The FBI faces its own racial count as leading investigation into police shooting deaths

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According to the Office of Personnel Management, the investigation will essentially be conducted by a majority white staff — 74% of FBI employees are white. And of the nearly 13,500 special agents in the FBI, only 4.7% identify as black or African American, the agency says.

McMillian insists that the results will not be affected by the racial makeup of the investigative teams, but he acknowledges that strong ties with communities of color are possible only when the FBI is diversified.

“It’s good to have diversity between the ranks because it brings confidence,” McMillian said. “But the agents that show up, no matter what they look like or what their race or ethnic makeup, are going to do the best they can, they’re going to follow that process and the facts that lead us to the evidence. is.”

Black communities, in particular, have historically viewed the FBI with suspicion, and the FBI’s counter-intelligence surveillance of prominent civil rights leaders in the 1950s and 1960s, in particular, by Martin Luther King Jr. The frightening relationship has been punctuated.

“We own up to mistakes and even things of the past,” McMillian said. “We’re not shy about it, we recognize it. And the bottom line is, we’re going to do better.”

Yet the FBI’s new chief diversity officer position is historic, reporting to the associate deputy director, not fbi diroactor christopher ray, a personnel structure criticized by advocates of diversity.

McMillian officially became chief diversity officer on May 4, moving from the Columbia, South Carolina, field office to the FBI’s headquarters in Washington, where he was the assistant special agent in charge. McMillian’s main mission so far has been to promote community outreach and to emphasize to people in communities of color that the FBI needs people like him. Under McMillian’s leadership, the FBI has targeted potential minority candidates through social media, organized community engagement programs in cities like Chicago, and reached out to women’s organizations.

“We are reaching out to underserved communities that have never considered the FBI for a career or job,” McMillian said. “This community engagement speaks volumes a lot, especially when we go to say in some communities that we’re really looking for people who look like them to serve in the FBI because we know it’s our brings credibility.”

McMillian began his career in the FBI in 1998 as a special agent in Omaha, Nebraska, where he says he was the only black agent in Nebraska and the neighboring state of Iowa.

“But I didn’t feel isolated,” McMillian said. “I felt the admiration of others across the country, as well as my peers within the office, who also welcomed me as a black person.”

That sentiment is not often shared by the small percentage of black special agents who work for the FBI each year.

“I felt very lonely,” said Eric Jackson, a retired special agent in charge for the FBI’s Dallas field office.

concern for diversity

Jackson was the only Black Special Agent in training in his FBI Academy class in 1997. When he began working at his first field office in Tampa, Florida, he was mentored by James Barrow, who shared his story about being one of the first. African American to join the FBI.

“It gave me pause, to think that there are people who have gone through a lot before me and they have survived, and that I was going to survive,” Jackson told the FBI several years ago in “100 Years”. A video was posted celebrating. of African American special agents.”

But Jackson is concerned with the numbers; He says the percentage of black special agents has declined in recent years. “Black agent numbers have never gotten above 6%,” Jackson said. “This should worry everyone, especially when we have anywhere from 12 to 14% of the population.”

In fact, according to the Office of Personnel Management, the percentage of black or African American employees in the FBI has fallen from 12% in 2016 to 10.7% in 2021. However, minority representation in the FBI as a whole has improved slightly over the past five years. The year grew from about 24.4% in 2016 to around 25.8% in 2021.

Jackson is now co-chair of the MIRROR Project, an organization of retired Black Special Agents who are expressing their diversity concerns to the top leadership in the FBI.

“We should be like the community we serve,” Jackson said. “As a black male special agent in charge of the 12th largest division of the FBI, I was able to enter communities that wanted nothing to do with law enforcement. But they wanted to hear what the first black special agent was. That’s what the Dallas Division in charge said, so they gave me a chance. It really matters. If you have a diverse workforce, you’re able to serve a diverse community.”

Members of the MIRROR project say they have met Ray at least twice in recent months, and they appreciate the creation of the chief diversity officer position.

“We put a lot of pressure on the FBI,” Jackson said. “And I can tell you that collegial meetings have made for more stressful meetings, but without a doubt they are taking it seriously.”

Jackson and others in the MIRROR project, however, are dissatisfied with the way the situation is structured. McMillian answers to Associate Deputy Director Jeffrey Sallet and does not have a direct line to Ray.

