FBI Cincinnati
Public Affairs Specialist Todd Lindgren
(513) 979-8347
April 19, 2024

FBI Honors Columbus Community Leader Nicole Banks with National Award

On Friday, April 19, 2024, FBI Director Christopher Wray presented Nicole Banks, the president and founder of Starfish Assignment, with the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award (DCLA) for her service to the community. Starfish Assignment is an impactful Columbus-based non-profit organization that works to establish a foundation of trust and respect between law enforcement and the community to benefit all involved.

The FBI established the DCLA in 1990 to publicly acknowledge the achievements of those working to make a difference in their communities through the promotion of education and the prevention of crime and violence. Each year, one person or organization from each of the FBI’s 56 field offices is chosen to receive this prestigious award.

“Our success as both a law enforcement and an intelligence agency hinges on our ability to foster and maintain genuine partnerships with people in all communities,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “People like this year’s Leadership Award recipients not only identify what others need, but they are willing to roll up their sleeves and provide services. They are building bridges and relationships while putting in the work to have hard conversations and find a common purpose. They do it out of kindness and compassion with a sincere belief that justice – in its many forms – requires all of us to do the right thing in the right way.”

Nicole Banks created Starfish Assignment in 2018 to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community. Through programs and events, Starfish works to foster open communication, build understanding, and increase collaboration to create an environment where everyone feels protected and valued. Along with organizing several Summer Safety Block Parties and other events in Columbus, Starfish also has a Books and Badges program that promotes literacy and allows law enforcement officers to create connections with students in their neighborhoods. The work of Starfish Assignment extends beyond Central Ohio and includes assisting law enforcement agencies throughout the country.

“Receiving this award from Director Wray is not only an honor for Starfish Assignment, but it also affirms our dedication to fostering strong, positive relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve,” stated DCLA recipient Nicole Banks. “Our collaboration with the FBI has enabled us to implement programs that build trust and create meaningful change. This recognition fuels our commitment to continue our work of bridging gaps, helping others through law enforcement officers, and strengthening bonds across communities. We are deeply grateful for the FBI’s acknowledgment of our efforts and look forward to furthering our mission together.”

“It is an honor to recognize Nicole Banks for her hard work and dedication to the community,” stated FBI Cincinnati Special Agent in Charge Elena Iatarola. “Nicole’s work with Starfish Assignment has allowed the FBI and our law enforcement partners to build trust and significant relationships in the communities we serve. These relationships help us to fulfill our mission of protecting the American people while creating safer and more secure neighborhoods.”

Director Wray hosted the DCLA winners in a special ceremony at FBI Headquarters today, emphasizing the importance of community partnerships in keeping our shared communities safe. These partnerships—as exemplified by the breadth of the work by the DCLA recipients—have led to a host of crime prevention programs that protect the most vulnerable in our communities, educate families and businesses about cyber threats, and work to reduce violent crime in our neighborhoods. Learn more about the Director’s Community Leadership Award program, the FBI’s outreach efforts, and the Cincinnati Field Office online.