Posted by K. L. Bridgewater
When I received the invitation from the FBI Houston Community Outreach Coordinator to participate in their Citizens Academy, all I could think about was the research at my fingertips and the potential of taking a future suspense novel to the next notch of credibility. Actually, my aspirations were selfish. During the seven week course, I grew as a citizen who cared more deeply about stopping and preventing crime in my city.
The Citizens Academy is offered yearly to thirty of Houston’s citizens: professionals from all walks of life, religious leaders, and others who are actively involved in the community. I was the only writer and considered the invitation an honor. The nominations are made by FBI personnel and Citizen’s Academy alumni. I was recommended by Houston FBI’s media coordinator. We’d become good friends, and she knew my concern about providing accuracy in my novels where the FBI is depicted.
The goal of the academy is to give those taking the class a glimpse of the FBI and how its special agents serve within their investigations. This method of outreach is popular in cities all over our country.
“The mission of the FBI is to protect and defend the United States against terrorist and foreign intelligence threats, to uphold and enforce the criminal laws of the United States, and to provide leadership and criminal justice services to federal, state, municipal, and international agencies and partners. It performs these responsibilities in a way that is responsive to the needs of the public and faithful to the Constitution of the United States.”
The class met eight times, once a week from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the FBI Houston office, and they provided dinner. An appetizing perk! The first night we arrived early for fingerprinting and a driver’s license check. Handguns were not permitted, even for those who had a concealed handgun license (CHL), and cell phones remained in the FBI reception area until the exited the building. Those persons who needed to contact us were given a special number. Laptops stayed at home, but we were presented with notebooks that contained a detailed outline about each session.
The presentations through lecture, guests, and powerpoint revealed the raw and gritty crimes that snake through our city. My heart went out to young girls and boys caught up in prostitution. The prevalence of human trafficking in the bad and elite neighborhoods opened my eyes. Hate crimes yanked anger I didn’t realize was there. Terrorism here and abroad, espionage, scams, intelligence, and evidence response teams gave me valuable information to share with others.
The final meeting took place on a Saturday morning at their firearms facility, and we could bring a guest. I brought my husband, and he outshot me. But I got over it. The firearms were heavy, and accuracy would take practice. We witnessed a thrilling SWAT demo, FBI simulation training, and firearm instructions. Wow! Maybe I’d missed my calling.
We learned about the various investigations from the special agents who were in charge of those areas or who had worked a specific crime. Listening to the special agents discuss their fields of expertise filled me with knowledge that I continue to share. We also learned the process of how particular crimes and cold cases had been solved. Forensics fascinated me, and we were present to demonstration and experiments to show critical evidence.
The following is a list of what the FBI investigates:
• Cyber Crime
• Public Corruption
• Civil Rights
• Organized Crime
• White-Collar Crime
• Violent Crimes & Major Thefts
Since graduating from the academy—
• I’ll never look at a tattoo the same way again. Some gang markings are embedded in my brain.
• I’ll never look at a massage parlor with indifference again.
• I’ll never look at a low-life bar again without questioning a possible crime in the making.
• My cell phone is no longer used while I’m walking through a public area. Victims use phones and are oblivious to a possible crime against them.
• I took additional steps to learn how to defend myself against a potential crime.
• I scrutinize my surroundings before exiting my car in public places, and I do the same before returning to my vehicle.
• I tell others about crime awareness.
• I know how to contact the FBI with possible crime information. And I’ve done this.
• My story ideas have grown deeper with the understanding of the skills needed and sacrifices made by FBI special agents to insure our safety.
Most of the above are common sense items, but all of us get sidetracked in the business of life. For those interested in additional information about the FBI, its mission, and investigations, check out
Many story ideas developed during the academy, including the new series FBI: Houston. Research for Firewall began during this thrilling and informative academy.
I’m proud of our FBI and their accomplishments. I look forward to more active participation in the Citizens Academy Alumni Program—lots of exciting events have taken place. I’ve met more courageous people to bless my life and provide a solid foundation for my work as a concerned citizen of Houston. A trip to Washington will give me more information and hand-on experience for the future. I’m now in the process of training to be a speaker in an effort to stop and prevent the growth of gangs.
Who knows what I’ll be writing next?
This is my personal review of DiAnn Mills's Firewall, which is located on Amazon:
Diann Mill’s latest book, Firewall, lived up to its title. It was fast -paced from the beginning chapter when a bomb erupted in an airport, separating newly married Tayne Young from her new husband, Step. The story throws in a couple of different twists as the story progresses along. The character of Tayne Young as an introvert was talked about, but not truly believable. Even though, I did enjoy the thrill of the hunt for the missing little girl, Zoey, and the mastermind behind the explosion and the hunt for Tayne’s head, Through the quick moving plot for the first three hundred pages, the budding relationship between Tayne and Grayson kept me wondering how their emotions would play out in the end. Struggling through the hurt from Step and the troubles from Grayson’s childhood, Tayne and Grayson lean on the feelings developing inside.
But the one down side I discovered was the ending of the story dragged a little. It appeared Mills didn’t know what to do with Tayne or the intertwining of the bad guys, so she kept having Tayne captured by the bad guys, rescued by Grayson, and captured again before Grayson freed her. The ending took too long to explain. I skipped a couple of pages by the time I read to page 290 because I figured she would be caught again and allow Grayson to come to her rescue minutes before anything horrible would happen. To Mill’s credit, the surprising identity of the person behind all the killings and bombings was someone I did not see coming. She did a good job at keeping this bad guy’s identity a total secret. Being a huge fan of DiAnn Mills books, I would still recommend every one of her book.
If you love fast-paced, detective stories, you will truly enjoy this book.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest reviews. All of my opinions are my own.