Interview with Community Outreach Specialist Linda Schmidt
Up Close and Personal
Life as a Community Outreach Specialist
On TV, the face of the FBI is usually one of an intrepid agent or analyst cracking a case. In your own neighborhood, however, you are much more likely to encounter the disarming visage of one of our community outreach specialists, like Linda Schmidt of our Cincinnati Division, whose job is to get out and meet people in the surrounding communities and demystify the FBI. The FBI’s 56 field offices each have a designated community outreach specialist. We asked Linda to talk about her job and her relationship with community leaders.
Q. Linda, what’s a typical day like?
Linda: Working as a liaison is the most important part of what I do. On a typical day I e-mail, meet, or talk on the phone with people from the community. I meet them in the wee hours of the morning, at lunch, or over dinner. “Flexible” has become my mantra!
Q. What are some of the projects you’ve been working on?
Linda: There are quite a few. My hope today was to put finishing touches on my gang research project. I’ve been working on it since May, in addition to planning our local FBI Citizens’ Academy picnic, answering e-mails and phone calls about the latest Nigerian e-mail scam, preparing my presentation on gangs, and meeting with my SAC.
Q. What has been your most memorable experience?
Linda: Working as chair of the community outreach committee of the Northern Ohio Hate Crimes Working Group in Cleveland from 1998 through 2004. Early on, we had a decent size membership, but we were missing two important groups: Asians and Arabs. It wasn’t easy to find a way into these communities because they didn’t trust law enforcement. After 9/11, we held conferences where everyone got a chance to speak and talk about their cultures. It was a delicate balance to find a way to make everyone understand that we were all in this together. We became lifetime friends in the process.
Q. What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Linda: The working group was the most challenging and rewarding. As busy as my days are, I wouldn’t trade it for any other job. There are so many moments, like the phone call I received this morning from a member of the Latino community telling me, “I am proud of you. I am hearing good things about what you are doing in my community.” Moments like this make me believe that community outreach is a valuable contribution to the mission of the FBI.