“We believe that not having this position in direct access to the FBI director will filter things out before they reach the FBI director,” Jackson said. “You run the risk of failing or marginalizing that position when different leadership is brought in.”

Rhonda Glover Reese, a former Black Special Agent who retired in 2018 after 34 years, put it more bluntly.

“There’s no juice in his role right now,” Reese said. “He needs to be right there with the director.”

McMillian, however, said that he is satisfied with the way his role is positioned and the reach he is getting.

“When you look at where I report, who’s the associate deputy director, he’s just two levels below the director,” McMillian said. “The director cannot be everywhere at the same time. And so [the associate deputy director] Reports directly to the director, so I have that streamlined approach.”

wish to speak for ray

Members of the MIRROR project have also expressed disappointment that Ray hasn’t made a more public announcement pledging a commitment to diversity at the FBI. Ray spoke on the subject during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in March, rejecting the premise that the FBI is a “systematically racist institution” when asked by Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana. Ray also acknowledged that the FBI needs to improve its recruitment practices.

“I believe the FBI needs to be much more diverse and inclusive than that, and we need to work a lot harder on that and we’re trying to work a lot harder on that,” Ray said.

Some members of the MIRROR project say they want a stronger statement from Ray, especially now that McMillian has taken over as chief diversity officer.

“We just haven’t heard anything,” Reese said. “We have urged the director to make some sort of statement to ensure rank and file and all employees are aware that this new position is important.”

Ray made a statement announcing McMillian’s hiring in April, “Scott is the right person to ensure that the FBI fosters a culture of diversity and inclusion, and that our workforce reflects all those communities.” whom we serve.”

But Michael Mason, who is also a member of the Mirror Project and rose to the position of executive assistant director at FBI Headquarters before eventually retiring in 2007, says that Ray needs to do more.

“I would certainly like to see him make a personal commitment to diversify the FBI,” Mason said. “He should say that he intends to leave the FBI more diverse than it was at the time he arrived.”

McMillian has responded to the concerns by defending Ray’s commitment to diversity.

“Senior leadership at the FBI, including Director Ray, is personally very committed to the mission of diversity, equity and inclusion,” McMillian said. “Director Ray takes advantage of every opportunity he can to support and mentor diversity, especially to the internal workforce, and every time he goes outside.”

The FBI points to data that shows signs of improvement. There has been a recent increase in the number of minority special agent applications, with minorities representing 47% of applicants in fiscal year 2021. Also, the bureau notes that the percentage of new Black agents training at its academy in Quantico has doubled from 4 to 4 in the past six years. From % in FY 2014 to 8% in FY 2020.

Ray has designated minorities and women to a number of high-profile positions at FBI headquarters and major field offices. Four new minority or female executive assistant directors were recently named to oversee divisions at headquarters: Larissa Knapp, an Asian American woman who oversees the human resources branch; Mo Myers, a black man who oversees the Intelligence Branch; Brian Turner, a black man who oversees the Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services Branch; and Jill Sanborn, a woman who oversees the National Security Branch.

According to the FBI, 10% of the most senior officers in the FBI are Black. Ray also promoted Emerson Bui Jr. in September 2019 to become the first black agent to head the FBI’s Chicago field office, and 17 of the special agents who lead the FBI’s 56 field offices are minorities.

The slow change to include more minorities in the FBI likely won’t immediately affect civil rights investigations moving forward after the recent police shootings. But a recent renewed focus on diversity could increase community support and collaboration for the FBI in the future. Jackson says it’s about gaining trust from minority communities over the long term.

“When I became an FBI agent and I raised my hand, it was to protect this great nation from enemies, both foreign and domestic,” Jackson said. “To be able to do that, you not only have to be able to reach out to the community but you have to win the trust of the community. If the community doesn’t trust you they are not going to bring their issues to you, they’ They’re not going to respect your objectives. They’re going to question you. Especially people from the black community. They’re questioning law enforcement at every level, in every agency.”

McMillian stressed that the relatively small percentage of black agents currently in the FBI would not affect federal investigations into police conduct, but the figures highlight the importance of his newly assumed mission.

“It’s good to have diversity between the ranks because it brings confidence,” McMillian said. “But I want to make sure people know that no matter who appears to be within the ranks of the FBI, they’re going to do the best they can for the community they’re serving because that’s what they set out to do.” took an oath.”

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