimes are out there and they need to be dealt with. But early on, I learned that I was drawn to the more active, more physical aspects of the job.
So I was in St. Louis for three and a half years. I was transferred back to New York in July of 1976. I stayed there for 20 years. Finished out my career there -- I retired in 1996.
When I first got back, I was assigned to the the Weathermen Fugitive Squad. The Weathermen were responsible for a lot of violent, criminal behavior during the Vietnam War era. They had a hand in a bombing at the University of Wisconsin in Madison -- the math building was bombed, and one person was killed.
So for a couple of months, I was on that squad, helping track some of these people who'd fled prosecution. And then I was assigned to the bank robbery squad. I worked the bank robberies for five years, and then transferred to the fugitive squad for about five or six years.
In 1987, I was promoted to supervisor, and I was made the special assistant to the Assistant Director in charge of the New York office. I remained in that capacity from 1987 to 1994. And then the last few years I was in the Bureau, I was the supervisor in charge of the Operations Center in the New York office.
I really enjoyed working fugitives and bank robberies. I got a great deal of professional and personal satisfaction out of that. But I think there's a natural progression in a lot of people's careers. You get to a particular point in time, you say, "You know what? I think it's time to do something else." That was when I was approached by the Assistant Director in charge of the office, who asked me if I'd be interested in coming up and working with him.
I'd never thought about it before, going up the administrative ladder. But gee, when you get an offer from the number-one guy in the office -- I've got to be honest, it's very flattering. I mean, there are 1,100 agents in the office. To be asked to do something like that was something special to me.
That was a big change. You have more responsibilities as a supervisor. You don't just have your own cases -- you have everybody, and their cases. And if you're the kind of individual who's conscientious about your work, and take a good deal of pride in it, you'll have a lot of problems with people who don't have the same work ethic. So, you adjust, as all new supervisors do. First thing you learn is, you can't expect everybody to work at your standard. But there should be a minimum standard that you, as a supervisor, can be happy with.
I had other positions, too. I was the commanding officer of the SWAT team, and I was also the agent in charge of the hostage negotiation team. And for 17 years I was in charge of the security detail responsible for escorting the last five U.S. attorneys general whenever they were in New York, and the last three FBI Directors when they were in the city.
The first time I was asked to do it, I was in the bank robbery squad -- William Webster had just become FBI Director at the time. The ADC called me in the office and said, "Phil, the Director is coming in tomorrow and I want you to pick him up and escort him and stay with him and make sure he gets in and out all right."
Well, I went home and I told my wife, "Honey, you're not gonna believe this. All these agents in New York and the boss asked me." And then it dawns on me -- if anything happened to this guy, it'd be on my head. Lots of pressure. It's kind of a Catch-22 situation. If you do a good job, which takes a tremendous amount of work, you're always gonna be asked to do it again. If you do a lousy job, well, not only are you not gonna be asked again, but you could get fired. When I'd recruit people to work with me on the detail, I'd say, "Look. I was selected and I am selecting you. And this is completely voluntarily. These people, they're very high profile. They're very, very important. If anything ever happens to them, you can't imagine the pressure we're going to be placed under. So, let's do a good job. Let's be professional. Let's keep our heads up. But you'll go places. Accompanying these people, you'll do things and see things that you'll never have the opportunity to see or do without them."
Of course, handling both the AG and the Director, it got hectic sometimes. I'd be at home and get a call: "Phil, the Attorney General is coming in with an entourage and they're spending the weekend in New York. Handle everything."
I had to make hotel reservations, get guys lined up to handle the escort, contact the airports, go over their complete itinerary, send advance teams out. This is all on top of my normal responsibilities at work. Then the Director would come in the next week, and I'd get to do it all over again. That took an enormous toll over the years.
Sometimes what drove me nuts wasn't so much the possibility of a dedicated terrorist effort. If that were the case, not only would the AG or the Director be dead, but I'd be dead, too. But trying to prepare for and deal with the normal stuff that happens in New York City -- that was what really got to me. The crazy cab driver, the guy running out of a store firing a gun. Any of the things that can happen on any day in a city of eight million people.
Still, it's a kick, in a way. "Wow! These people must think I know what the hell I'm doin'!" And I'm honored. But boy, it doesn't come without a price. A lot of sleepless nights. A lot of, "Did I do this? Did I check that right? Did we plan for that?" And we were the people they relied on for everything. "I forgot to pack my tux shirt. I need a shirt for my tuxedo." They come in and it's a crazy, wild town: "Phil, can we do that? Phil, can we do that?" And your planning goes out the window.
When you're doing this for a long period of time with people, you develop a rapport with them. I mean, they're still the Attorney General, the FBI Director, and you're still just Agent Phil Grivas. But when you see them for the twentieth time that year, it's "Hey, how's your son, Phil?"
And you become privy to a lot of information. I made it real clear to my guys and my gals that we would never repeat anything outside of our own circle. That was just one of the ground rules. You're around these people so much and you literally have to stand close to them all the time. You can't protect somebody from across the room. The trick was trying to stand close to these people without them noticing you or feeling you. So you're standing there with a little earpiece in your ear and people staring at you, eating hors d'oeuvres, drinking wine. And they're in tuxes and you're in a dark suit.
I was so grateful when I left and I looked back and said, "I can't believe it. Nothing happened. Seventeen years I did that and I never had a negative experience." Same with the SWAT team. Never had an injury on my team, in all those years. I was so grateful.
