FBI Director’s Community Leadership Awards

March 20, 2009

An important day for the FBI and communities around the country, Friday, March 20, 2009—it’s the day community leaders from around the United States were honored by the FBI with the Director’s Community Leadership Award.

Audio Transcript

Mr. Schiff: Hello, I’m Neal Schiff and welcome to Inside the FBI, a weekly podcast about news, cases, and operations. An important day for the FBI and communities around the country, Friday, March 20, 2009—it’s the day community leaders from around the United States were honored by the FBI with the Director’s Community Leadership Award.

SSA Hovington: “The Director’s Community Leadership Award is the FBI Director’s way of recognizing the accomplishments of community leaders at the very grassroots level.”

Mr. Schiff: Dafer Dakhil is from Los Angeles and is with the Omar Ibn al Khattab Foundation. He helps people in the Muslim communities understand America and works with the FBI to reach out to his neighbors

Mr. Dakhil: “If they’re more aware of what’s going on within their community and within their larger community, they become more confident...they become more able to contribute and to be part of the greater community and they’ll be better citizens.”

Mr. Schiff: In Albany, New York, Pastor Charles Muller of the Victory Christian Church decided it was time to help the kids in the community stop the violence and get on the right train when a tragic incident happened: a 10-year-old girl was fatally shot.

Pastor Muller: “It was a 45 and the bullet traveled two blocks and shot Katina in the back and she died instantly.”

Mr. Schiff: Supervisory Special Agent Brett Hovington is the chief of the FBI’s Community Outreach Unit in the Office of Public Affairs at Headquarters. He says the Director’s Community Leadership Award was first presented in the early 1990s.

SSA Hovington: “It actually was started in 1990 by then-FBI Director William Sessions. I believe the reason that it was started is the most important part of law enforcement is to make sure that the community is able to be the eyes and ears at the very, again, grassroots level to assist law enforcement…with local police departments, or at the state or federal level.”

Mr. Schiff: How important is this award to the FBI and all of law enforcement around the country?

SSA Hovington: “The award is very important because this year here is the first time the award is being recognized at the national level. Keep in mind that our 56 FBI field offices are the ones that actually select the recipients for this award. So it really shows the importance of cooperation with our local field offices and of course the Special Agent in Charge or the Assistant Director in Charge of those field offices in getting out into the community, making their presence known, and getting buy-in from the community to cooperate with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.”

Mr. Schiff: How important is it for the community to communicate to law enforcement, whether it be FBI, police, sheriff’s departments?

SSA Hovington: “I always like to look at it—the community interaction—as its dialogue, but it has to be two-way dialogue. It has to be law enforcement educating, making the community aware of how we do our investigations, how we conduct our investigations, and the protocols that we use, so there is a feeling of cooperation when they have a better idea of how we do our job. And then on the flip side of that, it’s important for us to gain information from the community when they sense something’s just not right, when they need to report something to law enforcement, it’s a lot easier when you can put a face with a name and to be able to pick up the phone and call someone that you’re friends with. “

Mr. Schiff: We asked Agent Hovington about the criteria one has to fulfill to be able to win the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award.

Mr. Hovington: “The field offices select the recipients based on their involvement at the local level. That involvement can involve youth initiatives, it can involve business partnerships, but the most important part is bringing people together to create an atmosphere of trust and of true partnership.”

Mr. Schiff: Who makes the nominations?

Mr. Hovington: “Quite often, as our community outreach specialists that are assigned to the field office are out in the community, they are talking with a number of different community leaders, such as PTA-type organizations or civic organizations, and those organizations will often time put forth a name: Here’s someone you should consider as a true leader in the community. But also we have different programs that bring community leaders and just members of the community into our field offices, such as our Citizen’s Academy program, which brings individuals in for a six- to eight-week time period to learn about the FBI and the way we conduct our investigations, how we’re out in the community, types of violations that we actually investigate. So we start building those bridges, and from there you usually will start seeing those individuals that rise to the top to receive this type of award.”

Mr. Schiff: Nominations are prepared by FBI community outreach specialists at each of the Bureau’s 56 field offices throughout the United States. Working hard in his community every day, Dafar Dakhil is very proud of his award, and to be able to meet FBI Director Mueller and other civic leaders.

Mr. Dakhil: “It is truly an honor, and a very humble honor to receive such a recognition. And it is, what I understand, the first time the Director himself is convening all the recipients here in Washington, and you know, so it’s really, truly an honor.”

Mr. Schiff: You have for some time been in liaison with the FBI and law enforcement in trying to help your community understand that we’re all trying to be together and live together and work together and play together.

Mr. Dakhil: “Well, as the Omar Foundation has been known, we are a center that tries to help the Muslim community and also new immigrants in our neighborhood. We are located in a predominantly immigrant and before that a minority community where a lot of the people are detached from the mainstream. And we try to work with them to help them transition to the mainstream, so they can feel part of the whole society, they can contribute, benefit, and be responsible citizens.”

Mr. Schiff: Pastor Charles Muller in New York’s state capital, Albany, has been working to make the inner-city a safer place for some years now. He’s honored to win the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award.

Pastor Muller: “You know, we were very surprised to get the phone call. We’ve been working in the inner-city for 15 years, so it’s nothing that we don’t do day-to-day. You know, and to be awarded for doing something, you know, it took us by surprise, but it does feel good to know that people are watching and seeing the results of what we’re doing.”

Mr. Schiff: One of the things you did was a gun buy-back program.

Pastor Muller: “For the last 15 years, we feed at-risk children in some of the worst areas of our city in Albany, New York, and what happened was that one of our little girls—11-year-old Katina Thomas—was shot and killed by a community gun which a 15-year-old boy had gotten out of one of the vacant houses. They call it a community gun that’s wrapped in electrical tape so the prints can’t be—you know, they can’t get the prints off the gun—and the young boy went to retaliation on another gang. It was a 45, and the bullet traveled two blocks and shot Katina in the back and she died instantly. And so, because of that, we were like—you know, we have to take a good look at this. We’re in the community, the kids know us, a lot of the kids trust us, they’re just going in the wrong direction. So we said, you know, let’s do something to get these community guns.”

Mr. Schiff: Before this year, award winners were honored in their hometowns. Agent Hovington says that FBI Director Mueller thought it would be a good idea to bring together all of the winners so he could personally thank each one.

SSA Hovington: “I believe the Director realized the importance of showing his appreciation for the cooperation of the American people. By having these individuals here for the very first time, I think sends a very strong message that the Director believes the importance of community engagement and community outreach and recognizing individuals that give back to the community.”

Mr. Schiff: Others honored include people battling the drug problem with kids. Others involved in helping victims of human trafficking. Another who’s helping in the Latino community so new residents can live comfortably and enjoy the fruits of our great country.

You can see pictures and read a lot more about those honored with the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award on the Internet at www.fbi.gov. That concludes our show. Thanks for listening. I’m Neal Schiff of the FBI’s Office of Public Affairs.

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