Interested in how the FBI works? They’re offering a 7-week course

Local News

MCCLELLAN PARK, Calif. (KTXL) — The reputation of the FBI has been tarnished in recent years because of scandals, faulty investigations and political attacks.  

One of the ways the FBI is trying to improve its image in the Sacramento area is by educating the public through a unique program called the Citizens Academy. 

The academy gives members of the public hands-on experience and further insight into how the bureau works. 

Lincoln resident Victor Tanon told FOX40 some of his reasons for joining the program.

“With all the crazy things going on right now from cyber security issues, terrorism, that’s all you see when you turn on the radio or news,” Tanon explained.

Tanon’s reasons coincide with the FBI’s reasons for asking for more people to apply for agency positions.

With 35,000 members nationwide, the FBI is the largest crime-fighting organization in the U.S. In Northern California alone, the bureau has a lot of ground to cover.  

“We cover 34 out of California’s 58 counties, all the way from the Oregon border all the way down to L.A.,” explained Sean Ragan, the special agent in charge of the Sacramento FBI office. “So, we want to engage in the northern part of the state here: Modesto, Stockton, Fresno, Bakersfield.”

The seven-week Citizens Academy course gives participants an idea of what it’s like to be an FBI agent, from investigating crimes to operating firearms.    

A group of students wrapped up an intense two months of academy training in the Sacramento area with a day out on the gun range.

“They’re bringing out a number of weapons they use and different demos. We get to see some of the stuff they’re actually using and how they use it,” said Roseville resident Dylan Jackson.

Throughout the academy, students are learning how the FBI examines evidence in labs, analyzes intelligence data and exercises the proper use of firearms.  

Ragan told FOX40 that the goal of it all is to hear what the community has to say, seeking any feedback and ideas for doing better.  

For some, like Roseville resident Chris Cooper who works with youth impacted by violent crimes, parts of the course hit deep.   

“The FBI is using as many resources as they can to make sure that children are protected. Is everything perfect? No, it’s not,” Cooper said. “But as a new father, it’s good to know that we do have federal government doing whatever they can do to protect the young as infants, toddlers.”

Cooper said he is implementing the knowledge he learned into his career just weeks later. He helps troubled youth through support groups and mentorships at the Mack Road Valley High Community Center in South Sacramento.

“I decided that with my transition, from everything that I’ve learned, to apply it to my work, specifically, what more can we do to serve people of color, particularly around gun violence,” Cooper explained.  

He said that creating change means bringing young voices like Imani Waweru to the table. Waweru is an intern at the Health Education Council. 

“I think that there’s no way we can bridge a gap between law enforcement and citizens without being authentic and without being truthful,” Waweru said. “So that’s biggest thing I’ve been trying to do within that space is have these conversations and hold law enforcement accountable.”

Cooper said accountability begins with education on both sides.

“There’s no way you can build a bridge without being a part of learning groups. The FBI Citizens Academy was an interesting learning group,” Cooper said. “It was a risk to take it, but I’m happy I did and I’m going to be using every connection and every resource to make sure that I support the population I’m serving.”

The FBI said it is open to discussing the needs of the community and is also working to educate the public on their role investigating all kinds of wrongdoing, from terrorism and computer hacking to civil rights violations and public corruption.  

“I’m actually not involved with law enforcement at all, I’m an engineer by trade. So, everything is all completely different and seeing the different perspective and all the things that they do to keep us safe, it’s a whole side of the world that I just don’t have exposure to,” Jackson told FOX40.

Tanon said the training also gave him perspective.

“We got to learn how to defuse a bomb, we got to learn how to do a lot of cool stuff,” Tanon said. “I really do have a higher sense of appreciation for what these people sacrifice every day, having to look over their shoulders, that’s probably not me.”

And during a time where law enforcement at every level is under scrutiny, Cooper said the program is a step in the right direction.  

“I’m walking away from the program knowing and feeling more safe and more informed. And there’s so much trust that needs to be established between community and law enforcement, but at least I’m going to be able to take the information and share it with my friends and family,” Cooper said.

The program is free to apply, however, space is limited. To learn more about the program, tap or click here.

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