Bob was my very first partner out of the Academy. There we were, on the streets of Detroit, looking at each other and saying, "What the hell are we supposed to do now?" Well, we figured it out. Bob was a terrific partner -- focused and no-nonsense when that's what the job called for, but a guy with a great sense of humor, too. He stayed on the streets all of his career, doing some really top-level organized crime work. Agents like Bob are the backbone of the Bureau. He and his wife are now living in Oregon, a place that Bob assures me has the best weather in the country -- he did the research on it.
I'm a native of northern New Jersey, and while I was in high school, I worked after school in a law firm, because I wanted to be an attorney. My dad was a police officer and worked closely with the Bureau on a lot of cases. He knew it was possible to work for the FBI in a clerical capacity, attend school, and graduate. If the FBI felt you were qualified, they might hire you as an agent.
I wasn't really completely set on becoming an agent at that point, but I knew I had to pay my own way through college, and that seemed like a pretty good way to do it. So I went to work for the Bureau in the Newark Field Office in July 1962. While I worked there, I went to Rutgers and got a degree in history. I felt that was a good preparation for law school, which was what I still had in mind as an option. There was no guarantee I'd be hired as an Agent, and being an attorney would be a good fallback.
But having worked in that law office, I saw that although being a lawyer looked like a lovely career, it could be rather mundane and boring. The FBI didn't seem like that at all -- no two days would be the same. And I was right. I was really able to observe what the agents did. It got to the point where becoming an Agent interested me so much, I forgot all about the pursuit of a law degree.
Those first years at the FBI, I was a combination security guard, teletype operator, radio dispatcher, file clerk, and complaint taker from the public. I got to see how everything worked from all different angles. That was a great education, a great opportunity. And there were a lot of young men and women who worked there while they went to college. It wasn't an official program -- there was nothing laid out and there was no guarantee that you would become an agent. As a matter of fact, at certain field offices around the country, being a clerk lessened your opportunities to be an agent. The Special Agent in Charge at Newark the whole time I was a clerk didn't like people going that route.
But I made it anyway. I was sworn in as a Special Agent on September 25, 1971. My first posting was Detroit, Michigan. In training school, I'd guessed that I'd be assigned there. We had a pool based on where we all thought we'd be sent, and I won the pool. I just had a feeling.
Detroit was a good town to learn the business of law enforcement. I was rather liberal in college. I was naive, as most young people are about the world. When you're in law enforcement, you're out there trying to do a good job, trying to right the wrongs. You think of yourself as being on the side of right, so of course people are going to help you out. Then you go out in the field and realize that no, people aren't necessarily going to cooperate with you. Lots of doors are slammed in your face, and lots of calls are not returned. Kind of shocking. But you have to adjust quickly if you're going to survive.
You develop persistence, get an insight for human behavior. And you do it fast. At the time I was there, the Detroit office had an awful lot of new agents, and not many seasoned agents to teach you the ropes. Many, many times John and I would go out into the field and discuss what we were going to do before we actually did it. "All right, how does this sound? Okay, and then you'll do that, okay?" We'd pretty much proceed on a lot of common sense, and on a little bit of the manual of rules and regulations. All our cases were reviewed by a supervisor. But we planned our own day-to-day activities.
When John and I first got to Detroit, there was a very large raid directed at members of organized crime: bookies and betting and so forth. But at that point, I didn't do much with organized crime. Like most young agents just starting out, I worked pretty much general criminal cases: bank robberies, fugitives, thefts, interstate shipment of stolen goods (which were largely tractor-trailers), and things like that. Vietnam was still going on, so we handled deserters and draft dodgers. That actually provided us with an excellent opportunity to do the basic things that law enforcers do. You just had the warrant, and you went out and got the body. We got to make a lot of arrests. There was lots of hands-on experience, going out and doing it, doing the investigation, doing the footwork.
I was in Detroit for a little bit over a year. For my good work, I was rewarded with a transfer to Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland was a lot like Detroit, only a little smaller.
I was in Cleveland for about two years, until February of 1974. Then I got a transfer to New York City. No one wanted to go to New York, but I'd requested it. I liked Cleveland, but I didn't want to spend the rest of my life there. I wanted to move on in my career, and pursue something else, somewhere else.
My tour in New York began the day that Patty Hearst was kidnapped. I spent a little over three years there, then I requested a transfer to Newark, New Jersey. I got that one, too. The Bureau's transfer policy was loosening up, and it was easier to move around -- particularly if you asked to go to what the pool of agents considered to be an undesirable place. And Newark is considered an undesirable place by a lot of people. The majority of people. Can't imagine why.
I worked in Newark until January of 1981, when I went to Atlantic City. In October 1983, I went back to Newark. I'd been stricken with colon and bladder cancer, and I wanted to be nearer the hospitals in New York City. Then in May 1989, I went back to New York, and finished out my career there.
That's sort of the thumbnail sketch of my career. All along, I traveled to other divisions to work on particular cases, for a month, two months, six months at a time. I went to St. Louis on a terrorist case for a couple of months. I went to Miami on an organized crime case for a couple months; and I went to Buffalo on another organized crime case.
Early on, I started developing a lot of experience on organized crime cases. Growing up in Newark, there were many organized crime figures in my neighborhood. And, of course, my father was a policeman, so organized crime was something familiar from a very early age.
