Sometimes the only way to truly appreciate something is to immerse yourself in it. It was like that with me and law enforcement. Sure I always had a respect for it, but I did not truly learn its value, and the value of those in the law enforcement community, until I worked with the FBI. As an FBI Honors Intern and then a visiting scholar I worked for nearly eight years in the Critical Incident Response Group within CASKU (Child Abduction Serial Killer Unit). The experiences and education can only be described as simultaneously inspiring and traumatizing.
As a visiting scholar, which was a classification that allowed top secret clearance into case files for research purposes, “The Bureau” essentially partnered with PhD students to provide much needed research for case analysis. For me it was much more. It gave me the opportunity for the following:
- To live in the FBI Quantico Dorms and walk through “Hogan’s Alley” the tactical training ground for FBI agents in training
- To watch how the DEA trains its officers, including the training of spraying them in the eyes with pepper spray 12-inches from their face so they understand what it will feel like when others receive it
- To witness how HRT (Hostage Rescue Team) practices drill after drill ad nauseum to maximize success and minimize error
- To study how the BAU (Behavioral Analysis Unit) trains its officers even having the opportunity to audit one of the classes in handwriting analysis.
But there were downsides as well, most poignantly facing true evil for the first time as I sat through briefings and profiling consults revealing the devastation humans can cause one another. The night terrors that accompanied my sudden confrontation with evil scared my husband as much as it did me. He feared at any moment I might confuse him for an intruder “who needed to be taken out”.
I also learned our world can change in an instance as I was there when the Columbine shooting occurred and our unit responded, introducing me to the online worlds these children shared their plans with making the world instantaneously feel less safe and less secure. Then again on 9/11 when I realized that our country was not as impervious as we had all thought. This time massive change occurred and our unit became the home of the Terrorism Task Force, breaking down each pilot, their background, history, and their methodically committed plan to take away our trust and security.
These are only some of the highlights that this time period afforded me in my time with the FBI. The individuals, regardless of whether they were agents or professional staff, are all human, all focused, all working tirelessly to keep our world safe. The magnitude of being a part of this world does not escape me, the privilege of being considered one of them and their willingness to support me unparalleled. We should all rest a bit easier knowing that there is a process and system in place that works, whether we realize it or not, to fight for our ability to feel safe in the country we call home.
Dr. Lisa Strohman with The DC Academy