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A graphic for Citizens AcademyWant to find out first hand how the FBI works? Hear how the Bureau tracks down spies and terrorists? Learn how to collect and preserve evidence? See what it is like to fire a weapon and put yourselves in the shoes of a Special Agent making a split-second, life-or-death decision?

If you are a leader in your community, you just might be able to do that and more – through an FBI Citizens’ Academy.

It was an idea waiting to happen: “How can we ask people to help us with our investigations if they don’t understand what we do?” the Special Agent in Charge in Phoenix asked in 1993. So he invited leaders in his community to come to class … and the rest is history. Today, 49 of the FBI’s 56 field offices have a Citizens’ Academy in place or underway, from Albany to Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. Nearly half of these Academies have been opened since September 11, 2001 – a clear sign of how much the FBI values community partnerships in this era of homeland security and increasingly complex crime.

Who Attends? Business, civic, and religious leaders, each nominated by a Bureau employee or a previous Academy graduate. Because classified techniques used in criminal and national security cases are discussed, nominees must undergo a background check and get an interim security clearance. Each session has around 20-30 students.

For How Long? Classes generally meet ten times (eight on weeknights and two on Saturday) for three hours each session.

The Newest FBI Partners. On Wednesday, 26 community leaders from New York City became the latest graduates of the Citizens’ Academy program. Assistant Director in Charge Pat D’Amuro hosted the graduation ceremony. The keynote speaker was Cassandra Chandler, the FBI’s Assistant Director of the Office of Public Affairs.

Stressing the serious, interconnected security threats facing our nation today, AD Chandler said, “The days are gone when business and communities can stand on the sidelines – concerned, but fairly remote from the work of law enforcement. … We must transform ourselves into a truly interdependent community.” She thanked the graduates for their character and their “willingness to stand courageously to protect America.”

Link: Citizens’ Academy Program