I'd go in, help set up surveillance of suspects, interview suspects, help analyze the material, determine promising suspects, promising leads. I enjoyed that organized crime traveling work, and I did a lot of it, but I'm really a jack-of-all-trades. If you name a violation of law, somewhere or other in my career, I've worked on it. And that's exactly what I wanted. When I was a clerical employee, I always was frustrated by the fact that I wasn't out of the office doing these things. I was reading about it. I was hearing about it. But I wasn't doing it. And that's why I never really was interested in advancing to the supervisory level in the FBI. Because I didn't want to read about it, and I didn't want to hear about it. I had already done that for enough years!
One of the worst cases I worked on was a bombing at LaGuardia Airport in the '70s. I'd certainly seen corpses before, but that was the first time I'd seen such devastation. The smell of death hanging in the air.
I was home at the time. It was about 7 p.m. I was in graduate school back then, and I was working on a term paper. I received a phone call, and it's the office. There's been a bombing at LaGuardia, several people killed. There'd been an agent injured. He was an out-of-towner, coming into the New York office, and he just happened to be walking by the site.
I wasn't a bomb expert, but I was on a squad that had investigated several bombings and bomb scares in the city. At that stage, I was just helping at the crime scene bysifting through the rubble and gathering evidence.
I have to say, I was very impressed with the New York City Police Bomb Squad. They are a fine bunch of professionals -- I was really impressed with their skill. I also worked with their arson-explosion squad on the subsequent investigation. It was a great experience for me. You always hear about rivalries between different agencies and departments. That's true, there are some petty jealousies, but when a major case occurs, the line people really come together because their only goal is solving the case.
Jim's forgotten more than I ever knew about firearms and weaponry. I first got to know him when we were both teaching at the National Academy, and I've always had a tremendous amount of respect for him. He's now the Executive Director of the Society of Former Special Agents.
My interest in the FBI came about in 1964 when I'd returned from service in the navy. I'd gone back to my old company and was working at my old job. I was generally happy doing what I was doing but I was also a little bit bored. I was a licensee engineer for an electronics manufacturing company in Philadelphia, and I handled the overseas licensees. It was a good job, a great company, a great boss, but something was missing. I'd been a naval intelligence officer during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and civilian life didn't have the same flavor as it did when I was in the navy.
So I started looking around, casually, and one of my friends mentioned that the FBI was hiring. I wasn't a lawyer or an accountant, but I thought I'd make an inquiry anyway. I just walked into the Philadelphia office of the FBI and was introduced to an agent. I gave him my background and we had a great conversation. We hit it off right away. He said that I was eligible to apply under the modified program, which I did.
I was accepted, and entered the new agent class that started training on January 25, 1965.
My first posting was Atlanta, Georgia. Reported there on May 1, 1965. For the most part new agents did background investigations on applicants, a process that we'd just been through ourselves, and we handled "car cases" -- interstate transport of motor vehicles. We learned how to inspect and search recovered stolen vehicles for evidentiary material, and conduct an investigation to find the person who transported the car. And then gradually we'd be assigned more and more complicated cases.
In July of 1965, there was a great deal of civil rights activity in Georgia and in all the Southern states. I was sent on a series of special assignments to investigate violations of the federal civil rights law. Some of those assignments would last two or three days, or they might last two weeks, until the case was fleshed out. Then I'd go back to Atlanta.
Generally there'd be a team of FBI agents and whenever possible we'd cooperate with the local officers. In some areas -- not all, but some -- we encountered great hostility. On more than one occasion, I've gone nose-to-nose with deputies and sheriffs and ranking officers in police departments and told them flat out that they were dangerously close to obstruction of justice and interfering with a federal officer in the performance of his duty. Not a threat -- a statement of law, a statement of fact. If they persisted in hindering our investigation they could face federal charges. For the most part they'd back off, and we'd go on with our jobs.
You have to appreciate the time and the location. We're talking about the mid-'60s, the deep South, generally the most rural parts. There were police officers and deputy sheriffs who were as upset as we were about some of the violations that were being committed. But these officers in these local areas knew these people committing the violations. They had a certain conflict, as it were, in their role as a law enforcement officer, and their role as a friend, a neighbor, a relative.
Being from the North, I got my share of comments. One gentleman made a lot of disparaging remarks about the FBI and "damn Yankees." He finally said to me, "If you think it's so bad down here, why'd you come?" I looked at him and I said, "Mr. Hoover made me."
And that was the truth of it. I was under orders to come down and investigate violations of federal law. And in some places, things were so bad I saw violations occur right in front of me.
I saw one young fellow in a town called Newton, Georgia. He was leading a group down a sidewalk around the Baker County courthouse. There were maybe 15 people in the group, and this young fellow, about 19 or 20 years of age, this young fellow was carrying a sign calling for equal rights and the right to register to vote. Of course there was a crowd of locals watching. One of them broke out of the group across the street and ran over and hit this kid right in the back of the head with a maul handle. This is like an ax handle, only round. A real weapon, a club. The kid did a flip in the air, actually did a flip, and landed flat on his back. Just lay there. I was sure he was dead. Then the guy who hit him turned around and ran away.
In a situation like that, you're torn between two things. One, render aid to the victim, and two, catch the guy who did it. I rendered aid to the victim first. Then we got some help and went looking for the guy who hit him. Well, he lost himself in the crowd. All the rednecks would stand shoulder to shoulder so you couldn't get through. They wouldn't grab you -- they knew better than that -- but they'd just keep stepping in front of you.
It took us a few days, but we identified the assailant. We just kept talking to people, going back and asking questions over and over again. You can't let go and you can't ignore it. If you ignore it, they'll do it again.
