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The FBI has been much talked about over the past year, although unfortunately a lot of the talk has been more about political topics than actual law enforcement. That’s why I decided to go to my local field office in Newark, NJ to talk with some of the bureau’s agents and get a better idea of what working for the nation’s top police force is really like.
One thing I noticed right away is that the office is very professional and diverse with a terrific blend of men and women of different backgrounds. This has been a staple of the leadership of Timothy Gallagher since he took over in early 2016. Since then, the Newark division of the bureau has had an excellent reputation with it being said that they are always ready to handle any task and any challenge not only in NJ but around the world, so I was eager to see it for myself.
First, I talked with agent Sandra Carroll, a 23 year veteran of the FBI who specialized in white collar crime (which immediately made me think of the TV show “White Collar” that starred Matt Bomer) until three years ago when she transitioned to HR and recruiting. Agent Carroll said that being a black female agent gives her an interesting perspective and helps her relate to other minorities when she goes to make recruiting presentations. She said it was hard being at the bureau at first, but once she proved she could do the job, she was treated very respectfully, and at times, she has seen men be extra courteous to her because she’s a woman.
Next I spoke with Kimberly McDonald, who does community outreach and has worked for the bureau for 9 years. Her main task is working with members of the public – local law enforcement, religious leaders, school administrators, etc…. – to help them better understand federal laws and what constitutes violations. In addition, she talks with students about bullying and cyber safety, and this is where her background in clinical social work really becomes a benefit to her, because it helps her relate to numerous people of many different upbringings.
I also had a chance to speak with Roshan Patel, who was finishing up his final year as an intern for the bureau in public affairs. He was born in Morristown, NJ, speaks four languages (Hindi, English, Kodrathi, and Holdu), and told me he was nervous when he first started but everybody has treated him very well. Roshan helps the Public Affairs team inform the public when something important happens.
Jagdeep Narula is an intelligence analyst who takes information that the bureau receives (like threats) and processes it so agents are in the best position to make informed decisions. He was born in the United States but is a Sikh and wears a turban, which he says has never created a problem for him. Jagdeep has worked in the bureau for eight years told me that his father originally came to this country from India for a better life, and that every single day he succeeds at the bureau he is proving that his father’s decision was the correct one.
Lastly, I spoke to Mr. Bradley Cohen who is the Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Criminal Branch. Bradley manages nine squads that cover 18/21 counties in New Jersey. Those departments team with local law enforcement to go after serious threats involving largely drugs, gangs, criminal enterprises, and terrorism. The squad he is on has over 100 agents working for it and handles the bulk of the most important issues relevant to New Jersey, and he says that cooperation with local authorities is crucial, because with all the crime out there, the only way to get the job done with maximum effectiveness is to have as many hands on deck as possible.
Overall, I came out very impressed with this group, who displayed an incredible knowledge of their positions and have incredible dedication to their jobs. The Newark office has many resources at their disposal and looks poised to handle any challenge at any given time. I am grateful for the opportunity to meet and talk with them and I will unquestionably sleep a lot easier at night knowing that these fine men and women are alertly on the case.