FBI Citizens’ Academy – Week 4

by kriggins on April 19, 2010

in Educational, FBI Citizen's Academy, General

The fourth week focused on Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and Evidence Response Teams (ERT.) We had the chance to actually have some hands on experience with some of the techniques used during evidence recovery.

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

WMDs are defined by the FBI as:

  • Any explosive or incendiary device, as defined in Title 18 USC, Section 921: bomb, grenade, rocket, missile, mine, or other device with a charge of more than four ounces;
  • Any weapon designed or intended to cause death or serious bodily injury through the release, dissemination, or impact of toxic or poisonous chemicals or their precursors;
  • Any weapon involving a disease organism; or
  • Any weapon designed to release radiation or radioactivity at a level dangerous to human life.

The FBI, through the Counterintelligence priority, focuses on WMDs from several perspectives. The primary goal is to prevent WMDs from being used on United States soil and abroad. Response to incidents is another responsibility.

The FBI's efforts fall in to four basic catergories:

  1. National Coordination - managed out of the WMD Directorate.
  2. Local response - each of the FBI's field offices has a WMD Coordinator. The coordinator is responsible for assessing and managing the response to WMD incidents.
  3. Outreach and Information Sharing - the coordinator is also responsible for talking to people about WMDs just like the agent did during our presentation.
  4. Preparedness - the coordinators work with local law enforcement, fire and safety personnel and others to engage in mock exercises to make sure all are prepared in the event there is an incident.

Some of the most dangerous and hard to control WMDs are biological and chemical. We were shown how common many of these materials are. This is not to say that they are safe to make or necessarily easy, but they are relatively common to come by.

If you are interested in more information on WMDs and the FBIs efforts to combat them, you can read more here.

The rest of the evening was spent focusing on the Evidence Recovery Teams

Evidence Recovery Teams (ERT)

The FBI's Evidence Recovery Teams are not staffed as full-time standing teams. The personnel who make up these teams have other duties. They are, however, highly trained and receive continuing education to keep their skills current.

Just like on CSI, they are the first to ent...just kidding. CSI, while entertaining and fun to watch, is about as far from how  real ERTs work as can be. The teams are called in after first responders have determined there is a need for FBI involvement or just a need for assistance.

The teams support federal, state and local law enforcement efforts and do not have to have jurisdiction over the case in order to be called in to assist.This is not to say that the FBI takes over cases. It means they are available support other agencies as requested or needed.

The do have some pretty cool toys like a device that allows them to map a scene in three dimensions which is nifty no matter how you look at it. They also spend a lot of time with mundane equipment like brushes, brooms and shovels. You can see a bit more information about ERTs here.

Play Time

On top of learning about the work the ERTs do, we also got to experience first hand some of the tool and techniques they use.

We learned how to take plaster casts of foot prints, lift fingerprints off various surfaces, use forensic vacuums, and look for trace evidence using alternate light sources. This was a lot of fun and I was able to successfully lift my fingerprint from a mirror. I wasn't quite as successful with anything more difficult 🙂

I really enjoyed getting my hands dirty.

Our next session will be at the range where we will get to fire FBI weapons. That is going to be fun!


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