I went all over Georgia on civil rights cases. It culminated in July 1965, when I was assigned to a Bureau Special. That means a team of agents on a particularly sensitive assignment, under the supervision of an Inspector from the Bureau headquarters. I ended up on a roving team: We went to Natchez, Mississippi, and worked on Klan cases there, especially the Silver Dollar group. These were dedicated Klansmen with a propensity for violence. Then the team moved over into Louisiana, working with resident agencies under the New Orleans Field Office to assist them in intensifying the investigation of the Klan in those areas.
I was in the Resident Agency from April 1, 1967 to April 1, 1971, and then I was in the New Orleans Field Office, assigned to various squads. I became the bank robbery fugitive coordinator, then supervisor of the bank robbery squad, then supervisor of the white-collar crime squad and the political corruption squad.
With the fugitive investigations, we used to feel that New Orleans was a prime location to find fugitives because it's a playground. The fugitives, especially in the wintertime, would come South and go to New Orleans to play and we'd find them. They had the Jefferson Casino in Jefferson Parish, and they had gambling over in Algiers, which is a section of New Orleans. It was a party town for the bad guys.
Later on, when I was in the white-collar crime-political corruption squad, we had a saying that Louisiana is the only state in the union where the citizens do not tolerate bad government -- they demand it. There was one old politician there, years ago, O.K. Allen. His claim to fame is he built a bridge to nowhere -- from nowhere, to nowhere. It's called the Sunshine Bridge, and when it was built there was no road leading to it, no road leading away from it. But O.K. Allen wanted a big bridge built in that parish and they built it. Later on they did build roads to it, but for years it just stood there.
In 1979 I was transferred to the FBI Academy as a staff instructor, and I remained there until I retired. I taught a wide gamut of students. New agents, of course, and in-service agents who came back. I taught police officers who were attending the FBI National Academy, which is a graduate school for police officers. Foreign police officers would also send visitors in.
After I retired, I went back to the Bureau to do a lecture for police officials in Kazakstan. I had a very good time working with them, and was offered a job at their training academy in Almonte, Kazakstan. The guy who offered me the job is the deputy chief of their police department -- it's called the PMD, I think. I forget what the initials stand for. I have still have the guy's business card, but it's in Cyrillic. Anyway, I said I would think about it, then I talked to another guy on the staff who had been to Kazakstan, and he said, "Mac, trust me. You don't want to go." So I declined. They were good people, though.
That was one of the things I truly enjoyed about the Academy -- I had a wide variety of people to talk to, to work with. I was in the firearms training unit; I'm an expert firearms instructor, and for several years I was the Bureau's expert on less-than-lethal weapons and chemical agents. As a matter of fact, I introduced oleoresin capsaicin, or pepper spray, to the Bureau. I got it from a company in Florida who sent me samples and said "This stuff is better than sliced bread and vanilla ice cream. Try it out." I tried it out and, man, it'll knock your socks off.
All those years on the fugitive and bank robbery squads, all the armed-and-dangerous apprehensions I've been involved in, I was never shot, never hit. That happened at the Academy. I was teaching on the range and got hit by a ricocheting round. That was three days before I retired. A round came off a steel target, hit me right in the face, sliced through my lip and lodged in my upper gum. I had to go to the hospital and have it dug out. At my retirement party I had a great big swollen lip and a black eye from the impact.
The Bureau really puts a focus on training. What you do in training is what you'll do on the street. If you hesitate when you should react, you're going to get hurt. You might get killed. You might get other people killed. I've been away from the Academy for several years now, but I know they're constantly upgrading the training they offer so it correctly reflects the current laws, the current social situations. The Academy really makes an effort to put the agents through scenarios that are essentially the same as what they'll face in real life.
Of course, that's not always possible. Laws change, society changes. And no matter how hard you try, training isn't going to be exactly like real life. I remember I was teaching one new agents' class and I told a war story to make a point. One of the trainees took exception to the technique I employed in the story. That trainee wrote a letter of complaint to the Assistant Director of the Training Division. I got called in and was asked to explain. I said, "What do you mean, explain?"
"Well, you told these agents that you did thus and so, blah blah blah."
I said, "There's no problem with that, is there?"
"Yeah, there's a problem."
"Well, I don't know what it could be; I didn't lie."
The guy said, "You did that?"
"Yeah, I did."
"You can't do that!"
I just said, "You can't do it now. But at the time I did it, it wasn't illegal. And I made that clear to the class -- the difference between the situation then and the situation now."
I don't want to go into detail -- let's just say it was an aggressive way of handling a situation. What I did was perfectly within the law. People who have never been there and never handled such a situation might find it surprising, they might even find it alarming, but that's the reality of it. You've got to be prepared to handle the situation -- within legal limits, but sometimes forcefully.
Sometimes I wonder if that trainee ever reached a moment in his career and thought, "Now I see McFall's point."
Doug was a fine agent, someone I wish I'd had a chance to work with directly. Doug designed the FBI's recruiting program. I knew him by reputation, and I would run into him at the Academy. And every once in a while, when I was watching a college football game on TV, they would show one of the refs and I'd say, "I'll be damned -- that's Doug Rhoads!" Doug has been an NCAA referee for over 20 years. Since retiring from the Bureau in 1994, Doug has worked as chief for a county sheriff's office in Virginia.
I grew up in Miami, Florida, attended public high school there. At that time Miami was more of a sleepy southern town than the big, cosmopolitan area it is now. I was born in 1944, so I'm talking about 1950, '51, '52. I was always interested in law enforcement, and we had a neighbor who worked for the FBI. He had the whole white shirt, button-down collar, snap-brim hat look, and I was impressed. Then when I was in eighth or ninth grade, we went up to DC and took the tour of the FBI headquarters. That was when I made my mind up that if I was going to be in law enforcement, I wanted to be on a national level.
