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Inside the FBI: How this federal agency plays a part in our local communities

For two months, KVUE's Tori Larned participated in a course led by the FBI to learn more about the role it plays in our local communities.

AUSTIN, Texas — Most people have probably heard of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and even seen them in shows solving a crime. However, not as many people really know what part the FBI really plays in our local communities.

For three hours per week for two months, KVUE's Tori Larned joined nearly 20 other people from different walks of life to participate in the the FBI Citizen's Academy to get some answers.

"It's a lot less glamorous, I think, than it might be in the movies," said Heather McKissick, one of the FBI Citizens Academy graduates. 

McKissick's normal day-to-day is spent at University Federal Credit Union, but like everyone else, she was nominated for the academy.

The participants represented a wide range of occupations from cybersecurity and internet technology experts to dentists, business executives, bankers and more ... all who were interested in learning about the FBI.

So, what does the agency do?  

The FBI is the nation's leading federal law enforcement organization working to investigate and prevent crime and terrorism, both foreign and domestic. 

However, McKissick said she did not realize how much support the FBI provided local law enforcement and the community. That is just one of the many takeaways candidates got from the academy, which was taught by special agents and supervisors from the San Antonio Division, one of the bureau's 56 field offices that covers Central Texas.

The bureau's ultimate goal in this endeavor is for the graduates of the academy to become advocates for what the FBI does in the community.

"To help people understand what we're doing, our mission and our work," said Rosanne Hughes, Community Outreach Specialist, FBI San Antonio.  

During the academy, candidates learned about the various units within the FBI:

The FBI special agents also put the candidates' knowledge to the test. During the Evidence Response Team night, everyone learned the skills needed to investigate a crime scene, including collect fingerprints and footprints, spotting blood using luminal, searching cars for evidence, and mapping out the layout of a scene. 

The class also went out the Department of Public Safety's (DPS) training center for a day on the range. Participants rotated through the weapons to see what the FBI uses and also learned what goes into training an agent to operate weapons safely.

"When you need those firearms skills, your life is the balance," said Charles Torres, the principal firearms instructor for the San Antonio Division.

Officers go through multiple hours of training at least four times a year and more if they choose, Torres explained. They also have to make sure their weapons are qualified for use.

Torres also said it is an opportunity for citizen academy students to get out and try different weapons in a controlled environment to have a better understanding of what agents can potentially carry. 

At the end of the session, the FBI Citizen's Academy Association, which helped organize the academy, hosted a graduation ceremony. As graduates of the academy go back to their full-time jobs, Hughes said her hope is that everyone walks away with a better understanding of what they do.

"They know that we are going to be an impartial arbitrator and that we're going to fight for justice. Whatever's going on around the country, that they can trust that that we're people of integrity," Hughes said. 

FBI experts told Larned that agents rely on a lot of tips from the community. If you notice or see something, even if it seems insignificant, reach out to the FBI.

For more information on the FBI Citizen's Academy or if you have any questions you want to ask, reach out to KVUE's Tori Larned (@torilarnedtv) on Twitter and Facebook.


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