Every spring over the course of several weeks, the FBI Jacksonville Division invites dozens of community leaders to the field office to attend presentations and demonstrations as part of the FBI Jacksonville Citizens Academy. The educational program takes private sector, academia, and religious leaders behind the scenes of FBI operations to learn the finer points of investigating crime scenes, protecting civil rights, firearms safety, and how the FBI relies on partnerships to protect and serve the community. Over the past two decades, hundreds of community leaders have graduated from the FBI Jacksonville Citizens Academy with a better understanding of, and appreciation for, the FBI’s mission and role in protecting the community.
The field office is located in Duval County, Florida, which is one of 40 counties that the division serves, and sits in the far northeast corner of the territory–many hours from the division’s seven resident agencies (RA), or satellite offices. In the past, due to resources and the small size of the RAs, most of the FBI Jacksonville Citizens Academy programs have taken place in Jacksonville. However, in 2021, the FBI Jacksonville Outreach Team prioritized the need to build relationships with a more diverse group of community leaders across North Florida, so they looked to their local law enforcement partners for help.
In October 2021, FBI Jacksonville partnered with the Volusia Sheriff’s Office (VSO) to host the first joint FBI-VSO Citizens Academy at the VSO training facility in Daytona Beach. Over the course of three full days, 20 prominent local community leaders were immersed in case studies, presentations, and demonstrations from the leadership of both the FBI and VSO. The FBI focused on counterterrorism, cyber, civil rights violations, and evidence response team techniques, while VSO personnel focused on deputy training, SWAT and bomb tech demonstrations, and local law enforcement efforts. The joint event not only helped save both agencies’ valuable resources, but also highlighted the daily coordinated efforts between the two agencies. This impression served invaluable to cultivating a strong bond with each program participant.
“The Citizens Academy program is a unique tool that allows the FBI to effectively communicate with community leaders of all backgrounds,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Sean T. Ryan. “Partnerships, such as the one between FBI Jacksonville and the Volusia Sheriff’s Office help our efforts reach more participants in more counties.”
The overall success of every Citizens Academy program is a direct reflection of the dedication and enthusiasm of FBI employees, volunteers, and partners. Their contributions enhance the overall effectiveness of the program by illustrating the dynamic relationships the FBI shares with not only law enforcement agencies but the community too.
FBI Jacksonville’s Daytona Beach Citizens Academy class photo with FBI Jacksonville’s Special Agent in Charge Rachel Rojas and Volusia Sheriff’s Office Sheriff Michael Chitwood.
FBI Jacksonville’s Principal Firearms Instructor assisting a community leader shoot a historic Thompson Model 1928 (Tommy Gun).
Volusia Sheriff’s Office providing participants with a behind the scenes look at the tactical vehicles used to protect deputies and the community.