I went on to undergraduate school at the University of Florida, in Gainesville. In those days there was a perception, mostly accurate, that the Bureau recruited only lawyers and accountants. I graduated in 1966, during the Vietnam era. I had taken an ROTC commission, but got a deferment to go to law school. Of course, the only reason I wanted to go to law school was because I figured that would make it easier to get into the FBI.
Then I decided, "No, I'll take my commission, get that out of the way." So I went into the military, and went to Vietnam. I got out in 1969, as a captain, and re-enrolled in law school. It was just a means to an end.
But pretty soon I realized that the FBI had expanded its modified entry program -- meaning modified from law and accounting. Now, the Bureau would accept three years' work experience in a field it was interested in. Well, I had three years as an officer in the military, so I applied through the Miami Field Office, and joined the Bureau in October 1969.
That was really a heavy hiring period. The Bureau's jurisdiction was expanding -- there was the Safe Streets and Crime Control Act in 1968 and the Omnibus Crime Control Act in 1970, and the Bureau needed people on the streets. The Bureau probably hired 2,000 new agents from 1970 to 1972. With all that growth, there was a new agent class every two weeks, with 52 agents each class. It was almost an assembly line.
But to be honest, given the times, given the rapid growth, given all that was there, the Bureau did like always: It rallied and did a good job. It got people through and got 'em out. When you graduated, they pretty much just gave you six bullets and said, "Get out of town, and don't get into trouble before you get where you're going."
I remember tearing open the envelope and reading "Dallas, Texas." I'm thinking, "Man, I'm from Miami, I've been to Vietnam, I'm here in Washington, I've been around a little, traveled some, but I've never been to Texas in my life." I figured at least I'd see a new place. I was married then -- no children -- so my wife and I headed off to Dallas. It was the best thing that ever happened to me.
I was placed on a fugitive squad with a total of eight agents. Half of them were veterans, half of them were new guys like me. You got paired up and went out and learned how to do the job. I can tell you every arrest I was in on, and about every guy on that squad. I loved every minute of it. This was something I'd wanted since I was 14 years old. I was almost like a little kid. "I don't want everyone to know how much I really like it, so I'm going to bitch about things like everybody else -- but I really like it."
After I'd been there about eight months, there was an opening in a Resident Agency in Lubbock. What a place. You could roll a bowling ball from Lubbock and it'd go all the way to Minnesota. I remember snow with dirt in it, and thenthirty consecutive days with the temperature over a hundred degrees. But you know what? The way people in Texas treat law enforcement, you felt like a million bucks.
West Texas was a great place to be. The weather might have been a little weird, but the people were good. And because the RA was so small, I handled everything. They say, "These five counties are yours." You look at the map and you say, "Garza County? Where the hell is that?" So you drive down to Garza County and you walk in and say "Agent Rhoads, FBI, I'd like to meet the sheriff." You sit down and talk to them, you go to lunch with them, you share information with them, you develop a relationship with them, then you go down to Snyder and you do the same thing.
I was in Lubbock for just about 11 months. Then in March of '71, I tear the old envelope open and it says, "You're going to Richmond, Virginia." I get a phone call about five days later, it's the Special Agent in Charge in Richmond. He'd been the assistant to the Special Agent in charge in Dallas, so he knew me. He said, "Hey, I got a couple of RA openings, one in Charlottesville and the other in Roanoke. I want a guy who's experienced in an RA. What do you think about either of those two?" I said, "I'll take Charlottesville." That was it -- very casual, almost conversational. So we packed up and drove 1,700 miles from Lubbock, Texas, to Charlottesville, Virginia.
Talk about a bird's nest on the ground. There were two veteran agents there, very distinctly different personalities. One was a former police officer from upstate New York, just an affable, friendly, hardworking, easygoing guy. The second one was an Irish Catholic from Boston with previous navy experience. I'll never forget calling him on the phone: "Hello, this is Doug Rhoads, I'm the new agent, I'm here in town and I need directions." He was telling me how to get to the office and he kept saying, "You go down Mockit Street." Well, I can't find this Mockit Street, so I finally say, "Is that 'M-o-c-k-i-t?' " Well, no. He's saying Market Street with this thick Boston accent. I imagine he took some getting used to for those Virginians.
Both those guys were just great mentors. I don't think they even realized they were being mentors to me. It was like, "Hey, here's the third guy on the team." And we worked that way together -- very informal, loosely structured. But when something had to be done, everybody went. When the major surveillance happened, everybody did it. When the big fugitive lead came in, everybody participated.
That's where I really developed the love of the Resident Agency. I enjoyed working with all the different divisions of local law enforcement. You have to rely on the state and local police a lot more when there's only three of you and you're covering 12, 13 counties. I met some great folks and just loved it. I would never have left, and didn't leave until I had to.
I remained in Charlottesville from 1971 to December 1983. I eventually became the senior RA there. The senior RA when I started retired, and then we closed a small office over in Stanton and added it into Charlottesville's territory, so we were up to five agents.
In December of '83 I was transferred back to FBI Headquarters in Washington. William Webster was director then, and they'd taken a look at the staffing issues and decided they needed to diversify their work force and set up a more systematic way of recruiting. That's where it started: "Hey, design a program for us." It was fun and challenging.
