Celebrating Women Special Agents: Cassandra Chandler (2012)
Cassandra Chandler became a special agent in 1985, serving first in the New Orleans and Los Angeles field offices. She later served as assistant special agent in charge of the San Francisco Field Office. In 2002, Chandler was appointed assistant director of the Office of Public Affairs, and in 2005 was named special agent in charge of the Norfolk Field Office.
When I was in college, I majored in journalism. Because my plan was to be a journalist, TV anchor person, reporter, and then go into law school so I planned that out and did just that. I worked as a television reporter, an anchor person for about three and half years and then I went to Loyola Law School, earned my law degree and I had planned to practice law right after that but while I was in law school, I went to work at a television station kind of part time as a student intern and while I was there, there was an incident where a bank robber who had committed a bank robbery in Washington, D.C. was hiding out in New Orleans, Louisiana and he called the television station I was working in, in New Orleans and wanted to give himself up. He had indicated that he committed a robbery in Washington, D.C. and had accidentally killed a teller while that robbery was in progress. He wanted to give himself up in front of the cameras so that he would not be hurt or harmed by the police so I went over to my director over the news cast that night and said, “Hey, I’ve got this guy on the telephone. He says he committed a robbery and killed a teller. What do you want to do? Do you want to get some cameras out there.” And I remember she was like, “We don’t have time for that, just call the FBI.” So, that’s kind like how my whole interest in the FBI came to be. I never really thought of a career.
Right after I started meeting the agents who had to come talk to me about this incident. They arrested the bank robber. It was a smooth operation. They came over to interview me. They had to prep me for trial because he had testified to me. And they started recruiting me at that time and by the time I graduated law school, I had planned on becoming an agent.
The agent who was conducting the background investigation called me about some problems about my application. He came over and talked to me and we were working through the things and he said if you need any help with anything, physical fitness or anything just let me know because we want to get you through the process. And I said, “I don’t know how to do a real push-up.” I was doing it the way females did it from the knees. He said, “Well, listen, let me take care of this. I’ll come back and I’ll run through the whole program with you.” He ended up becoming something like a coach to me. He was a former Marine. I mean, every time I tried to do a pushup and if it wasn’t good enough he’d make me do it again, again—he said one, one, right. I ended up marrying that guy. [laughter]
I think being an agent, married to an agent, and having children and a family can be extremely difficult. There always going to have to be somewhere in that group, if someone is moving up into levels of the executive levels, someone in that group is going to have to take on more and more responsibility with the family. So with me and my husband, as I moved up, a lot of times he’d step out of the program because he was a manager and a supervisor, just as I was and if I moved to a new location in a new role he would step out so that someone would be at home with our son during those really difficult hours when I had to work some long hours but we also had a problem in being married and being agents that sometimes we were both called out at the same times. We would both be called out for some late night event. For example, there was a shooting at the post office in New Orleans one time and he and I were both called out –right—to handle that situation. Same hours, working all night and someone has to be around to take care of our kid. A lot of times because we moved so much in the FBI it took the children and the spouses of other FBI employees would step in and take over that role as helping us as family to take care of our child. That’s the concept of the FBI family. They’re people who are always there and take care of you and help you out when you need it.
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