FBI Citizens Academy

We are in strange times in our country. Everyone seems to be hyper-vocal on every topic. And the Federal Bureau of Investigation has found itself in the middle of the firestorm – receiving more than its fair share of scrutiny lately. Highly visible cases, whether due to action or inaction, have supercharged politically-driven discussions on the credibility of the agency and its viability going forward. Some are even calling for the abolishment of the nearly 115-year-old agency. Not me. I’m a staunch supporter of any and all law enforcement.

I was honored to be selected to participate in the 30th edition of the Phoenix FBI Citizens Academy. The Academy was started right here in Phoenix in 1993 by then Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Jim Ahearn. SAC Ahearn wanted to build further trust between the FBI and the community, so he developed the Academy based on his experience in local law enforcement.

The goal is to help the citizens of the community get a greater understanding of the FBI through open discussion. Additionally, it was designed to support the FBI’s efforts to deliver information about their role, tools, tactics, jurisdiction, and vision for the future in national law enforcement, homeland defense, and counter-terrorism on all levels. In a nutshell, it was created to help educate the community on what the FBI does to protect our citizens and our country – and to develop advocates for the agency and its mission. Now, thirty years later, this community outreach program is more vital than ever.

Anyone can apply to attend the Academy, but it helps if you are sponsored by a Bureau employee or a graduate of the Academy since the acceptance rate is fairly low. I’m told there were over 130 applications for the session I attended – and only about 35 were selected. They look for leaders in business, public service, and community or religious organizations. You must be 21 or older, have no prior felony convictions, and be able to pass background and fingerprint checks.

The Program

Classes started in February and were held on Thursday nights for seven weeks before culminating with a day at the range that ended with a quick graduation ceremony. Each week would showcase a department and/or “violation,” as they call them. The presenter would usually provide a brief background on how they came to be an FBI Special Agent, an overview of their department or violation, and finish with a case study of an actual incident(s) their department handled – whether here in Phoenix or elsewhere around the country.

The sessions covered throughout the program include:

  • Practical problems involving the collection and preservation of physical evidence.
  • Fingerprint, forensic, technology, training, and other services.
  • FBI’s jurisdiction, mission, guidelines, and oversight.
  • Structure and operation of an FBI field office and resident agency.
  • Services the FBI provides to local and state law enforcement agencies.
  • Discussions on ethics, discipline policies, communications, drug enforcement, civil rights, and future trends in law enforcement.
  • Firearms instruction so participants gain an understanding of the extensive training FBI Agents receive.

This is just a sample of what was covered. Every week offered a unique peak behind the curtain and an in-depth look at some highly visible cases for the FBI.

The agenda also allows ample time for networking amongst the attendees. Dinner is sponsored by the FBI Phoenix Citizens Academy Alumni Organization prior to each session, and a break in between allows you to meet with others. The room is set up to foster interaction with several tables, and your assigned seat rotates each week to ensure you can meet as many people as possible.

By the end of the program, we had a fairly extensive overview of the FBI, its people, and how they operate. I also had the opportunity to meet several other community members who share a respect for law enforcement.


After seven weeks that included 21 hours of classroom education and 5 hours of range day sessions covering 28 different topics, we graduated! Special Agent in Charge Akil Davis congratulated and thanked us all for our commitment to the program. They recognize that taking time away from your job or your family is a sacrifice, and it’s greatly appreciated.

This program gave me a better appreciation for what the FBI does and how well-trained they really are. These brave members of our community put their lives on the line every day to protect and serve us. Special Agents are required to be armed 24×7. They don’t have any days off, and they typically deal with the worst criminals in our community.

While some will continue to criticize and question their motives, I left this class knowing that the FBI Phoenix Field Office is truly committed to serving us – the citizens of Arizona, without political bias.

Thank you to SAC Davis and his entire team for continuing to protect us while upholding our Constitutional rights.


3 thoughts on “FBI Citizens Academy

  1. Very cool. I’m sure you have an understanding of the FBI far beyond the average citizen. Being a former law enforcement officer I always encouraged people to look beyond their limited view of how the criminal justice system works. I had the pleasure to do some training at the FBI facilities at Quantico Virginia. I left there with a very deep respect for the men and women who are agents. Congratulations on your experience!

    1. So true Joe. It’s a shame that it’s become a target by so many. I’m sure there are some bad apples like everywhere else but as a whole, I have a ton of respect for them and their mission.

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