100 Years of African-American Special Agents: Michael Mason

Retired Special Agent Michael Mason served for 23 years in the FBI, including as special agent in charge of the Sacramento Division, assistant director in charge of the Washington Field Office, and executive assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Division. He shared his thoughts on his 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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I always knew I wanted to work in law enforcement. And it started out I wanted to be a Chicago police officer and then as I went through high school I decided I wanted to be an FBI agent.

Believe it or not, all the interactions I'd had with Chicago police officers had been very, very positive and I saw them as people who wanted to help people. I think of this as my country and if we want to make it a better place, we have to do that from the front lines. And so I wanted to be a part of that.

I wanted to make sure that I was fairly treated as I went through the FBI and I'm happy to say that I was from day-one until the last day in the FBI. I always thought that if my race represented a problem for somebody it was going to be their problem, not mine. And that's just the way I conducted myself. I tried to work hard, I tried to do the right things, and I tried to be rewarded for that work.

I felt supported from the first time I was in my first RA. In my first RA, there was one other African-American agent but he was only there for about three months. Then subsequently another female African-American agent came. But for the most part, most of the agents in the office were white. But again, I thought, if you're going to have a problem with me, it's going to be your problem. So, I asked to go out on arrests, I asked to go out on interviews, I asked to do everything I possibly could to be as fully engaged as possible. And I'm grateful to say that all of those people allowed me to do that. So, my ascendancy, I did not meet with a lot of adversity on the way up.

The news right now has a dark depiction of law enforcement. But I like to think that for every bad incident that happens, I could tell you about a hundred good incidents that happen, a hundred good things that police officers have done. Black, white, Hispanic, brown, Native American, you name it. And at the end of the day, if we're going to want this country to be a safe place, an inclusive place, a place that respects civil rights and all the legislation that was passed in 1968, then we have to be a part of that. You can't be a spectator and say, okay when the attitude and when the environment gets right and receptive and embraces me, then I'll come in. No, you've got to come in and make it that kind of environment. I want to see people with more of a warrior spirit, quite frankly.

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