So 1983 to 1985 was the research phase, and 1985 to 1990 is when it really got going as a program. Then, in 1990, there was an opening in Charlottesville for a senior resident agent. To take the job, I'd have to take a pay cut. I'd been a unit chief, and I'd go back to a street agent. It took me about 45 seconds to decide I wanted to do it. I wanted to go back to the street, back to working cases, back to being a part of a small Resident Agency.
So October 1, 1990, I finished up seven years of the executive management thing, and now I'm back making drug arrests, working bank robberies, locking up fugitives. I got right back to it: Get your car, get your gun, get your badge, get your cases. It was the best decision I ever made in my life.
I joined the Bureau just about the time Frank retired, so I never got the chance to work with him. I wish I had. Agents like Frank did some important, frontline work at a time when it wasn't easy to do.
I grew up in the little town of Wiggins, Mississippi. We had maybe a thousand in population. Only two celebrities ever came out of Wiggins -- that's myself and Dizzy Dean, the Hall of Fame baseball player. Growing up, I never had any idea of becoming an FBI agent. Never even thought of it. In fact, I never even knew what an FBI agent was.
Shortly after I graduated from University of Mississippi, I was working as an office manager for a utility company, United Gas Corporation in Gulfport, Mississippi. Even though gambling was completely outlawed in the state of Mississippi, there was a lot of gambling going on. And they had what they called juice joints. These places had an electromagnetic device planted underneath craps tables, and the owners used that device to determine the roll of the dice. These machines were brought in from out of state, shipped in from Chicago. So there was an interstate angle there, and the FBI had full jurisdiction.
One morning, two FBI agents came in to my office and identified themselves. They said they'd like to have somebody help them, go and gamble at one of these juice joints to gather evidentiary information for the successful prosecution. They needed someone who was a local person and had no connection with law enforcement whatsoever. So they asked me if I would volunteer. And I said, "yeah, I'd be glad to."
They gave me money, and I went to the place they pointed out. And I promptly lost it all, because I didn't know a thing about gambling. But I went there for two or three nights, and I saw exactly what they were doing, how they were operating. I was able to give them the information they needed, and then testify during the trial. It turned out to be a successful prosecution for them.
About 60 days later those same agents came by and thanked me for my help. And then they asked me, "Would you like to be an FBI agent?"
I said, "Well, I don't know anything about it. But that was fun, you know, what we did."
So I went to New Orleans, took a test, and put in my application. And I was accepted. I went to Washington and was sworn in on May 12, 1952. After that, I was assigned to Albany, New York, which was a shock for a boy from Wiggins, Mississippi. One of Hoover's policies was to send a person completely outside of their environment for their first posting. That way, he could get all his errors out of the way in a place where there were no friends, family, or any possible political influence. That first winter was rough, I have to say.
But I served there for two years, and then went to Syracuse, New York, just briefly before I was sent to New Haven, Connecticut. The FBI had a bit of a crisis there, because of the Soviet efforts to gain information regarding the nuclear subs at the Navy Yard there. There was quite a bit of Soviet activity there.
Another policy of Hoover's was that an agent did not specialize in one particular case. We had well over 100 different classifications -- bank robbing, kidnapping, espionage -- and any agent was expected to be able to handle any complaint that came through the door.
So I handled all kinds of cases, from the beginning to the end. But I think it's the way with most things: If you really like working on a particular thing, and really enjoy your work, naturally you do your best work. And I really liked working the espionage cases. Trying to identify KGB agents, trying to gather intelligence on them; it was most intriguing to me. So I ended up doing my best work in that area, and I began to get more and more espionage cases. I eventually became a supervisor of that squad.
We learned that in order for KGB agents to come to this country, to actively participate in gathering what they wanted, they had to have seven years of training. Seven full years. And each agent had to cover every angle. Number one, his cover story. Then the mechanics of espionage: how to operate drop boxes, how to obtain information, how to photograph documents, how to microdot them. That sort of thing. And also how to live under an assumed identity, maybe even as an American citizen. These were very intelligent, well-trained people. And getting to the truth in dealing with them was very difficult. But it was the most intriguing thing of all.
I continued to work in this area until 1964. At that point, I was sent back down South as part of the FBI's response to the civil rights problems there. The White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan were really spreading havoc throughout the south, and particularly in Mississippi.
I was proud to do that work. I was brought up in a traditional Southern home. My family believed in segregation, and if you even mentioned interracial marriage or anything like that, my dad would turn red in the face. But there was another side to him, too. He ran a service station, and that's where I worked after school all the time I was growing up. During the war, gasoline was rationed, and money was scarce. Time after time, a poor black farmer would come in who really needed gasoline and couldn't afford it, and my dad would give him some out of the ration for one of the businesses who wouldn't use its share. Or a family would need medicine, but they didn't have money to pay for it. Dad would call across the street to the pharmacist and say, "Sombody's comin' over and he needs some medicine. Put that on my bill."
It was easy to see how hard a time the black families in that area had, how they were mistreated. Then, when I got into the FBI, I saw what was really taking place: not just denying them the right to register to vote, but killings and lynchings and beatings. It just wasn't in my heart to go along with anything like that.
Anyway, after that office closed down, I stayed in the South until I retired. My wife and I moved up here to the Ozarks, where we can just enjoy ourselves. And to this day, I am proud of the work I did with the Bureau.
JANET L. ENGEL
Janet was one of the first 100 women hired by the FBI. I taught the Sexual Homicide classes at the Academy while Janet was there in the late '70s. There were only about two or three women in each class at the time. Many in the Bureau questioned women's roles and competencies. Janet's story answers those questions. Janet was one of the first women to receive a Quality In-Step Increase Award for her performance and leadership of a surveillance team.
