Celebrating Women Special Agents: Jean O'Connor (2012)

Special Agent Jean O'Connor has responded to events around the world to collect evidence in investigations and has interviewed hundreds of suspects and witnesses. She is a senior team leader of her Evidence Response Team.

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9/11, all of the evidence response team members assigned to WFO, if you were in division or could get here from wherever you were. We responded to the Pentagon along with eventually teams from Baltimore, Richmond, Norfolk, Charlotte. And we all had different assignments. Some of us were assigned to the building itself and doing evidence room remains there which is the majority of my assignment was during that time. So we dealt a lot with the hands on of going through the rubble of the building and collecting remains, and documenting remains that would eventually be returned. So it definitely was a life changing event. I think for all of that were there but it made it hard on some level to go back and work drug cases when you see what the effect of terrorism actually is. And I’m not saying drugs aren’t important. It absolutely is and it affects people everyday but after doing the job there, it was… sorry…

After working on the extraterritorial squad for a period of time, I transferred to the National Capitol Response Squad and eventually became the senior team leader over the Evidence Response Team, which is obviously where my passion lies. And I’ve been there for six years and have along with the team had a wide range of experiences. Our team is extremely busy and as far as the women’s piece of it since it’s the anniversary, we probably started with maybe 20-percent women on the team and I think at this point we’re over 50-percent, which is kind of exciting for me since I’ve become the senior team leader.

I would say as a woman I just see myself as another agent. I don’t think that I’ve ever felt that I was a trailblazer. I would hope as the senior team leader for the team that I’m a leader but that’s really up to my team members to make that decision. But I do truly feel like another agent. I think that the question that’s usually asked, and I’ve done deployments overseas to interview people who were potentially really bad guys, and usually the question that comes up is, “Would they talk to you? Why would they talk to you if you’re not a man?” And in the hundreds of interviews that I did there was only one person, and he still spoke to me—he just wouldn’t look at me, which wasn’t surprising because he held a religious position within the group. But the rest I think it definitely might have been an advantage to be a woman because I wasn’t as big of a threat to them. I tried to talk to them, again, just like another person—which they are. You just have to relate to them in a way that you can and use your experiences and relate and do the best you can.

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