Community Outreach Specialist Kathryn Sipes and Terry Lee on the FBI Citizens’ Academy graduation night.

As part of a wide-ranging community outreach program, the FBI invites local leaders behind the doors of the Indianapolis field office to participate in the FBI Citizens’ Academy. By providing interactive opportunities, the aim of the seven-week program is to demystify the FBI and demonstrate how the men and women of the FBI protect citizens from harm.

“Qualified candidates are those individuals with a sphere of influence,” said Community Outreach Specialist Kathryn Sipes. “This year, we received close to 100 applications, and 30 were chosen to participate.” This year’s class included among its members Fishers Town Manager Scott Fadness. “I am fortunate to be a part of the FBI Citizens’ Academy. I’m so impressed by the caliber of people in the Indianapolis FBI office, and the program is very impressive,” said Fadness.

Each of the seven sessions is presented by a senior special agent or subject matter expert. Topics covered include national threats such as terrorism, counterintelligence, and cyber crime. Participants get to experience how crime scene evidence is gathered and experience deadly force training with a firearms simulator.

Beth Taylor firing an MP5 submachine gun.

One of the highlights for the class is firearms day at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy. The officers present a SWAT demonstration, and class participants have the opportunity to shoot several bureau weapons at the outdoor range. “I really enjoyed the range day and the SWAT demonstration—it’s not like what you see on TV,” said Terry Lee.

Participants attend a formal graduation ceremony after completing the course and receive a plaque and certificate to commemorate the achievement. Graduates are invited to join the FBI Citizens’ Academy Alumni Association. The alumni association works to provide safer communities through service projects that promote a public interest in the FBI.

The role of the Citizens’ Academy is to inform the community of what the FBI is all about. “The program is really an intangible, incredible asset to the FBI,” added Sipes. This program gives citizens the chance to find out the truth behind made-for-TV dramatic portrayals of FBI agents and their work. “What impressed me the most is just how much the agents love their jobs and their country.” said Lee.