I was born in Uniondale, Long Island, and my father was Chief of Detectives at Nassau County Police Department. I graduated from college with language abilities in French and Russian, and began a law enforcement career as a police officer at Merced, California, after my tour in the United States Air Force. My father was my role model and provided great encouragement, support, and advice as I "went federal".
The Academy was an interesting experience. I had the advantage of both military and police training, but the FBI was a mix of physical, firearms, and mental challenges. I particularly remember women with packed bags leaving the Academy as I arrived. They had "washed out." Of course men did the same...but it was the women I remembered.
There were, at any one time, only about 15 or 20 women at the Academy. We were as varied in our interests and abilitites as in the manner in which we approached the FBI culture. But in many people's eyes we were just "women."If I heard one more time "how many push-ups can you do?" while selecting breakast in the cafeteria line I might have seriously developed a trauma about buttered toast.
The Bureau culture affects both men and women. But I would say this -- when I was on the police force it was clear your acceptance had to do with your ability to do the job. Once you established your competency with colleagues you were rarely "tested" again. However, I found in my early Bureau experiences each time you changed squads (especially women), there was usually an undercurrent of having to prove yourself; over and over again, no matter what your "time on the job"and proven track record. And would it be politically incorrect to mention politics in the FBI? Each division had its own pecking order, and although being a women was unique, I believe both men and women were affected by this environment.
I made life-long friends at the Academy, and finally went to the field.
My first assignment was Albany, New York, and I subsequently was transferred to New York City where I retired in 2004. While in Albany, I rotated through many squads where I received a diverse background in working investigations. The one thing most Agents will agree on is that regardless which specialties you will develop later in your career, it is vital you have "time on the street." This means you have developed and brought prosecutable cases to the United States Attorney's office. This is what we do.
In New York City, I was assigned to Foreign Counter Intelligence(the Russian Squad) due to my language ability. I was sent to the Defense Language School in Monterey, California, to hone my skills. I spoke fluent Russian and spent a good deal of time in Brighton Beach (the Coney Island area) where many emigres resided. My fluency often resulted in slammed doors as the emigres believed I could be KGB.
I was always interested in transitioning back to reactive work and was finally assigned to a surveillance squad. In a Division the size of New York, there were about ten surveillance squads. This was a very tight-knit group with unpredictable hours. It was not unusual for the team to receive a telephone call and suddenly be on planes to work the Imelda Marcos case in Hawaii or matters involving international assignments in South American and the Middle East. I was exposed to all manners of FBI investigations through my surveillance work, and I very much enjoyed the camaraderie.
I finally ended my career assigned to a criminal squad working complex auto-theft rings. The work was challenging and exciting. I sometimes found myself on dark New York City piers meeting with sensitively positioned informants and working closely with prosecutors. Because of the organized crime presence in these cases, there were protection details of witnesses set to testify; threat assessments involving these witnesses, and work with the United States Marshals as some of these witnesses transitioned to the federal Witness Protection Program.
My retirement after 27 years in the Bureau was only jettisoned in 2004 by an opportunity to be involved in the United Nations' Oil for Food Scandal. It is only due to my FBI experience I could avail myself of this opportunity.
An FBI career provides numerous challenges while you are on board, and represents a standard in law enforcement as you pursue other ventures. My singular goal has always been the respect of colleagues while enjoying my work. I had both.
Jim was a member of the team who designed the training programs at the FBI Academy. He's a sharp guy, determined to keep the Bureau at the cutting edge of investigations. He was one of the early supporters of profiling, at a time when most people thought it was a lot of B.S. -- and I don't mean Behavioral Science.
When I graduated from college, I was toying with the idea of going into the Marine Corps. But then I got an assistantship and went in for my master's degree in English, and I decided to go into college teaching. I took a job at what's now Gannon University -- it was Gannon College then -- in Erie, Pennsylvania. I taught there for three years, and decided I needed to go back for my doctorate. I started teaching part time at Hunter College, part of the City University of New York, and working on my doctorate in English at the same time.
While I was there, I started to realize that academic politics was not going to be my forte. I had met some people when I was teaching in Gannon, one individual in particular, who had gone into the FBI and said it was a great career, I'd find it interesting, and so forth. One day I was at Hunter and finished teaching a class and was really thinking about a career change. I just walked over to the FBI office over on 69th Street and asked for an application. I filled it out and then after I put it in, I decided to just go head and make a career change. I took a job with Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner and Smith as an executive recruiter. I think I was with them about four months when the FBI called and wanted me to start going through the exams and interviews and so forth. That following June, June of 1965, I was sworn in as a new agent.
My first office was Indianapolis, Indiana. I did fugitive work, some applicant work, primarily organized crime and vice. We handled a few white-slavery cases (white slavery is the transporting of women over state lines for immoral purposes) and gambling cases there. I was in Indianapolis a little over a year, then I got transferred to Charlotte, North Carolina.
In Charlotte, I was on the road mostly. This was during the civil rights days -- I worked a lot of Klan matters, school desegregation matters. Then I was transferred to the resident agency in Durham, North Carolina. There were four of us there, handling five counties. We did all the criminal security, racial matters, everything in those five counties. It was quite an eye-opening experience.
In 1968, I was transferred back to Quantico. There were eight of us selected for the Planning and Research Unit to plan the new FBI Academy, which opened in 1972. We were chosen primarily for the variety of backgrounds: firearms, defensive tactics, arrest techniques, sociology, forensics, accounting, law. I was called because of my experience in college teaching, and my area was basically communication research.
