100 Years of African-American Special Agents: Jennifer Love

Retired Special Agent Jennifer Love served for 25 years in the FBI before retiring in 2012 as assistant director of the FBI's Security Division. She shared her thoughts on her career, the FBI, and the role of African Americans during events in November 2019 marking the 100-year anniversary of the first African-American special agent, James Wormley Jones.

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It's important to reflect the communities that you serve. And if you don't have diversity, you can't work in certain communities. I also believe in community policing, even from a federal level. The first time that the community encounters you as an FBI should not be during a time of crisis, which is why the community partnership program is so important. But there are young people who have never seen an African-American special agent. And so, if we are to be, or the Bureau is to be successful as an organization, to have credibility, particularly in times of tension, you have to have people who reflect the communities that you serve.

The other thing is diversity of thought. If everybody around me is from Hazlehurst, Mississippi, who went to an HBCU, who pledged my sorority, we're all going to have the same solutions to problems because we see from the same lens.

I would sit in the Director's, as an assistant, in a Director’s meeting in 2012 and look around the room and be the only African-American woman in there. And to some degree it's the reason why I left. Because it becomes tiring. The Director would ask a question and all of the guys would say the same thing. They dress the same way. And then he would come to me and it became almost a laughing joke. He was saving me for last. And he's like, okay, let's hear it.

And I was simply say to him, do you want the truth or do you want me to give you a politically correct answer? And so, I've always been bold about, there's a responsibility. Yes, we protect and we serve. But as an African-American woman, you have an obligation and a responsibility to the community that looks like you, that's different.

Sometimes you serve as mediator. There've been times when I've gone out on arrest and the people would be very resistant and then they would see, they would have two reactions. They would see me and say, okay, you're one of them and call me an Aunt Thomasina. Or they will look at me to make some sort of contact with them to say that it's okay, you need to do the right thing. So if the organization wants to be successful, any police agency wants to be successful, they have to reflect the communities that they serve.

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