You Can Make a Difference - Thoughts and Reflections from the FBI Citizens Academy

This past spring, I had the honor of participating in the FBI Citizens Academy, Cleveland Division, after being nominated by a friend who works in the FBI.  The program was eight weeks, meeting Thursday nights at the FBI Field Office in downtown Cleveland.  The goals and objectives of the Academy are to:


  • increase public awareness about the FBI, its mission, its activities, and its people
  • foster a greater understanding of the role of federal law enforcement in the community through open discussion and education
  • provide an avenue for the FBI to hear and respond to community issues and concerns
  • strengthen relationships and improve understanding between the FBI and the communities it serves.


In my class, there were 33 participants including business, civic, religious, and community leaders.  The diversity in the group made for great discussions and I made strong friendships with a lot of the other participants.  At the conclusion of the program, a graduation ceremony was held and everyone was encouraged to join the Alumni Association.


The content of the Academy included white collar and complex financial crimes, cyber crimes, domestic and international terrorism, health care fraud, organized crimes (cartels and gangs), counterintelligence, public corruption, and much more.  A highlight of the program was a range day at Camp Perry in Port Clinton with SWAT and Sniper demonstrations and being able to shoot firearms (including a Tommy Gun).  The FBI did a great job making the content of the Academy interesting and interactive.  The presenters, from the special agent in charge to agents to support staff, all did a wonderful job and made the entire Academy fun and informative. 


Below are some of the useful takeaways from the Academy that I feel everyone could benefit from. A lot of these you may already know or could be common sense, but I think they’re worth mentioning.


See Something, Say Something  Be alert and aware of your surroundings.  If you see suspicious activity, report it to local law enforcement and depending on the severity, your nearest FBI field office or  In addition to being alert and aware of your surroundings, always know your exit.  I know it may sound silly, but having an exit plan could be a life saver.


Report Tips to the FBI  A lot of FBI business comes initially from people like you and me.  When suspicious activity is reported to the FBI, it sometimes leads to malicious activity. Giving that information to the FBI sooner than later is key to taking down bad actors.


Job Opportunities There are approximately 39,000 employees of the FBI and only about one third of those employees are special agents (the right to carry a firearm).  The other two thirds are support staff with over 200 job types ranging from accountants to IT specialists to skilled trades.  Check out all the job opportunities in the FBI at


Review Your Explanation of Benefits Statement When medical services are paid for by insurance, everyone should receive an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) statement.  It is important to review these statements to ensure that the service provider is billing your insurance company for the correct services. In fraudulent cases, service providers could be inflating services provided and pocketing the monies, causing premiums to increase.


Be Cautious with Unusual or Suspicious Emails  Emails with malicious links are the most pervasive way to gain access to someone’s computer or phone.  Verify the sender’s email is legitimate before clicking any links.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.


Other Thoughts Install a doorbell with a camera, it may not only help you, but also your neighbors. Display a security system sign in your front yard, freeze credit reports when not in use, use a password manager, and confirm bank wire instructions directly with the payee.


If you have any questions about the Academy or if I can help you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact me. Be safe, be well and thanks for reading.

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