One of the first things we did was find a university for the National Academy Program to affiliate with. We ended up with the University of Virginia. That means every class at the National Academy qualifies for academic credit, some undergraduate, some graduate.
Our primary focus was training for police. All during the time we were planning, we were also teaching police community relations all over the country. And most of us were sent back to graduate school, too. So we weren't just sitting there.
In 1972 I was transferred to the Academy as a Supervisory Special Agent. I taught the education and communication arts unit: interviewing, interrogation, education. In 1974, I finished my Ph.D. at Catholic University. The next year, 1975, I was sent to the Police Staff College in Bramshill, England. This was when the FBI was really beginning to push the international aspect, and I was the first FBI representative sent to that course.
Essentially, Bramshill is the equivalent of the FBI Academy. It's where they select and train their future chief constables through England and Wales. There were 24 of us in that four-month course: 16 from the United Kingdom, and eight from the rest of the world. We had Egyptians, Danes, a Singaporean, an Australian, a guy from Trinidad. Two Americans: a captain from the NYPD, and myself. This was an executive-development type class, so we talked abut administration, managing major cases, and that kind of thing. Not specific investigative techniques, as much as running a department. You were dealing with people who were expected to move up.
It was interesting. As they say, England and the United States are two nations separated by a common language. And the policing system there is significantly different from ours. But of course there were certain things in common: management studies, and response to things like terrorism. We ended up having a faculty exchange and a student exchange with Bramshill. And later on, with the Australian police college and the Canadian police college.
After Bramshill, I went back to the Academy for a year, and then got transferred to the Inspections staff, as an Inspectors Aide. I spent roughly a year in 1976 going around the country inspecting FBI field offices. What we're looking for is effectiveness, efficiency, and economy of operation. Compliance with the attorney general's guidelines and the federal laws. You look at the entire investigation and administrative operation of a field office.
When I first joined the Bureau, these were surprise inspections. You didn't know these guys were coming, and all of sudden they arrived. When I was an inspector's aide, there was no surprise about it. They had all kinds of interrogatories that they had to prepare for us, before we arrived. Profiles, caseloads, priorities, statistical data. What was the overall budget, and how was it spent.
So we'd fly in for an inspection, and they would meet us at the airport. And then we'd go through the two most polite lies in the Bureau. The guys from the Field Office would say, "We're happy to have you here," and we'd say, "We're here to help you."
And then I got transferred back to the Academy. I was a section chief in charge of academic affairs, which is where I stayed until I retired, in 1989.
Since then, I've been head of the criminal justice program at Northern Virginia Community College. For three years, Northern Virginia shared me with George Mason University, and I was the head of the program there.
I still go back to the Academy, as a student. I try to stay current with what's going on. You can't ever decide you've learned all you're going to learn; you've got to keep an open mind to what's happening. Nothing stays the same for long. Not even the law. Every term the Supreme Court comes down with new decisions, and you better be up on those decisions and know what they mean in terms of the rules and procedures for law enforcement.
I think we're seeing more and more breakthroughs in other areas, too. Behavioral sciences, forensic sciences. It's almost staggering once you start thinking about it: DNA analysis, all the things that are being done today that couldn't be done just a few years ago. You've just got to keep up, if you're going to do any good at all.
RODNEY M. DAVIS
Rodney came to the FBI in 1967 as a clerk and in 1972 as an Agent. During those years it was not unusual for many to take this career track. Rodney was also from New York City, and was one of the first 100 African Anerican agents hired by the FBI. He had some very interesting experiences working with Extremist Groups, and has a unique story to share.
I was born and raised in Brooklyn and was first introduced to the FBI through one of those high school Career Days. I knew of the FBI but had never considered it a career option until meeting Special Agent Art Hendricks. I was aware one could apply for an Agent's position through the clerical career path. I took the test and entered on duty as a clerical staff in 1967. I finished college and took the Agent's entrance exam in 1972. I was proud to work in the Bureau under J. Edgar Hoover.
My first assignment was Springfield, and I was immediately sent to a Resident Agency in southern Illinois. I was the first black agent assigned to this Division and worked Extremists Matters. This involved Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), Black Panthers, and the Klu Klux Klan. Many of these groups were involved in bombings on college campuses and in high profile crimes aimed at social justice causes. Many of these crimes were committed simply to improve the coffers of those involved under the guise of social justice. Being black worked at a great advantage in many cases, as I could blend in with and work undercover with many of these groups.
I was transferred back to New York City in 1974 which I wanted very badly; always being a New Yorker at heart. I was assigned to reactive squads working Calvin Klein's daughter's kidnapping and major airline industry frauds. I actually developed a Bureau expertise in the latter due to my assignment at the Kennedy Airport Resident Agency. I even contributed to FBI testimony before a Congressional Committe about this subject.
Being in New York means you always get involved in unusual duties. For example, I was attached to protection details of foreign officials and air hijacking cases. I strongly believe in the team concept. I completed my career in service to my colleagues as one of only four Regional Managers/Supervisors of Employee Assistance. I traveled and met with fellow agents in the real work of service in sensitive personnel issues. It was very gratifying.
I retired from the FBI in 2001 with over 30 years of service. Due to the contacts and extraordinary relationships I developed while with the FBI, I have successfully started my own consulting group and work both domestic and abroad. I treasure the ongoing relationships I have with so many fellow agents. The success of a life is often measured by your friends. I feel very successful.
Copyright © 2005 by John Douglas.